Monday, March 2, 2009

Open University Degree

With the recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India, in the Civil Appeal No. 4173 of 2008, student community and the academia are confused because of the poor standard of reporting in the mainstream newspapers. The court order is not adverse on the quality of education through the Open Universities. It only reminds us of the supremacy of the UGC Act over the IGNOU Act. Though, the IGNOU is established by an Act of the Parliament with special powers to maintain the standards of distance education systems, the objects of the University is for a specific purpose, ie. To democratize higher education by providing an alternative system to those who can't attend the conventional face-to-face system due to various disadvantages. In no case, the IGNOU Act can be above UGC Act as the object of the latter is to maintain the standards of higher education in India covering all universities, including the IGNOU. The open university system has to follow the directives of UGC to maintain parity of the degrees issued, and the Distance Education Council (DEC) of IGNOU needs to frame ordinances and regulations within the ambit of the UGC framework. Though the system of distance education is different and uses a number of innovative practices (including a student study time based credit system), it should not violate the basic guidelines on nomenclature, duration and specification of degrees (getting permission of UGC, if a degree is not listed). The problem is: universities in India are autonomous without check, and sometimes overlook the guidelines/regulations set by statutory bodies in order to increase revenues. Such practices continue due to lack of respect for the Act/Statutes/Ordinances, which the senior officials should uphold and perform. Sometime back there was a proposal for a quasi-judicial tribunal for educational institutions in the country to consider cases of malpractices and disputes in educational institutions. The fate of which is unknown. A tribunal should be there to deal with educational cases speedily, and serve as a check to the unlawful acts of senior officers of the autonomous educational institutions, making them accountable for their actions.

Students in open universities and distance education system should be more careful before joining a programme or institution. The degree offered by state universities/ central universities/ deemed to be universities/ institutions of national importance are recognized, provided the universities follow the directives of the statutory bodies like UGC, AICTE, MCI, etc. Thus, before putting your hard earned money to a distance education programme, do exercise your rights to ask for the approvals of the relevant statutory bodies. It is important to look for academic rigour of the programme such as conduct and attendance in counselling, number of assignments and their assessment, examination procedures, quality of learning materials, etc. before joining a programme. Unfortunately, many distance learners want quick degrees without making adequate efforts to learn. When you go for quick and easy degree, you pay the price by falling into the trap.

Many a time, the issue of non-recognition of open university degree in admission to higher degree in conventional face-to-face universities also come to notice. It may be noted here that Universities are autonomous to decide whom to admit into a programme/course based on equivalence of the similar qualifications issued by them. Universities have their own equivalence committees for this purpose and the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) also deal with such cases, and all conventional universities by and large follow it. For the distance education students this is where the problem remains, as some universities refuse to give equivalence to open university degrees. The DEC may take steps in this front in collaboration with the UGC and AIU to create an 'equivalence framework' so that the students of distance education are not put to disadvantage. For employment, the distance education degrees offered by universities, in accordance with their Act/ Statutes/ Ordinances and duly offered in accordance to the guidelines/approval of the relevant statutory bodies, should be recognized by all employers. Otherwise, it would be discrimination.

Students in the Distance Education system should not worry about the validity of their degrees, but should worry more about their studies/learning per se. If you work hard and study to demand more from the institutions and teachers, you will get it. It is your performance that will speak for the system and bring in more legitimacy and respect.

Note: No offense is intended to any individual or institution. Apologies for any unintended interpretation by the readers.

1 comment:

Dapper Fellow said...

I quite agree with you that the important part of online degrees is the education, not the degree itself. Further, I think that students who educate themselves will do quite well after they earn their degrees and that will impact the worth of the degrees.

Thanks!

Dapper Fellow