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UGC has finally notified the much-awaited Regulations to govern the Open and Distance Learning in India laying down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, through Open and Distance Learning mode.

Earlier, Distance Education was governed by Distance Education Council, a body established under Statute 28 of IGNOU Act, 1985. Later in 2013, on recommendation of Madhav Menon Committee Report, DEC was dissolved and all its powers and functions came to be vested in UGC. Later, UGC constituted a body, Distance Education Bureau to look after Open and Distance Learning.

In December 2013, UGC had also issued Draft Regulations for the public feedback and comments ad nothing happened for next 4 years until these Regulations were framed. In fact MHRD had later published Distance Education Council of India Bill for public feedback in 2014 and that bill is still facing dust.

The new Regulations, apply to a University referred to under clause (f) of section 2 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, an Institution Deemed to be University under section 3 of the said Act, for all degree programmes of learning at the undergraduate and post-graduate level, other than programmes in engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, physiotherapy and programmes not permitted to be offered in distance mode by any other regulatory body.

Now, all the Universities engaged in Distance Education will have to apply afresh under these Regulations to UGC. On inspection, the Expert Committee will then submit its recommendations which shall be placed before the Commission for its consideration. The Commission if satisfied grant recognition to such Higher Educational Institutions for a period of five years.

All the Universities shall have a designated School or Centre of Distance Education for operationalising the programmes in Open and Distance Learning mode and shall adequate academic, technical, administrative staff and infrastructural resources. The Institution shall also be required to publish all information regarding permission, courses, syllabus, schedule on the website.

The University shall now have to establish a Centre for Internal Quality Assurance exclusively for programmes in the Open and Distance Learning mode and follow the Quality Assurance Guidelines on learning materials in multiple media, human resources, curriculum and pedagogy. It also provides that Teacher and equivalent academic positions in the School or Centre for distance education Learner Support Centres shall be appointed or as per the minimum qualifications laid down in the University Grants Commission (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in the Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2010 as modified; and there shall be positions for Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor in the School or Centre for Distance Education for performing academic functions.

The Regulations also mandate that the Universities shall take such measures as are necessary to blend Information Communication Technologies (ICT) for enhancing effectiveness of teaching – learning process, and administrative functioning in respect of status of admissions, registration, for managing teaching-learning activities through on-line support for interactive learning with learner feedback, to facilitate the use of Open Educational Resources (OER), Massive Open Online Courses and for continuous as well as comprehensive evaluation, certification, and other aspects of student support.

In respect of fees, it has asked the Universities to settle the fee structure in manner that it provide opportunities for Higher Education to a larger segment of the population and to promote the educational well-being of the community in general and is affordable to all the stakeholders.

The ‘Examination Centre’ shall be established within the territorial jurisdiction of the Higher Educational Institutions. Examination Centre shall be located in Government schools such as Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Sainik school etc. including approved affiliated colleges under the University system in the country and no Examination Centres shall be allotted to any private organisations.

The Regulation has also paved way for online delivery of courses and credit transfer. The Regulations also provide that in case of violation of the Regulation, the Commission may withdraw the recognition of the Institute.

EduLegaL View:

I had thought that the Regulations, which have taken 4 years to come, will have little to comment upon. But these Regulations left lot to be desired.

If the Regulations are to be read, then there will no distance education courses and admission for the year 2017, as the 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 it means, no approval in this year, WHAT A LOSS ….

Secondly, 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 …

Now, another blow to Private Universities, which 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.

It has also ill aimed to restrict the intake of the course to say it would be expected to restrict total intake capacity for Open and Distance Learning programme to the capacity specified for a similar programme being conducted in the conventional mode by the Higher Educational Institution where the Study Centres or Learner Support Centres is located but in no case it should exceed two times of that. In conventional mode the intake is around 120 per division and moves to maximum of 500 – 600 per programme. This is a serious deficiency. How can intake be restricted in Distance Education Courses.

Lastly, the most draconian provision, now onwards for any Institution, other than an Open University to start a Distance Education Institute, should offer similar programme in the conventional mode of classroom teaching. So, now Distance Education will be run as an incidental activity and not principal activity. We will not be able to see a Private Institute / University specialising in Distance Education.

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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