Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is an open and distance learning degree substandard?

Above headline and article appeared today in Hindustan Times. I disagree to the statement that all the open and distance learning degrees are sub standard. Yes, the fact is, out of all the distance and open learning institutes, hardly 25% are providing quality education and rest are just selling it. 

The problem with India's distance and open learning courses and institutes are

1. People have wrong perception that the degree is not useful at all
2. Almost every private and deemed and few state government universities are involved in degree selling rackets.
3. The quality of study materials and supports are very poor.
4. Few universities such as VIT/ NMIMS do not accept distance learning qualifications at all.
5. Private employers are not very keen to accept distance learning degrees due to poor qualifications.
6. Good universities lack infrastructure and quality. For example, Mumbai University could not develop its course materials for post graduate since 2005. It is taking them more than a decade for a simple thing. 
7. High level of irregularities and corruption in UGC, DEC, DEB and AICTE is leading to inefficiency and loosely managed affairs of distance education. 

I am sure, they will wake one day and a distance learning degree will be awarded stringently as University of Mumbai, University of Delhi, University of Pune, University of Hyderabad etc. do. 

A recent Calcutta High Court judgment on open and distance learning (ODL) degrees casts a shadow on the future of 30 lakh students.

Is a degree from an open and distance learning (ODL) system at par with a degree awarded by a formal university? Apparently not, if one goes by a recent Calcutta High Court judgment expressing serious reservations about the quality of education imparted through distance mode.
The court’s observations contradict a Gazette notification of the Central government dated March 1, 1995, and subsequent circulars issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which state that an ODL degree is equivalent to a degree obtained through regular university education.

“Degrees/diplomas/certificates awarded by open universities in conformity with the UGC notification of degrees be treated as equivalent to corresponding awards of the traditional universities in the country,” states a UGC circular issued on October 14, 2013.
The Calcutta High Court, in the meanwhile, deciding a candidate’s eligibility for the post of a principal on the basis of his PhD obtained from an open university, recently stated, “We have no hesitation to hold that be it a graduation degree, a Master degree, Ph D degree or M Phil degree which is granted by an open university either through distance mode of education programme or through any informal education programme cannot be equated with the graduation degree, Master degree, PhD degree granted to a candidate by Formal Conventional Recognised Universities after conducting a conventional course  on regular basis.”
Though concerned about the court’s observations, academicians and experts from the field of ODL programmes have accepted that the perception of the ODL system not being qualitatively at par with regular education is because of deteriorating quality and lack of strong regulatory measures.
Manoj Soni, vice-chancellor, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University, Ahmedabad, who is also chairman of the MHRD’s three-member committee reviewing the feasibility of the Distance Education Council of India draft bill, finds the HC observation “quite alarming,” adding that “It will disappoint and discourage students from joining the ODL system”.
“I agree that some fringe elements in the distance education sector have compromised with norms and indulged in unacceptable practices, but it doesn’t mean that the whole sector should be put in the dock. There are serious violations in the formal system of education as well. It’s due to this ODL system that those from an economically deprived background have been able to get good education,” says Soni. 
Well-known scholar, Prof N R Madhava Menon, who chaired a committee on reforms in distance education and gave its report in 2012, says that in principle there should be no distinction between regular and open university degrees. “There is lack  of credibility in the distance education system because all types of players have been allowed to play and no proper regulatory system is in place today. Delay in enacting the Distance Education Council of India draft bill, which has been envisaged as a strong regulator for the ODL system, is going against the interests of lakhs of students,” says Menon.
Experts say that despite UGC’s own notification barring state and private universities offering courses beyond their own geographical boundaries, majority of universities were flouting rules. “The situation has become so bad that now there is trust deficit among universities – they are not honouring each others’ degrees for admitting students in higher programmes,” says Swarj Basu, former director, Distance Education Council (DEC), an erstwhile regulator of the ODL system. He says the government should have woken up in 2009 when the Supreme Court in the matter of Annamalai University had asked if the alternative system was envisaged under the Open University Act in substitution of the formal system. The apex court had stated: “In our opinion, in the matter of ensuring the standard of education, it is not. The distinction between a formal system and informal system is in the mode and manner in which education is imparted.”

Article credit: Hindustan Times


  1. Dear Mr. Govind,

    can you please advise if doing course through ( worth ? If completed online, how can we check if it is valid for immigration purpose ( Canada or australia). ?
    Thanks and best regards, A. saiyed.

