PATNA: It is indeed an irony that in a state like Bihar, where the gross enrolment ratio is much below the national average, all the centres of distance learning running in different universities have been closed, thanks to the recent University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations. All these centres, some of which had been functioning for four to five decades, have stopped admitting new students to their different academic programmes.
Distance learning centres in Patna University, Magadh University, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Bihar University, Lalit Narayan Mithila University and Jai Prakash University could not get their recognition renewed in the current academic session (2018-19). In all probability, they are unlikely to get UGC recognition soon owing to stricter norms for renewal introduced in the current session.
According to changed guidelines, accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is a must for universities offering distance learning courses and also for open universities. Now, only universities with a valid NAAC tag and a minimum CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) of 3.26 (A grade) on a four-point scale are eligible to apply for recognition of their distance learning courses. However, the new clause is not applicable to open universities till they become eligible for NAAC accreditation. It will be mandatory for open universities to seek NAAC rating within one year of their becoming eligible for the same.
As the things stand today, most universities, including Patna University (PU), have not yet been accredited by NAAC. Even if they venture for accreditation, they are unlikely to get a score of 3.26. “If all the distance learning centres are closed, the future of several students will be at stake,” said Patna University Teachers’ Association president Randhir Kumar Singh.
PU vice-chancellor Rash Bihari Prasad Singh told this newspaper the university was making preparations for its accreditation by NAAC at the earliest so that its directorate of distance education would be able to get its recognition restored. “The university is hopeful of getting itself accredited by the end of the current year,” he said.
Nalanda Open University (NOU), which is at present the only centre in the state to run distance learning courses, is waiting for the formulation of NAAC guidelines for accreditation of open universities. NOU registrar S P Sinha pointed out that the new guidelines were likely to be framed soon and after that NOU would have to be accredited by NAAC in a year.
Federation of University Teachers’ Associations of Bihar’s working president K B Sinha expressed concern over the recent amendment in the guidelines for distance learning centres’ recognition and apprehended closure of all the centres in states like Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkahnd, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“This counter productive move of the UGC will adversely affect the central government’s efforts for enhancing gross enrolment ratio in higher education,” Sinha said.