Published: 02nd April 2021
Enrolment for distance courses declines in Tamil Nadu after UGC's 2018 regulations
According to data accessed by Express, the Institute of Distance Education (IDE), University of Madras, had over 36,000 admissions in 2017-18
Enrolment into distance education courses run by State institutions, which declined after the University Grants Commission's (UGC) 2018 regulations, has hit a new low after the pandemic.
Officials and faculty members from these institutions say that preventing students from outside the institution's respective State to apply, has not only decreased enrolment but also reduced choice for students and hurt healthy competition among institutions.
The regulation mandates that all activities of higher education institutions including admission, counselling sessions, contact programmes, and examinations are to be strictly conducted within the territorial jurisdiction of the varsity. On the other hand, Central institutions like the Indira Gandhi National Open University and technical institutes that do not fall under the purview of the UGC, do not have jurisdictional restrictions.
According to data accessed by Express, the Institute of Distance Education (IDE), University of Madras, had over 36,000 admissions in 2017-18. But in 2018-19, it dropped to 17,051 and 23,269 in 2019-20. "We had many niche courses like cyber forensics, Saiva Siddhantham and Tamil literature that were not available in most other institutions. While there is a general reduction in enrolment, the niche and speciality courses of the university which attracted students from other states and even abroad have been hit," said K Ravichandran, Director, IDE, University of Madras.
Meanwhile, PE Thomas, the director in charge of the School of Distance Education in Bharathiar University said that the school had offered over 190 courses in the distance mode before 2018, while they currently run just 72 courses, of which only 30-odd courses have good enrolment. "We had over 38,000 admissions in 2014-15 at our peak.
Since 2018, our enrolment staggers between 15,000-18,000," he said. A senior official from Annamalai University too said there has been a drop in enrolment, but said it was due to the pandemic. "Registrations dropped significantly after the pandemic. With respect to regulations, we have fought legally. Therefore, we continue taking classes online for those who registered for a distance education programme," the official said.
A senior faculty of distance education, on condition of anonymity, said that the restrictions reduced students' ability to choose a course from the institution that specialises in a subject and simultaneously reduced a healthy competition between institutions to come up with better content.
Another regulation, which requires institutions to run the course in regular mode for at least two years before launching it, prevents institutions from exploring interdisciplinary fields, the faculty said. "The UGC wants us to launch innovative courses that are in demand in the market. Take data science for example. We have distinguished faculty in computer science and statistics who can run the course. But we cannot do that because we do not have a data science department that has functioned in regular mode for two years," he said.