Currently, only universities are allowed to offer online degrees. However, the new ruling will allow stand-alone colleges to earn rankings in the top 100 list in the respective subject category twice in the previous three National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings or have a National Board rating. Assessment and Accreditation (NAAC) of at least 3.26 to award degrees online without prior approval from the University Grants Commission (UGC), but in compliance with regulations.
Also, unlike conventional programs where aspirants must have a certain score at the Class 12 level, eligibility for admission to these online undergraduate programs will simply be “senior high school achievement”. Similarly, for admission to online postgraduate degree programs, eligibility will be “passed” in the relevant undergraduate course.
The draft 2020 UGC (Open and Distance Learning and Online Programs) Rules Amendments are being finalized and will be available for stakeholder comment this week.
The new framework, accessible exclusively by YOU, will also enable institutions of higher learning (HEIs), including stand-alone colleges, to teach courses in emerging fields that may not be possible in in-person mode. There will be no “one-batch pass” requirement in conventional programs in order to offer the same program in open and distance learning (ODL) and online mode. In the current structure, the courses taught in universities do not vary, although the teaching medium can be digital or conventional.
All online degrees will have the flexibility of conventional programs as per NEP 2020 – such as the four-year undergraduate program with multiple entry and exit facilities. UGC President, Mr. Jagadesh Kumar said online, ODL and conventional degrees will be of equal value.
All of this was done with the underlying objective of raising India’s gross enrollment ratio to 50% over the next 13 years, in line with the NEP target. It recorded a slight increase from 26.3% in 2018-19 to 27.1% in 2019-20 for the 18-23 age group.
“Like the NEP, which is based on the five pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability, the online education ecosystem will be developed on the same principles” , Kumar said.
The new reforms will be notified as amendments to current regulations issued during the pandemic on September 4, 2020, he said.
Stating that except for professional and technical programs requiring labs and programs prohibited by any regulatory authority, the head of UGC said that online degrees can be offered for all other programs.
“Also, many universities may not have a physical model curriculum — for example, in machine learning, data science, artificial intelligence, and financial management. But they would like to offer that in an online mode. So even if you don’t have this degree on the conventional physical campus, you can still offer these programs online,” the UGC official explained.
Currently, the universities offer 120 UG, 229 PG, and two online PG degree programs. Choice is limited as only conventionally taught courses can be offered digitally.
“The new regulatory framework is to allow all autonomous colleges to offer online education because if you stick to only universities, it becomes limited. There are a large number of high quality stand-alone colleges in the country. This will improve access for learners. And these institutes will participate and offer UG and PG programs online. These online degrees will be like the degrees obtained in any physical university,” Kumar said.