Days after the Supreme Court cancelled engineering degrees granted since 2001 by three deemed universities through the distance education mode, the Union HRD ministry has called a meeting of the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Monday to protect the interests of hundreds who could be affected by the move, people familiar with the matter said.
JRN Rajasthan Vidhyapeeth University, Udaipur; Vinayaka Mission Research Foundation, Salem, Tamil Nadu; and IASE Deemed University, Rajasthan — have been conducting distance engineering programmes without necessary approvals, including that from the UGC or the All India Council for Technical Education or AICTE.
The people said that the country’s apex technical education regulator AICTE is considering conducting an aptitude test for students who received degrees from these universities between 2001 and 2005 so that they are not affected. If they clear this GATE-like test it will validate their degrees, the people added.
GATE stands for Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering and is conducted jointly by some of the country’s best engineering colleges including the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology for admission to post-graduate programmes.
The test being considered by the ministry is in keeping with the Supreme Court’s directive.
The degrees awarded through distance learning by the three deemed universities to students admitted after 2005 stand cancelled. The universities have been directed by the court to return the tuition fee and other expenditure incurred by the students.
“We are examining the court order and may consider a GATE-like exam for which modalities will be worked out,” said a senior AICTE official.
AICTE rules mandate that engineering degrees cannot be offered through distance education mode. Officials at the regulator told Hindustan Times that they are working on a blended learning mode.
Officials in the HRD ministry said the HRD minister would meet UGC officials to discuss the issue related to the deemed universities and technical education programmes being offered through the distance education mode.
“UGC has not allowed engineering courses through the distance mode. Currently, as per the HRD ministry the regulatory powers on open and distance learning (ODL) is vested with the UGC,” one of the officials said.
Recently, UGC notified the Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017. The commission, through the regulations, laid down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels through the open and distance learning mode.
The Supreme Court on Friday also restrained “all deemed-to-be universities to carry on any courses in distance education mode from the academic session 2018-2019 onwards unless and until it is permissible to conduct such courses in distance education mode and specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory/regulatory authorities in respect of each of those courses and unless the off-campus centres/study centres are individually inspected and found adequate by the concerned statutory authorities”.