The University Grants Commission issued a notification to universities and institutions to refrain from offering programmes, including engineering courses through open and distance learning mode.
According to the notification, no university/institution or deemed to be university/institution should offer diploma, bachelor’s or master’s level programme in engineering and technology, other than MBA and MCA, till the finalisation of UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations 2014. Any violation could invite action.
The UGC has included programmes such as BE/B Tech, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate courses in architecture; town planning; pharmacy; hotel management and catering technology; applied arts and crafts; and PG Diploma in management.
If an institution has the approval of the joint committee of the erstwhile Distance Education Council and the UGC and the recognition status is notified on the All India Council for Technical Education website, it can offer MBA and MCA programmes.
Anna University offers M Sc in Free and Open Source Software and M Sc Information Technology. SN Geetha, Distance Education Director says the institution admits students only in Chennai and not even in its constituent colleges. “We conduct M Sc in Computer Science as we have a full-fledged lab. The answer papers are evaluated by the University’s Controller of Examination,” she says.
State government universities abide by the norms by and large, but some institutions subvert the rules in innovative ways, says C. Pichaandy, vice-president of Association of University Teachers. Pointing out that Bharathiar University offers a course in Catering Science as opposed to Catering Technology, he says that the university has set up centres abroad, which is beyond its jurisdiction, and has also appointed an official agent.
C Subramanian, associate professor in Department of Political Science, Distance Education, Annamalai University, however, argues that universities should be allowed to run such programmes. With around 170 study centres across the country, the university set the trend before even the IGNOU and the Distance Education Council were established.
“If the Commission makes an adverse decision regarding study centres, it will affect the employees of our university. We have given a representation to the UGC vice-chairman H. Devaraj regarding this. We are almost a government university now and follow the norms. The government is inviting foreign universities to run programmes, but does not allow State and Central universities to offer such programmes,” he regrets.