7 th August 2023
Ravi Bhardwaj

UGC relaxes mandatory NAAC accreditation for Universities in Distance Education Mode, also removes the admission restriction in study centre

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission by making 3rd Amendment in the ODL Regulations in less than 1 year, has relaxed the one of the most stringent parameter of NAAC Accreditation for Universities to impart education in Open and Distance Learning Mode.

In the year 2017, UGC had finally notified the much-awaited Regulations to govern the Open and Distance Learning in India laying down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, through Open and Distance Learning mode. Thereafter under pressure from the Universities, it was compelled to defer its implementation by one year to 2018-19, else the Regulations as it stood, would have brought the distance education system in the country to a halt. Later, due a challenge in Delhi High Court, it again the Regulations to continue the recognition of the Standalone Institutions, which it had arbitrarily sought to close down by the 2017 Regulations.

Under the originally notified Regulations, a University, other than Open University could apply for recognition only if it had valid accreditation from NAAC and has completed five years of existence. Realizing that there was vagueness in the accreditation score, the Regulations was amended and vide Notification dated 06.02.2018, UGC specified that accreditation score with minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.26 on a 4 point scale, while retaining the five years of existence.

The requirement of NAAC and that too on a higher scale of 3.26 on a 4 point scale had eliminated lot of players from ODL Education and was also challenged in various High Courts. Though, I do not think, there was any successful challenge to that regulations.

However, UGC has now by Third Amendment Regulations 2018 has temporarily relaxed the the most stringent parameter of NAAC Accreditation for Universities to impart education in Open and Distance Learning Mode, allowing entry into the ODL Education but with a caveat to achieve the parameter before the end of academic session July 2019-June 2020. The Applicant University will have to submit Undertaking to this effect. If the NAAC score is not achieved then the approval may also go.

UGC has also amended some norms relating to the requirement of manpower in the learning support centres. Earlier the 2017 batted for 2-4 counsellors for theory papers of 4 credits, the 2018 norms say that the ratio of counsellor to students should be at 1:100 ratio.

In another relief to the ODL Universities, it has completely done away with the restriction on number of students admitted at Study Centre or Learner Support Centre. Earlier, it had prescribed that total number of learners admitted at any Study Centres or Learner Support Centres should not exceed 1000 at any time

Post effecting the amendment, UGC has also now sought applications from the higher educational institutions for offering Open Distance Learning programmes. In a recent notice issued by Rajnish Jain, Secretary of the higher education watchdog, the UGC has said that post notification of the revised Regulations, the interested higher educational institutions can apply for offering such degrees through them.

It also added, “The online portal for submitting applications shall be opened from September 18, 2018 to October 5, 2018. The duly certified copies of the applications along with annexes shall reach to DEB office of the UGC at 35, Feroz Shah Road, New Delhi within 10 working days of submission of online application.”

EduLegaL View:

I do not whether, the amendment should be called, regressive or progressive. But the amendment can certainly be called “accommodative”. The Regulations in its present form was not doing any good to spread of distance education in the country. In fact, several old players were facing the heat. With this relaxation, the number of applicants will increase, which will certainly add to the spread of distance education

Another restrictive clause, which requires consideration is the ‘minimum five year existence”. I do not find any reason in this clause. If a new University can impart education in technical education like engineering then why it need to wait for 5 years to start courses in ODL Mode. This criteria defies any rationale.