The need for digital collaboration

News: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has simplified its approval process for local universities to collaborate with their counterparts abroad, to offer joint degrees, dual degrees, and twinning programmes.

Which Higher Education Institution (IHEI) are eligible for collaboration?


Any IHEI accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council having a minimum score of 3.01 on a 4-point scale or any IHEI featuring in the top 1,000 of the Times Higher Education or QS World University Rankings will be eligible to participate in the collaboration.

Further, Indian institutes in the top 100 list of the National Institute Ranking Framework will also be eligible.

Foreign Institutes

The willing institute must rank in the top 1,000 in either of the two world university rankings.

What are the issues?

The UGC’s regulations do not allow academic collaboration with foreign institutions for online learning and open and distance learning (ODL).

This hinders leveraging the potential of information and communication technology in the teaching and learning process.

Importance of ODL Programme in India

The NEP 2020 recommends for more ODL and online programmes to increase the gross enrolment ratio in HEIs in India, especially to improve access in remote areas.

Part-time employees in both the organised and unorganised sectors opt for ODL in order to upgrade their qualifications for better career prospects.

Distance enrolment constitutes 11.1% of the total enrolment in higher education in the postgraduate, undergraduate, PG Diploma, Diploma, and Certificate levels programmes in India.

The ODL programmes are more affordable compared to the in-person programmes and are therefore popular among disadvantaged sections.

Online Education

The government has been promoting online education in India. For example, MOOCs, SWAYAM and NPTEL

The universities and colleges are now being centrally funded under the RUSA and TEQIP-III programmes to create and strengthen infrastructure for online and digital education.

In addition, the Union Budget announced the establishment of a digital university.

Other disadvantages from the move

The chances of a state-sponsored institution for smooth international collaboration will be thwarted by the UGC regulations. The central universities, the IITs and the IIMs are better funded by the Centre. In fact, the central institutions outplay their State-sponsored counterparts. The State-funded HEIs do not perform well in the ranking system.

The move will only exacerbate the divide between central and State institutes.

What will be the advantages from the International Collaboration?

According to AISHE’s findings, 49,348 international students from 168 countries are enrolled in Indian universities. For example, 45.6% are from four neighbouring nations: Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

The move will pave the way for an increase in the footfall of international students in India.

The move will be a game changer for the financially constrained HEIs.

It will help to compensate for the outflow of foreign exchange from India.

Way Forward

The UGC needs to revisit its policies for foreign collaborations. It should ensure students studying in State-sponsored HEIs and opting for ODL and online education are not deprived of benefits in India.

Source: The post is based on an article “The need for digital collaboration” published in the “The Hindu” on 7th June 2022.

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