Close on the heels of Supreme Court's observation on distance education degrees, the vice-chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) on Saturday said that degrees offered by open universities are not inferior to those given by conventional universities. 'Although I have not gone through the February 25 order, SC's statement that degrees granted through distance education are not on par with those given by regular varsities is damaging. All over the world online education is breaking new grounds. We can't even imagine that open universities degrees are inferior to those of conventional universities,' said V N Rajasekharan Pillai, Ignou VC and also chairman of Distance Education Council (DEC). The reaction came on the sidelines of Ignou's 20th convocation ceremony.
On DEC's take on the issue, Pillai said that DEC gives recognition to only those distance education institutions which adheres to University Grants Commissions (UGC) regulations and are listed on UGCs approved list. 'There may be aberrations and correction measures are required but it would be wrong to measure all the institutions on the same yardstick. It would be a great disservice to a system of education and to its learners which provides education to 25% of the total students in the university system. Moreover, there are many conventional universities and institutions which record less than 20% attendance,' said Pillai. During the convocation held at Ignou's headquarter, 1,34,762 degrees/ diplomas were awarded. Sixty-three gold medals were awarded to eligible students, including four foreign students. Chief guest R Natarajan, former chairman of AICTE, stressed the utility of information, communication and technology (ICT) in dissemination of education. Quoting from Ignou's annual report, Pillai said, 'Five initiatives were taken in 2008 to take education to the doorsteps of learners. These were initiating convergence scheme, providing research and teaching assistantships (RTAs), starting new think-tank centres, ensuring enhanced technological access and instituting novel admission systems.'