UGC distance learning policy violated, admits HRD minister

  • Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 27, 2014 10:24 IST

After HT Education highlighted the plight of thousands of students who spent good money on distance learning programmes not approved by education regulator University Grants Commission, the matter came up for hearing in the upper house of Parliament, when it was in session.

On August 11, 2014, BK Hariprasad, member of parliament representing Karnataka; questioned Smriti Irani, the union minister for human resource development, about the number of state and private universities violating UGC norms by offering distance learning courses though institutes outside their territorial jurisdiction. In her written response, Smriti Irani acknowledged the violations, saying, “The University Grants Commission (UGC) has informed that a university established or incorporated by or under a state act shall operate and function only within the territorial jurisdiction defined under its act and in no case beyond the territory of its location.”

“Contrary to this provision, a few state universities and private universities set up under state act have violated this policy of the UGC. The Commission has asked these universities to close down such centres and to comply with the UGC’s instructions in the matter,” responded Irani.

Despite the HRD minister’s statement in Parliament, however, no concrete moves have been evident in curbing this malpractice. For instance, Karnataka State Open University in Karntaka (KSOU) and Mewar University in Rajasthan are still openly offering affiliations in distance learning mode to institutes outside state boundaries.

When questioned, the registrar of KSOU, PS Naik, had said, “We can offer courses beyond our territorial jurisdiction as our state act allows us to do so. We don’t need to follow UGC.” Even an assistant director of Mewar University had admitted to giving affiliation to institutes for training. “Thousands of students who have enrolled in reputed institutes in Delhi for degree courses through distance learning offered by other states’ universities do not hold valid degrees. However, nobody is talking about taking action against these institutes and universities,” says a senior UGC official.

In addition to this, violation of territorial jurisdiction is not the only worry for students and parents. Replying to another question related to unapproved courses run by some universities, the HRD minister said that the UGC had never approved courses such as MSc in fashion communication, MBA in interior designing, BSc in operation theatre technology and MBA in fire safety etc.

This means that the state and private universities cannot offer these courses through distance learning programmes even in their own states because they don’t have UGC approvals.

“The minister says that the UGC will consider approving such courses. Thousands of students have passed out or are at present enrolled in these courses. What happens to their future as such courses are not approved now?” asks Hariprasad, when contacted by HT Education.

“The minister’s response raises many serious issues. If the UGC hasn’t approved some programmes, how are these being offered to the students. All these degrees are fake. The HRD minster also says that the UGC has published advertisements to inform and educate students, but the UGC’s responsibility does not end here. It should take strict action against these universities. I am not satisfied with the minister’s response. We will pursue this issue,” he adds.

Crucial ­Questions
# Instead of issuing public notices to sensitise ­students and parents, why is UGC, the regulator for distance education programmes, not taking any action against erring private, state and deemed universities which are openly ­violating its order?
# Is UGC unable to stop private and state ­universities from ­offering hundreds of unapproved degree ­courses such as MSc in fashion communication, MBA in interior ­designing, BSc in ­operation theatre ­technology etc?
# Many private and state universities have hired national collaborators (private companies) who work as agents between universities and private institutes. Who is ­regulating these ­companies?

A few state universities and private universities set up under state act have violated this policy of the UGC. The Commission has asked these universities to close down such centres... Smriti Irani, the union minister for human resource and development

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