Is the Distance Education Council (DEC) – erstwhile regulator of distance learning programmes in India — to be blamed for messing up the lives of thousands of students holding degrees from institutes that once had its “approval”? A growing number of people have been seeking justice from various courts for jobs and promotions denied to them because their degrees from institutes once approved by DEC now need to be “validated.” The University Grants Commission, which has replaced the DEC, has de-recognised distance learning degree courses offered by institutes outside their states.
Varinder Singh, 30, from Moga in Punjab, completed his graduation in bachelor in arts in 2011 from EILLM University, Sikkim. He applied for a job advertised by the Subordinate Service Selection Board (SSSB), Punjab, through newspapers, as he fulfilled all qualifications – a good graduation score and typing skills. Singh, however, was unprepared for what was to come next. His name did not figure in the merit list released by the board, even though he had scored higher than those who had been cleared for employment.
According to the board, appointments of more than 200 candidates for various positions under the board were on hold till their graduation scores were verified by the UGC. Most of the 200 candidtes had completed their graduation from various state and private universities outside their state through distance learning programmes that then had DEC approval.
The students were told that their mark sheets were sent to UGC and once it verified their authenticity the board would take a final call in their case. After waiting in vain for several months for a response from the board, five out of the 200 students decided to file a case on July 2, 2014, in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
On August 7, 2014, the court issued a notice to Punjab government as well as the SSSB, Punjab, stating “Selection/appointment of less meritorious candidates of the petitioners would be at their own risk and responsibility and subject to the outcome of the writ petition.”
In another case in Assam, the Guwahati High Court, on March 14, 2014, allowed six students to appear in an examination conducted by Cotton College State University for a master’s programme in computer application as the university initially had refused to honour their previous degrees in BSc (IT) through distance learning. Five students had done this course from NIIT through Kuvempu University and one student studied at a local institute in Jorhat (Assam) through Sikkim Manipal University. All these students passed out in 2012 when both the universities – Kuvempu and Sikkim Manipal – had the permissions to run BSc (IT) through distance learning.
Another case related to the status of distance learning courses involves 30 junior assistants in the excise and taxation department in Punjab. Their promotions have been put on hold as they are graduates from various institutes affiliated to state and private universities of other states.
Left high and dry
200 candidates’ appointments on hold
6 students went to court as institute in Assam did not allow them to appear for entrance exam because of ‘invalid degree’
30 junior assistants uncertain about state of their degree courses