India will allow 15 percent of its universities to offer degrees online, excluding engineering and medicine, according to a report in Mint.
This will be the first time India will be allowing universities to offer degrees, i.e., undergraduate and postgraduate courses to be taken up online. The norms of these degrees are in the process of getting formulated by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and is likely to be out within a month.
Although online degrees have existed in India, many a time the UGC has termed it to be an invalid degree.
The announcement was made by Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar and Higher Education Secretary Kewal Kumar Sharma, where they pointed that only the universities with an A+ as per the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) rating system will be allowed to set up such programmes. The other interested universities will be allowed two years to achieve the A+ requirement.
Many believe that online degrees may not be as valuable as the ordinary way of getting a degree. However, this step will help India improve its low gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education.
The degrees will allow students as well as executives to take up the degree course, according to Javadekar. He said that with technology, the hurdles of travelling the distance to study can be taken care of. They are hopeful to even set up this ecosystem on mobile phones.
However, the online degrees are likely to clash with distance education and/or correspondence courses.
Distance education enables students to learn the courses online, in any part of the country. However, reports suggest that online exams by distance education colleges and/or universities will not be considered valid, implying that the exams conducted in the designated exam centres will be considered valid.
For degrees via correspondence, the students will be required to go to their college and give the exam. The courses via correspondence are not available online and can not be done in any part of the country. At present, state universities cannot offer correspondence degrees through distance mode to their students residing outside the state
Other difficulties which can be faced are fighting the stigma that online degrees do not hold value, evaluating the students and if the online degrees will be as up to the mark as traditional degrees.
When the top officials were questioned why it is pushing for pursuing higher education instead of the existing skills-based education, the minister said that government is working on the jobs front and better news is expected to come out soon.