On 23.06.2017, UGC notified the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, which was notified after 4 years of publication of the ODL Draft Regulations in 2013. Within 6 days it had to issue a clarification notwithstanding the prohibition contained the ODL Regulations, Universities which were given recognition for the year 2017-18, shall continue to admit students. Now, yesterday, UGC has decided to suspend these Regulations for the academic year 2017-18 and make it operational only from 2018-19.
Let us understand the relevant provisions of UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017, which led to this roll back by UGC, not once but twice, a first of its kind, that we have heard of:
Regulation 3 (2)
A Higher Educational Institution intending to offer a programme in Open and Distance Learning mode for academic session immediately after the notification of these regulations and for subsequent years shall, notwithstanding that it has obtained permission from the then Distance Education Council or by the Commission for offering a programme in Open and Distance learning mode for academic session immediately after the notification of these regulations and for subsequent years, shall make an on-line application in the format specified by the Commission, and upload the same on the specified portal along with scanned copy of the documents specified therein, at least six months before the commencement of the academic session of the programme intended to be offered by such Higher Educational Institution.
Regulation 3 (6)
Every Higher Educational Institution, in respect of which recognition for programme(s) has not been granted by the Commission, shall discontinue the programme(s) in Open and Distance Learning mode with immediate effect.
Regulation 3 (7)
No Higher Educational Institution shall offer a programme in Open and Distance Learning mode for academic session immediately after the notification of these regulations and for subsequent academic session and admit students thereto unless it has been granted recognition for the programme under clause (i) of sub-regulation (4).
A combined reading of these clauses meant that on the date of notification of these Regulations, everything comes to a halt in Distance Education. It also meant that older permissions have been rendered invalid and according to the Regulations, the application for approval has to be filed 6 months before the commencement of academic session. So any application even if made in July-August 2017, even if approved, would be applicable only for academic session 2018-19. Therefore, if the Regulations were to be read as notified, then it meant that there will no distance education courses and admission for the year 2017.
However, it seems late wisdom prevailed on UGC and it took cognizance of the fact that academic session 2017-18 is about to start in July, 2017, also there was protest all around from Universities which had valid recognition for year 2017-18 and UGC was forced to clarify that Universities, which were already approved/recognised for 2017-18 can continue to offer approved ODL programmes for academic year 2O17-18. UGC also clarified that for the academic session January / June 2018, all these Universities will have to make applications for recognition and/or starting of new programmes online shortly as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017.
This did not end the confusion as the clarification published on 29.06.2017 left an important stakeholder “Standalone Institutions” out of the system, which it had continued to be regulate since the dissolution of DEC. UGC did not make any alternate arrangement for their regulation.
Therefore to address another error in the Regulation and further disadvantage to which Standalone Institutions, which were put because of the clarification, UGC has now issued another Notice, clarifying as under:
The UGC (Open and Distance L,earning) Regulations , 2017 have been notified in the Gazette on 23.06.2017. The process for admission for the year 2017-18 by the Universities/Institutions is ongoing. Keeping in view the para 3, sub-para (1) of Part-II of the said Regulations, it has been decided that the UGC (Open and Distance learning) Regulations, 2017 will be operationalised from the year 2018-19.
Therefore, it simply means that UGC (Open and Distance learning) Regulations, 2017 though notified will be kept in abeyance or shall remain suspended for the academic year 2017-18.
Regulation 1  of the UGC (Open and Distance learning) Regulations, 2017, provides that, “These regulations shall come into force from the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.”
It is certainly appreciable that UGC has addressed the issue well as all the Universities / Institutions were undergoing admission process when the Regulations were notified, leaving all the stake holders high and dry. The deferment settles the atmosphere so far a Universities are concerned.
I feel that instead of notifying these piece-meal regulations, which covers some and does not cover all, the Government should consider establishing a Distance Education Council of India, which will be a statutory body, like AICTE, MCI, NCTE, etc.
The Regulations, in its present form in case highly discriminatory towards private participation. To start with a Private University is eligible to conduct ODL Courses only after 5 years of its existence and then they too have NAAC Grade also. These conditions have been waived for Open Universities, which are majorly controlled by Government. And further these Private Universities will have to offer the courses proposed to be conducted under ODL Mode in conventional mode as well.
A Regulator, is expected to be just and fair to all the participants of a system and allow them level playing field, more particularly, when it comes to contributing to the Index of the Nation.
Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaLUGC Public Notice reg Open And Distance Learning Programmes UGC Regulations, 2O17
UGC | Distance Education | Law and Policy