Published: 27th June 2020
Should distance learning be competitive or not?
Now, students admitted to open distance learning courses in conventional universities in the state will be permitted to complete their academic programmes as scheduled
Monopolists always defend their monopolies by arguing that competition is wasteful. When the railroad barons completed their monopoly, they argued it would be wasteful to have competing rail lines… But today, the size and scope of these monopolies is different
Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784), a multi-faceted English writer who compiled the first comprehensive English dictionary
There have been supporters for both competition and monopoly as reflected in the above quotation – which spans across three centuries. Some of today’s monopolies are in niche sectors and companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter and Amazon have grown into global giants. One of them even had the guts recently to delete President Trump’s submission and he had to eat the humble pie.
The subject of competition vs monopoly has surfaced in the educational space in Karnataka. But, we must start with a bit of background: The Mysuru-based Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) was started as the Institute of Correspondence Course and Continuing Education, a wing of the University of Mysore. It was established on June 1, 1996, under the Karnataka State Open University Act of 1992, with the objective of introducing and promoting the system of open universities and distance learning in the state.
KSOU was de-recognised in 2015 after it was found violating several norms of the University Grants Commission. After several initiatives by KSOU, the Government of Karnataka and the direction of the high court, 17 courses of KSOU were granted recognition from 2018 onwards.
Now, students admitted to open distance learning courses in conventional universities in the state will be permitted to complete their academic programmes as scheduled, even though the universities have no option but to discontinue the courses, with KSOU getting the exclusive right to offer distance education courses hereafter.
Many universities in Karnataka, including the University of Mysore, had introduced Open Distance Learning (ODL) courses. But KSOU took objection and urged the government to stop them from doing so. The State Cabinet recently decided to confine ODL courses to the state’s lone open university. The decision will see conventional universities withdrawing their courses and no fresh admissions can be accepted from the next academic year.
There is lot of griping on the part of conventional universities who had jumped into the vacuum resulting from the forced suspension of operations of KSOU. It raises the question of competition vs monopoly. It also raises the issue of choice for potential students of long-distance education.