Fri. Jun 18th, 2021

Delay by UGC’s Distance Education Bureau in opening its web portal for applications comes as a blow for Sree Narayana Guru Open University

The partial disruption of the functioning of University Grants Commission (UGC) has put paid to the State’s dream of bringing distance education courses under the Sree Narayana Guru Open University (SNGOU).

With the results of the Plus two examinations expected soon, the government is likely to permit Kerala University and Calicut University to continue their distance learning programmes for another year.

While a Kerala High Court order had prompted the SNGOU to defer its efforts to launch academic programmes in the open and distance learning (ODL) mode last year, the university had made all efforts to put its best foot forward in the meantime by framing the syllabus for 20 UG and nine PG academic programmes. The university had planned to enable students to obtain single, double and triple major.

However, the delay by the UGC’s Distance Education Bureau (DEB) in opening its web portal for submitting applications for ODL courses has come as a blow for the university.

SNGOU registrar P.N. Dileep said the university has prepared itself to apply for the UGC recognition for its distance education courses. “However, the COVID-19 situation in New Delhi has apparently stalled the operations of the DEB. While the bureau had last opened its portal in October last, it was expected to reopen this March. This has not happened thus far,” he pointed out.

He added that the recognition process also entailed an inspection of the facilities and arrangements that could consume more time.

Admissions halved

While nearly 90,000 students used to enrol for UG and PG distance education courses in the State, admissions for such programmes had nearly halved last year due to the uncertainty that surrounded the SNGOU’s programmes. This was attributed to the ordinance promulgated for its launch that had barred other universities from offering ODL courses and private registrations.

The issue had come up for discussion at a meeting of university vice chancellors that was convened by Higher Education Minister R. Bindu few days ago. Both V.P. Mahadevan Pillai and M.K. Jayaraj, the Vice Chancellors of Kerala and Calicut Universities respectively, expressed their willingness to continue their ODL programmes.

Kerala University, which currently possessed the DEB recognition that is valid for another year, had admitted close to 12,000 students to its School of Distance Education last year.

Defects rectified

Despite failing to receive the DEB nod, the Calicut University had admitted nearly 35,000 students last year for its ODL programmes after rectifying defects that were flagged in its application. While the DEB remained “incommunicado”, the university continued its efforts to obtain approval. Nonetheless, the university qualified the UGC’s criteria for ODL courses with its NAAC grading of 3.13, Dr. Jayaraj pointed out.

The UGC permitted universities to offer ODL programmes if it has a minimum NAAC score of 3.01 or figures among the top-100 ranks in the National Institutional Ranking Framework.

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