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In a pathbreaking move , UGC has now permitted IGNOU and other State Open Universities to conduct Ph.D and M.Phil Courses in Distance Education Mode, provided they are conducting these courses with approval of UGC, but surprisingly under “regular mode”.

In the year 2009, UGC had passed Regulations barring PhD Degrees in Distance Education Mode. However, there was widespread protests by various universities. protesting the ban on the ground that their respective laws, passed by Parliament or legislatures, allowed them to offer such courses.

Therefore, in the year 2011, UGC in its meeting decided that an Open University may be permitted to conduct M.Phil./Ph.D. programmes through distance education mode subject to the condition that it does so strictly as per the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2009. Accordingly, it also decided to make required amendments in the UGC Regulations, 2009.

However, in the year 2016, UGC notified University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.PHIL./PH.D Degrees) Regulations, 2016 and in supersession of 2009 Regulations, clarified that no University; Institution, Deemed to be a University and College shall conduct M.Phil. and Ph.D. Programmes through distance education mode.

In lines of the the UGC [Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.Phil / Ph.D] Regulations, 2016, not long ago, UGC had issued a Circular Ph.D. only done in Regular Mode is to be considered as valid.

However, UGC it seems, continued with its change of stand approach and has now permitted the IGNOU and other State Open Universities to conduct Ph.D and M.Phil Courses in Distance Education Mode, in non-technical programmes, provided they are conducting these courses with approval of UGC. It is rather notably surprising that ODL based Universities have been asked to offer courses in full time / part time mode, which is the playing field of the conventional mode of education.

Prior to this, UGC had also announced that Central Universities, IGNOU and State Open Universities who have been recognised by UGC for conducting courses in Open and Distance Learning Mode, can without seeking prior approval of UGC, offer short term Diploma and Certificate Courses of less than 1 year. However, the Institution is expected to inform UGC about the decision to commence such Diploma and Certificate Course.

EduLegaL View:

I welcome this move, but I level this as Liberation with Discrimination. Why this continued discrimination against Private Players? UGC has granted this autonomy only to Central and State Open Universities, excluding Private Stand Alone Institution this is absolutely unfair and unjust. A Government should always endeavour to provide level playing field when it comes to competition and also contribution to the nation.

UGC instead of issuing these policies in piecemeal manner, should now issue a comprehensive regulation to govern open and distance learning system. It is shocking that there are no regulations governing, open and distance education.

The Draft of the National Education Policy also recommended setting up of an autonomous body, for the regulation and maintenance of standards in the ODL/Massive Online and Open Courses system. A Parliamentary Standing Committee also directed the HRD ministry earlier this year to speed up the process of appointing a distance education regulator.

UGC should grant the same operational and academic autonomy to private players, else it is again going to lead to confusion, chaos and litigation.

Distance Education, in country like India should be allowed to have level playing field and this will immensely help in contributing to the CAGR target so also the research quotient. I think the policy makers have again got wrong this time.


Ravi Bhardwaj

Education Laws | Distance Education | Law and Policy


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