    1. You need to check with the respective country (Canada and Australia for the same)
      The degree will not be valid in India as AIU and UGC approves only full time degree of a foreign university from its main campus or through an Indian Institute who have taken prior UGC's approval to offer such course

      If you are from India, the cost of the degree will be very high, I suggest better you opt for a good central universities in India or a reputed state universities like University of Delhi, University of Mumbai, Pune University, Aligarh Muslim University, Pondicherry University etc. who offer various undergraduate and postgraduate programme through distance mode. Do not opt any private or deemed university and state universities like KSOU, Periyar, Madurai Kamraj etc.

  2. Dear Mr Govind,
    I am working in Saudi Arabia and would like to do MBA in hospital management through distance education. Is Jaipur National University a good university to complete it?
    Thanks and Regards.

  3. Dear sir, can you please advise, I can understand you might be busy. appreciate your voluntary services God bless you.

  4. Hi Govind,

    Am currently in US and would like to do MBA Project Management / IT management courses completely Distance/online(I cannot be in India to write an exam in-person). Can you please suggest any open university for my scenario...Really appreciate.

    1. many such fake degrees and degrees from sub standard third class universities from India are available but you will neither get quality education nor a recognized authenticate degree. You may look into following executive or online MBA from USA

      Penn State Online MBA
      the cost is US $ 60000 approx

      For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.You also need to have a valid GMAT score

  5. Dear Sir,
    I am currently working in IT industry as a Test Manager
    I am planning to appear for NET/SET exam by pursuing MBA HR
    at the same time I would like to keep my industry option open of lateral career shift in corporate HR

    Can you please guide me on this if pursuing online/distance mba from YCMOU or IGNOU is recognized equally well in industry as well as academics

    1. See, in the private sector job, if you are really looking for a good opening with good MNCs, including start ups, they heavily rely on full time MBA from tier 1 B schools only.
      Those who are with corporate experience and already employed in HR sector may get benefit from a distance MBA
      For teaching, although there is no restriction between a full time MBA and distance MBA, most college do not want to recruit a distance MBA holder. This discrimination is wrong. They accept even if you are a full time MBA from worst institute, approved by AICTE.
      As far as IGNOU and YCMOU concern, they are acceptable for government jobs.

  6. Hello Govind Sir,
    I have done BCA from Pune university with only 45% I was worried about my performance so I opted to change my career path towards Psychology.I searched about it and came to know that KSOU offers such option. I just checked primary details that it is listed in UGC approval list and by DEC (which is merged in UGC now) so I firmly taken admission for it. Please let me know about it's perspectives like can I apply for M.Phil after this course and secure a job or did I make a grave mistake on my part by choosing it.

    1. Forgot to mention I 've admitted for MA psychology in KSOU

    2. KSOU not authorised to offer any degree 2013 onwards

  7. Dear Mr. Govind Sharma,

    I had done Diploma in E&C Engg almost 20 years ago and working since then. I am working in IT industry. I always had ambition of pursuing higher education since then and even tried my hands with AMIETE and BITS BS Information Systems, but never got enough motivation and courage to start it and finish the studies.

    Nevertheless, time and again I am in constant touch with happenings in the academic world. Last week I made up my mind and thought of doing AMIE. When I wanted to know its current standing in terms of recognition, I was shocked to learn that HRD has withdrawn its recognition and there is this case going on at Delhi High Court. What a pity for a 95 year old institution.

    My only option now is distance education, and I see that how messed up the whole ODL sector is in India. Either get good marks in schools and get merit seats in good Engg colleges or pay heavy fees and get into non-merit seats. I couldn't do either due to both time and money constraints 20 years back. So what should people like me do. Even the ODL stream looks so scary due to money minded universities.

    I am working in Dubai and here I find that Sikkim Manipal, Madurai Kamaraj and Tamil University centers are available for BCA/ BSc CS. But after reading your blogs the question arises how these universities are providing education outside India.

    I thank you very much for your time and request your guidance. If the above ODLs are invalid do I have to get admitted from India and give exams from there every 6 months.Though my first preference would have been some Engg degree but since that doesn't looks like available due to AICTE/ DEC recognition issues I am looking at BCA/MCA BSc/MSc option.

    Please advise.

  8. Dear Sir,

    Looking forward for your reply for the above query please..

    Should I go for AMIE, is it still recognized
    or should I go for Madurai Kamaraj 2nd year lateral entry to BCA
    or IGNOU BCA

    Can IGNOU, Madurai Kamaraj, IEI provide education through their overseas center in Dubai.

    1. Opt AMIE it is still valid

      except IGNOU and MANUU nobody else has authorisation

  9. Dear Sir,

    Thank you very much for your guidance and for setting up this wonderful blog.

  10. Sir can I opt for AMIE.....Iam from Hyderabad....regarding delhi court CaseMHRD


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