India's communication to Denmark that some courses at Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) may not have the required recognition has cast the spotlight on an ambiguous policy that has divided government arms and raised uncertainty for thousands of students.
The HRD ministry has told the Danish embassy in New Delhi that SMU does not have the required approval of the Distance Education Council (DEC), University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) for specific distance education courses it is running.
But the HRD ministry's response to questions raised by Denmark — reported by HT on June 14 — was formulated only after the DEC, UGC and AICTE differed in a series of meetings before the ministry took a decision. While the DEC — which has approved SMU as an institution capable of conducting distance education programmes —was not keen on challenging the legitimacy of any SMU course, the UGC and the AICTE differed.
These two regulators argued that in addition to the DEC recognition for an institution, the approval of the joint committee —set up through an MoU between the DEC, AICTE and the UGC — was necessary for specific programmes offered in distance mode. The DEC has in the past too faced this argument from the UGC and AICTE after institutions with DEC approval started running courses claiming they were recognised.
Sources in SMU and other private universities, however, questioned this argument — which the HRD ministry accepted and based its reply to the Danish embassy. The MoU between the DEC, AICTE and the UGC, these sources claimed, had expired in 2010.
“The government should come out with a transparent policy that saves universities from the hassle of repeatedly having to explain ... for no fault of ours,” an administrator of the top private universities said.