IGNOU set to challenge UGC on PhD

The Indira Gandhi National Open University is set to resist higher education regulator UGC and resume doctoral programmes after its board of management concluded last month that the Ignou Act authorised the institution to design and offer any course.

Sources in the varsity, the country’s largest that caters to three million students, said the institution would start offering PhD programmes from January.

“We follow all the norms prescribed by the University Grants Commission for PhD courses. Just because it is an open university, it should not be asked to stop any academic programme,” a senior faculty member said.

The university had stopped PhD courses in 2014 after the UGC directed all the 15 exclusively open universities in the country to stop research programmes in distance mode.

The UGC’s regulations on PhD courses – notified in 2009 and revised in 2016 with the approval of the human resource development ministry – ban research programmes offered through distance mode.

Related: UGC Regulations 2016 : Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.PHIL./PH.D Degrees

Its Distance Education Bureau, the regulator for distance education, has been asking the 15 open universities to file affidavits saying they would not offer PhD courses through distance mode. This had prompted Ignou and the other universities to discontinue such programmes.

But on July 23, the Ignou board of management decided to reject the UGC restrictions on the ground that the Ignou Act authorised the varsity to design and offer any course.

The board members also concluded that the PhD courses the varsity offered were comparable to the doctoral programmes conventional universities offered.

Before Ignou stopped offering PhD courses, researchers, varsity sources said, would keep in touch with their guides for the entire period of research and submit progress reports every six months.

The university, which has offered PhDs to several hundred students since its inception in the 1980s, also followed the UGC norms on researcher-guide ratio, the sources said.

“It is presumed that research programmes by distance universities are like degree mills. It is not the case in Ignou,” the faculty member said.

A few members felt that the university should convince the UGC about its quality control and seek approval before restarting PhD courses. But the overall view, the sources said, was the university must resume doctoral programmes whether the UGC approved or not.

Also See: UGC Initiates Integrated MPhil-PhD Programs

HRD ministry sources said the UGC’s restrictions were not tenable as every university set up by their respective laws is allowed to offer any course. “The UGC may have to revise its regulations to allow PhD through distance mode,” a senior official said.

Sources said Ignou’s decision was significant, as it would set an example for other open universities keen to start PhD courses.

“The restriction of the UGC is against the idea of a university. A university is to create knowledge and spread it. This regulation clips the wings of the university without any justifiable reason,” said Prof. Manoj Killedar, who teaches at Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University in Nashik.

Apart from the 15 exclusively open universities, nearly a hundred conventional universities offer distance education to around 10 million students.

News Courtesy: The Telegraph India (link)

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