After finishing his BSc (botany) from Hindu College last year, Srijeet Basu Matari, from Assam, wanted to pursue a postgraduate degree programme in journalism. Much to his delight, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) had introduced an on-campus MA programme in the discipline in the same year.
“There are very few universities (including Jamia Millia Islamia), which offer a PG degree in journalism. On the top of that, IGNOU is a central university,” says Matari.
Unconventional programmes – which very few Indian Universities offer – is one of IGNOU’s biggest strengths. These include masters in translation studies, folklore and culture studies, extension and development studies, and a diploma in women’s empowerment, among others.
The varsity has also given a new dimension to open education by offering professional programmes through distance learning. These include degrees in physical and natural sciences, nursing, health, engineering and technology, computers, library and information sciences and BEd, among others.
“We are not a correspondence university. We run programmes through distance learning mode so as to reach out to students who, at times, can’t attend classes regularly, such as those staying in the Andamans or prisoners in Tihar jail,” says Prof KR Srivathsan, pro-vice chancellor, IGNOU.
With over 30 lakh students enrolled in 338 programmes, the university was conferred with the title of world’s largest university by UNESCO.
Though there are 338 certificate, diploma and degree programmes on offer; those offered on campus (in Maidan Garhi, New Delhi) include a masters in electronic media production and management, labour and development, translation studies; MSc in actuarial science and chemistry; MTech in airport infrastructure engineering; integrated MSc and PhD in physics and astrophysics. IGNOU is planning to offer these programmes at regional centres as well.
Since on-campus programmes are less than two years old, co-curricular and extracurricular activities have still not become a part of the university’s culture. However, students have set the ball rolling because they see these activities as ‘unifiers’. “On Republic Day, we organised Gantantra Kala Kriti where students from different programmes got together on one platform, gave performances and had informal discussions on a host of subjects,” adds Nitin Shah, a final-year student of MSc (actuarial science).
The university has 59 regional centres, five sub-regional centres and 1,621 study centres across the country.
It is a dynamic hub of centres and cells of higher learning for students, scholars as well as teachers. It has a central placement cell, a centre for innovations in distance education, a centre for disability studies and a research unit.
Found on campus:
“Only four universities offer MSc in actuarial science. I chose IGNOU because its curriculum is better than that of others. Moreover, its fees (R5,000 per semester) is quite affordable,” says Nitin Shah, final-year student of the discipline.
“Even though we study in an on-campus programme, there is no provision of hostel, nor are we entitled to the DTC bus pass, like other regular university students,” says a final-year student of MA social work
IGNOU was established in 1985 with the aim of educating millions of students without requiring them to travel to the campus from their hometowns. Flexibility of learning is expressed in terms of distance, time taken to finish a degree and eligibility. The programmes are run by the varsity’s 21 schools, including school of agriculture, computer and information sciences, engineering and technology, health sciences, social sciences, sciences and management studies, among others