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Few days ago, UGC notified the UGC [ODL and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017 supposed to be pathbreaking initiative in streamlining the distance education system in the country. But due to some poor provisions, there was huge protest and UGC has been forced to issue clarification restoring the provision granted to Universities for 2017-18, which it had nullified in the notified Regulations.

The retracted clause in the Regulation provided that a University even if has valid recognition for the year 2017-18 has to discontinue admissions and has to apply afresh and that too atleast 6 months before the commencement of academic session. This meant that any University could have admitted students only for the academic session starting January 2018. This would have also meant that there would not be any admission for in the academic year 2017. This was until clarification issued, one of the most poorly visioned and poorly framed part of the legislation.

However, it seems late wisdom has prevailed on UGC and it took cognizance of the fact that academic session 2017-18 is about to start in July, 2017, it seems 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 has 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.

However, Institutions which have already submitted applications/representations for their recognition/approval and/or addition of new programmes need to apply afresh as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017.

The Regulations were framed 4 years after the draft of regulation of distance education was made available for public suggestion and system of distance education was transferred from the Distance Education Council, an entity under the Indira Gandhi National Open University, to the University Grants Commission.

EduLegaL View:

No doubt the Regulation scores high on ensuring quality, delivery, curriculum, assessment and other issues, but for sure it lacks vision and clarity in many sense. This roll back is classic example of lack of vision.

It is almost impossible for a dual mode University to now get fresh recognition because of requirement of full time dedicated staff. Secondly Private Universities will be eligible to run Open and Distance Learning Programmes, which have been conducted by the university in conventional mode for a minimum period of five years. This means that first they have to wait for 5 years and secondly they will have to run all those courses in regular mode also. I do not understand this, if they have qualified to be a University why are they not qualified to offer ODL Programmes.

The biggest sufferers are standalone institutions, which have been conducting the Distance Education. The Regulations has given them a death blow. They can function only till the time their present permission is valid and not thereafter. This is really regressive. How can a system, which has continued for decades be shut suddenly …

I do not know, whether these Regulations was to promote Distance Education or only to regulate Distance Education. I think later is true because I am not able to find any in this Regulations, which promotes distance education.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL



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