With the scrapping of the Distance Education Council (DEC) of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in 2012, the open universities in India are not able to function properly. Open universities are known for their modern courses and flexibility but recently they have not been able to start courses due to lack of approvals and development funds.
After the dissolution of DEC, open and distance learning (ODL) regulatory functions were assigned to the University Grants Commission (UGC). UGC was also asked to come up with new regulations for ODL that have not been announced yet. Therefore the UGC decided that DEC guidelines will be implemented until it comes up with new regulations.This has left the ODL universities in a fix and they are not able to operate due to uncertainty.
Following are the issues being faced by ODL Universities:
- ODL Universities are not able to start new courses as it requires redefining of the curriculum that will be done according to the new guidelines that have not yet been laid down by the UGC.
- Universities are waiting for approval of courses even though the inspection and permission by statutory bodies like Rehabilitation Council of India and National Council for Teacher Education was given in 2014, said Professor Nageshwar Rao, Vice-Chancellor, Uttarakhand State Open University.
- The courses that were started in the year 2013 and 2014 have now become outdated.
- The delay in announcing the new regulations has slowed down the ODL system of education as it cannot contribute to the initiatives started by the government and provide education in digital and IT domains.
- ODL universities were allowed to start certificate and diploma courses on August 30, 2016 by the HRD Minister but no formal order has been received by universities such as the Uttarakhand State Open University.
- Although IGNOU was granted letter of approval for resuming Ph.D. courses, few other state universities have not received the approval letter yet. This has caused a slowdown in education process.
- The absence of regulatory body has also affected the quality of education imparted by ODL mode.
Prof Rao also added that UGC should be given more manpower to support ODL system in order to help ODL universities to function properly. He also added that universities struggling for funding have been told to get themselves registered under Section 12(B) by the Distance Education Bureau of UGC. In order to get recognized under this section, ODL universities must have 15 acres of land and no notification was issued for the implementation of this rule, added Professor Rao.
Professor Ashok Sharma, Vice-Chancellor of Vardhman Mahaveer Open University, Kota, also verified that getting grants and funds is very difficult. He also said that the university has not been able to get approval for its new courses even though they were promised the approval by October and November.
Although the Central government has released Rs.100 crore grant for state open universities, funds have not reached these universities. There is clearly a regulation gap between the administrative bodies and the ODL universities that need to be filled by introducing new guidelines and committee.