The University Grants Commission (UGC) will now seek legal opinion on its two-year-old ban on MPhil and PhD courses through distance learning. The decision came after universities have claimed that such a ban is hampering their autonomy. The commission discussed the matter at its last meeting on February 3, 2011 and decided to seek legal opinion on whether its regulations can override powers conferred on the universities by their acts to offer such courses, a source said.
The UGC came out with a rule in 2009— the Minimum Standards and Procedure for Awards of MPhil/PhD Degree Regulation — that states research courses in the distant mode were of poor quality. The regulations have put a question mark on the future of nearly 10,000 students pursing such courses through universities across the country and the degrees that they will eventually get. Even those who have got such degrees since the regulations were issued face uncertainty.
In order to protest the rule Open University IGNOU and evn regular universities have argued that their respective laws, passed by Parliament or the state legislatures, allowed them to offer such courses.
Although there are institutions like IGNOU which are not following the bar, “The UGC regulations do not apply to us as we have been allowed to offer such courses under our act. That is why we did not stop our PhD and MPhil programmes,” vice-chancellor Rajasekharan Pillai said.
Justifying the ban, R.K. Chauhan, a former UGC Secretary said, “The quality of research programmes like PhD and MPhil is poor in the distant-learning mode. Large numbers of students pursued such courses, which were treated equivalent to the National Eligibility Test (NET) held to appoint lecturers.”
Chauhan contrasted the distance-learning programmes with the relatively tougher UGC rules that apply to the regular PhD and MPhil courses, under which students are to be given admission through an entrance test and must do a course before start working on their thesis.
But Ignou vice-chancellor Pillai claimed the UGC had no authority to debar universities from offering any course. “Our university is an autonomous organisation under the IGNOU Act and is allowed to offer MPhil and PhD courses. We have been offering such courses since the 1990s. How can the UGC take away that power?” Officials of the central varsity have met a UGC panel and demanded that the ban be lifted. Pillai said IGNOU’s MPhil and PhD were more rigorous programmes. Students have to do a course work and get their research published in a varsity-prescribed journal.
But A.N. Mishra, president of the Federation of the Central University Teachers’ Association, argued that as the statutory body regulating higher education, the UGC could set standards to maintain quality in research programmes.
[Source: The Telegraph]