Online courses by autonomous colleges: UGC gets Bold 

News: UGC (University Grants Commission) is planning to allow autonomous colleges that are under top-100 ranks in the NIRF subject rankings or having NAAC-grade higher than 3.26 to offer online degrees from the next academic session. 

What are the implications of this move? 

Quality education: Although many universities are offering online degrees but allowing prestigious colleges to run such courses will benefit a large number of students, if the colleges offer same quality online. 

This will definitely help those with lower grades who are seeking quality education, which is in short supply. 

Gross Enrolment Ratio: These online degrees could help India improve the gross enrolment ratio in higher education, which is a key metric in improving human capital. National Education Policy envisages to double India’s GER to 50%. 

Affordability: Nearly three in four young Indians don’t enrol for higher education due to economic pressure. Affordable online degrees with a measure of flexibility could offer a ray of hope to these people.  

Employability: One leading problem in Indian higher education sector is that the employability of many graduates is poor. Online education from a top college may help solve this problem, as it will be a better alternative than campus learning in a low-ranked institution.  

What is the way forward? 

Although UGC’s proposal is a positive development, but there is need for more investment in improving quality of online education.

Infrastructure also needs to be set up, including manpower for continuous assessment of a larger student intake.  

For the initiative to be successful, there is a need for a) ensuring availability of good internet speeds, b) creating engaging online content, c) enhancing National Testing Agency’s capacity to conduct online semester examinations. 

There will also be need for Public funding to support students who are economically weaker  and for infra upgrades. 

Source: This post is based on the article “UGC gets bold” published in Times of India on 22nd Feb 2022.   

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