One of India's best-known private universities, Sikkim Manipal University (SMU), faces international scrutiny over the legitimacy of its distance education courses, after Denmark diplomatically raised questions about the recognition of the university courses.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry has responded to the detailed questions from the Royal Danish embassy in New Delhi, stating that SMU does not have key approvals it requires to offer some popular distance education courses.Some of SMU's distance education programmes do not have the approval of a joint committee of the University Grants Commission (UGC), All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Distance Education Council (DEC).
Sources privy to the development have told HT that the government has informed Denmark that this approval is required for each course an institute wants to offer through the distance education mode.
The HRD ministry's response effectively argues that these courses do not have the required recognition.
But officials of the "one of the country's largest and most popular distance education varsities" insisted that the university's distance education courses were legitimate because the DEC has recognized the university.
"While I do not want to comment on this specific case since neither Denmark nor the Government of India has communicated with us, I wish to state that SMU has the DEC's recognition, which is in the public domain," SMU academic director V Sivaramakrishnan told HT.
But mere DEC approval is not adequate, HRD ministry officials said.
"The DEC merely approves an institution as capable of running distance education programmes. But the joint committee of the UGC, AICTE and DEC must meet and approve specific courses for these to be offered," an official said.
The HRD ministry, sources said, is keen to transparently communicate with foreign governments about institutions here, to strengthen its hand in instances where Indian students abroad suffer.
Almost 1,500 Indian students earlier this year faced deportation from the US after the Tri-Valley University (TVU) was found to be violating the federal US norms.