Distance education: KU hopeful of obtaining UGC recognition

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the government allowing state universities to continue with Open and Distance Learning (ODL) courses for the 2021-22 academic year, the University of Kerala is hopeful of obtaining recognition for such courses from the University Grants Commission (UGC) by next month. 
However, the varsity will have to offer these courses in the old syllabus, brought out in 2017, as the government’s nod came only at the eleventh hour. 

The government asked state universities to offer courses in distance mode after efforts by the newly set-up Sree Narayana Guru Open University (SNGOU) to obtain UGC recognition for such courses hit a roadblock. The government’s directive to state universities came only by July 25 – with barely a week remaining for the application deadline to end. 

“Despite the very limited time-frame, the university was able to submit application for 13 undergraduate (UG) and 13 postgraduate (PG) programmes in distance mode for the academic year 2021-22 and onwards,” said a senior KU official. The official hoped the university’s ODL programmes will be given recognition by the last week of August or the first week of September after verification by the UGC’s Distance Education Bureau (DEB). 

With uncertainty prevailing over the fate of distance education courses following the setting up of SNGOU, state universities had not focused on revising the syllabus. As per UGC rules for distance education programmes, the syllabus needs to be revised every three years. Besides, the study material of at least a year and half needs to be printed and kept ready.

“Kerala University was set to revise the syllabus of its ODL courses last year. The process was shelved due to the prohibitive clause in the Open University Act that disallowed other universities to offer courses in distance mode once the Open University becomes functional,” said the official.  Meanwhile, government sources maintained that they were not properly updated about SNGOU’s preparedness to offer distance courses. 

“We were under the impression that the varsity will be able to obtain UGC recognition by the time admissions to distance courses start,” said a top official of the Higher Education Department. With that option exhausted, the government had no choice but to fall back on other universities. Despite the uncertainty, over 13,000 students had taken admission for distance education courses in the University of Kerala last year. 

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