When Sanchit Kumar (name changed), 23, applied to a Delhi-based private institute for a master’s course in fashion communication through distance education, he was accepted, but much to his disappointment, when he enquired about the affiliations of the institute and its courses, the institute withheld the information.
To his horror, he realised that a university from outside the state was offering the programme – in violation of University Grants Commission (UGC) rules. “Many of these institutes are now advertising in newspapers, offering distance learning degrees and diploma courses in fashion designing, interior designing, bachelors in business administration etc but not naming universities they are affiliated to. This is ample proof that they do not have permission to offer the courses,” says Kumar.
Various RTI applications to the UGC by students and their parents, related to affiliations of institutes offering distance learning courses, have revealed that from the year 2014, state universities – both government-funded and private – cannot offer any such programme beyond the boundaries of their respective states.
“UGC notification No F.27-1/2012 (CPP-II), dated June 27, 2013, on territorial jurisdiction policy, states clearly that the state universities (both private and government-funded) can offer programmes only within the state. The notification is available on the UGC website www.ugc.ac.in/deb,” says a reply under RTI by SK Mishra, deputy director and principal information officer in the Distance Education Bureau of the UGC.
Before its dissolution, the Distance Education Council (DEC), which used to regulate distance education programmes in higher education, had decided in its 40th meeting on June 8, 2012, the policy of territorial jurisdiction for open and distance learning institutions.
It had said, “In case of Central universities, the territorial jurisdiction will be as per their acts and statutes for offering programmes through distance mode. In case of state universities (both government-funded and private) the territorial jurisdiction will be as per their acts and statutes but not beyond the boundaries of their respective states.” DECs regulatory functions were taken over by the UGC on December 29, 2012.
Both the above-mentioned facts clearly establish that distance learning courses in BBA, BCA, BCom, BA, MBA, PGDBM, MA etc run by various institutes are illegal.
A number of institutes, however, have a different take on the whole issue. Says RC Dalal, executive director, JD Institute of Fashion Technology, which offers distance learning degree and diploma courses in affiliation with Kuvempu University of Karnataka such as BSc in fashion and apparel design and BSc in interior design, among others, “The JD Institute of Fashion Technology’s degree department is a division of JD Educational Trust which is registered in Karnataka, the same state where Kuvempu University is set up. By virtue of both being in the same state, we can offer such programmes. All the centres including Delhi offering degree programmes are registered with the JD Educational Trust, Karnataka.”
Contrary to Dalal’s contention, a reply under RTI by SK Mishra, deputy director, UGC says, “Any programme related to fashion design and interior design offered by Kuvempu University, Shimoga, through distance mode is not approved.”
For Lovely Professional University (LPU), which also has a tie-up with some institutes to grant degrees and diplomas for various courses, another RTI reply from Mishra states, “UGC has not granted any permission to Lovely Professional University, Delhi, to establish off campus centre(s) in Delhi/NCR or any other places.” When contacted, Aman Mittal, deputy director, LPU, said, “We are aware of the UGC notification which came in 2013, so from 2014 onwards we are not offering any off-campus courses beyond Punjab. However, I have to continue to offer the course to those students who were registered in 2012 or before that since degree courses are of three to four years’ duration.”
Experts argue that the state and Central governments should act together in the interest of the students and stop misuse of distance learning programmes. Says Dr Vinay Pathak, vice chancellor, Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University, Kota,” It’s a very sorry state of affairs that education mafias are opening franchises in collaboration with private universities just to fool the students. State universities – whether private or government-run – are created through state acts to cater to the educational aspirations of the state. How can they run off-campus courses in other states? The government must take strict action against these education shops.”
So why is UGC not taking action against such education “shops”? Attempts to get in touch with Dr Nalini Lele, deputy director, Distance Education Bureau, UGC, and Urmila Devi, joint secretary, UGC, proved futile as they were unavailable for comments.
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