Kerala varsities lose UGC nod for distance courses


Kottayam: As per the fresh guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) Distance Education Bureau (DEB), not a single university in Kerala is on the list of institutions recognised for offering distance education programmes (correspondence courses).

Although students who have already enrolled for distance education courses will not be affected, there will be no new admissions through the centres run by these universities from the next academic year onward.

All higher educational institutions in the state offering programmes in distance learning mode will be impacted by the move.

Currently, there are 1.72 lakh students pursuing degree programmes offered by universities in Kerala at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Each year, around 1 lakh candidates seek admissions to distance education courses in the state.

Though the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHE) has stressed the need for setting up of an open university, the government has not yet taken a final decision on the proposal. Even if an open university is established, it is going to be a difficult task to comply with the regulation imposed by the Distance Education Bureau (DEB) of UGC.

As admission processes in distance education centres run by universities in Kerala will be stopped in the new academic year beginning next month, there is going to be an exodus of Keralite students to universities in the neighbouring states that have permission to conduct correspondence courses. There are many universities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu that have been accorded approval by statutory authorities.

In the entire country, about only 60 universities were accorded sanction to impart education in the distance learning mode from the next academic year onward.

“Not all students will be able to pursue higher education in regular colleges. The distance learning mode has played a significant role in Kerala's achievements in the higher education sector. Our students now have no other option than migrating to recognised universities in the neighbouring states,” said Mahatma Gandhi University vice-chancellor Dr Babu Sebastian.

Poor NAAC grades

As per the new regulations, only institutions with a NAAC grade of A plus (score of 3.26 or above on a scale of 4) would be permitted to offer programmes through distance mode. In Kerala, even the Mahatma Gandhi University, which tops the list of universities from the state in the NAAC process, could only manage to secure 3.24 points or A grade.

Under the grading system, institutions that are awarded Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) 3.01 to 3.25 get A grade, CGPA 3.26 to 3.50 (A+ grade), and 3.50 and above receive A++ grade.

The institutions that received A grade in Kerala are University of Kerala (3.03 CGPA), Cochin University of Science and Technology (3.06), and Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, (3.03). Since the ranking is valid for a period of five years, these institutions that were graded during the 2015-17 period will be able to apply for re-accreditation only after the expiry of the accreditation period.

By A S Ullas