Distance education has helped these several lakhs of Indians to fulfill their higher education and even graduation dream and helped reduce the distance from education for many. It offers flexibility, accessibility and good ROI. Through distance education, a working professional can do the best online MBA in India or other such master’s courses without taking a sabbatical from work or shifting to another city while also not spending exorbitant amounts of money on education. Similarly, women, people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, etc., upon whom there are social taboos and constraints, too can pursue and fulfill their educational dreams from the comfort of their homes and in a cost-effective manner. Though distance and online education have several benefits, there has been a controversy regarding the validity of distance degrees in technical fields like engineering.
What is the controversy?
The inability of existing approved distance education providers (central and state universities and institutions) to accommodate the growing demand for higher education led several deemed universities, private universities, public universities and educational institutions to capitalize on this situation and offer distance education programs in a variety of disciplines ranging from humanities to engineering to management. A larger proportion of these universities and institutions are not even empowered to award degrees. They offered these courses against UGC norms and without the approval of the course and curriculum by the UGC. Their courses were also found to be of sub-standard quality and resulted in questions being raised about the quality of distance education itself.
This led to a number of court cases and appeals to the Supreme Court especially about the validity of technical education like engineering being offered through this mode. The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that deemed universities cannot offer distance courses from 2018 onwards, unless the particular course is permitted. State universities cannot offer courses outside the boundaries of their state. All distance courses, curriculum and study centers need to be inspected and approved by the UGC. Technical courses can be offered through the distance mode only if permitted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Further, engineering degrees offered by deemed universities beyond 2005 were ruled as illegal and therefore, invalid.
Considerations while choosing a distance course
Humanities, business administration and management are some of the popular disciplines in the distance education mode, in the light of the Supreme Court ruling on distance education in the country. Keep these points in mind while choosing the right university for your master’s/bachelor’s degree or best MBA college for distance learning:
- Is the course UGC approved? Can the university offer a valid degree for the course?
- Is the university or institute accredited and valid under the UGC Act?
- Does the university/ institute have a proper course framework?
- Courses with extensive practical work cannot be offered through distance mode. Technical courses like engineering must be approved by AICTE.
- Look out for dubious courses like masters in washing machine, etc.