NUJS suddenly shuts down distance-learning certificates • Service provider vows legal action


NUJS Kolkata has suspended distance learning courses that it was offering through third party service providers.

Course developer iPleaders, which set up the entrepreneurship administration and business laws diploma, the sexual harassment executive programme and 9 other programmes, has claimed NUJS’ move was illegal.

The suspension has allegedly resulted in certificates being held up for students who had already completed courses, examination having been stalled for other students and overall confusion among the students currently pursuing these diploma and certificate courses offered by the law school.

According to a notice dated 27 June signed by assistant registrar Tapash Bhattacharya:

In the 32nd academic council meeting held on 10.05.2018 it was decided that all future activities pertaining to distant education and online courses should be put on status quo, except those which are purely university initiatives.

All enrolments for these online and distance education courses which used to be run by the university through private partnerships have been suspended till further order. Any person enrolling in these courses would be doing it at their own risk and the university shall not be held responsible for such matters.

In May we had reported on that same executive counsel meeting, as having resolved to maintain the status quo while considering further action.

Online course developer iPleaders was the technical provider for the greatest number of distance courses that NUJS was offering at the time of the notice. It provided the technology, content, customer services and marketing for the online certificate courses provided by NUJS for the last 6 years and has catered to more than 4,000 students at NUJS since 2012, according to a statement issued by iPleaders co-founder and NUJS graduate Ramanuj Mukherjee.

Mukherjee said that it was running 11 such courses with NUJS at the time the suspension notice was issued, and that NUJS had over 3,000 existing students enrolled in these courses who would be affected by the move. The course fee for these ranged between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000.

In the statement on behalf of iPleaders, Mukherjee alleged that NUJS has not paid iPleaders its dues for several months now since the change in its administration - interim vice chancellor (VC) former justice Amit Talukdar had succeeded former VC Ishwara Bhat in April - and had dishonored the terms of its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ipleaders forcing it to now invoke the MoU’s arbitration clause as well as to approach the courts for justice.

Mukherjee in his statement urged affected students of the suspended courses to approach the court against NUJS as:

NUJS has certain responsibilities in connection with the courses under our contract, and we will pray to the Courts that NUJS continues to do so for students who are already studying the courses. However, students approaching a court directly with respect to education promised by a University will stand a superior chance than a private party enforcing a contract.

Mukherjee commented to us today: “Prof Bhat had some pending amount (to be paid to iPleaders) but before leaving he cleared most of it. Since the new acting VC has come, he hasn’t signed payment orders even after acting registrar and School of Distance and Mass Education Head Anirban Mazumdar signed them. He also didn’t issue any of the pending certificates by holding up his signature to them.”

He told us that until NUJS’ 27 June notice, there had been no communication from NUJS to iPleaders that it would shut down the courses. He said that in the academic council meeting to which the notice refers, the word used for action on these courses was to maintain “status quo” until a final decision was taken in the next meeting on whether to continue offering the courses.

Thereafter, iPleaders had disabled admissions for the courses.

Talukdar was not reachable for comment by phone and email.

By Prachi Shrivastava