The Chairman of India's apex distance education regulator approved a multinational open university that does not have sanction to run courses here but used his certification to sell illegal courses to students across the country.
Malaysia-based Asia e University used the approval by V N Rajasekharan Pillai, Chairman, Distance Education Council to start 70 centres across India, advertising and offering courses unauthorised by the government, an HT investigation has revealed.
Under pressure from academicians, the HRD ministry and the DEC have formally declared AeU courses in India illegal, but the university is not shutting down its study centres.
The AeU plans to take up the case diplomatically through the Malaysian government to "clarify" its position, university registrar Meilina Puteh said, indicating it feels wronged by Pillai.
"Asia e University received a letter from the Chairman of the Distance Education Council on August 20, 2009 giving permission to operate in India.
"On the basis of this ... AeU commenced its operations," Puteh said, in an email to HT. She said the number of students enrolled in its courses in India, was a "confidential" detail.
The AeU was born in 2007 based on the Asia Cooperation Dialogue. The Doha Declaration in 2006 also supported the creation of the AeU to promote e-education in member countries.
Puteh said Pillai had also personally handed AeU the approval in January this year in the presence of HRD minister Kapil Sibal and his Malaysian counterpart minister in charge of education, during a meeting at Shastri Bhawan.
HT has access to papers trailing the communication between AeU, the Indian High Commission in Malaysia and Pillai, including the August letter.
Pillai, also Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Open University, told HT that his August letter only granted institutional approval to AeU — which he said was required for any collaboration.
"Apart from institutional recognition, my letter did not approve anything..." Pillai said.
But if institutional recognition was required for collaboration, Pillai violated this rule himself — because IGNOU had already signed a MoU with AeU before the August 20 letter.
When asked to explain why the MoU was signed before the approval for AeU, Pillai contradicted his earlier statement.
"The approval need not come before the collaboration. It can come after the collaboration."