SC Bans Distance Engineering Courses Through Deemed Universities

The apex court recently suspended the engineering degrees being offered through distance learning by four deemed universities between the year 2001 and 2005. A CBI enquiry was also initiated by the bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit into the conduct of the officials who acted against the policy of the University Grants Commission (UGC) by granting ex post facto approvals to these institutes in 2006-07.

The bench also “restrained all deemed universities from carrying out courses in distance education from the 2018-19 academic session onwards, unless and until it is permissible to conduct such courses in distance education mode and specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory/ regulatory authorities in respect of each of those courses, and unless the off-campus centres/ study centres are individually inspected and found adequate by the concerned statutory authorities.”

The bench said that the UGC should have shouldered its responsibility effectively and hence, “lack of effective oversight and regulatory mechanism for the ‘deemed to be universities’,” has given such a denouement. It further added that it had, “completely failed to remedy the situation… serious question has therefore arisen as to the manning of the UGC itself for its effective working.”

The Supreme Court has asked the UGC to take appropriate measures within one-month to contain those ‘deemed to be universities’ using the word ‘university’. It has also ordered the Centre to comprise a “three-member committee comprising eminent persons who have held high positions in the field of education, investigation, administration or law at national level within one month” to “suggest a roadmap for strengthening and setting up of oversight and regulatory mechanism in the relevant field of higher education and allied issues within six months.”

The court said the “committee may also suggest oversight mechanism to regulate the ‘deemed to be universities’.”

The degrees granted by the JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Institute of Advanced Studies in Education (Rajasthan), Allahabad Agricultural Institute and Vinayak Mission Research Foundation (Tamil Nadu), from 2001 to 2005 have now been suspended by the top court claiming that it had “admitted students, conducted courses and granted degrees in the absence of statutory approvals.”

Solution offered to students

As per the bench, students who have obtained their engineering degrees from these institutions will now have to undergo a joint exam that shall be conducted by AICTE and UGC. Only two chances shall be given to them to clear the exam.

“It goes without saying that any promotion or advancement in career on the basis of such degree shall also stand withdrawn. However, any monetary benefits or advantages in that behalf shall not be recovered from them,” it said.

Findings of the bench

  • No prior permission from any authorities, namely the AICTE, UGC and DEC was taken by any of these ‘deemed-to-be-universities,’ “nor had they even intimated at any juncture the fact that they were conducting such courses in technology/ engineering through distance education mode.”
  • They had no “regular engineering college or faculty in technology/ engineering at their own campus when they commenced courses in technology/ engineering by distance education mode through study centres all over the country,” it said.
  • Since practical sessions are the ‘backbone’ of any technical education, the bench felt that it is not possible to conduct them in distance mode.

It felt that the “extent of commercialisation of education by some of the deemed universities” have destroyed the essence of education in the country.

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