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UGC and Ignou in PhD tussle

New Delhi, Dec. 29: A four-year tussle between the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou) over research degrees in distance mode appears to have intensified.

The trigger is a UGC draft regulation brought out last week that allows research degrees through correspondence, but only with prior permission of the higher education regulator. Ignou, the premier university in distance education, has challenged the norm.

Ignou vice-chancellor M. Aslam said the varsity had powers to devise any course in distance mode and would never seek permission from the UGC to offer research programmes such as MPhils and PhDs.

He stressed that Ignou had been set up through an act of Parliament. “I have no reason to seek permission from the UGC to offer research degrees unless Parliament amends or repeals the Ignou Act,” Aslam said.

Both have been at loggerheads on the issue since 2009 when the UGC set rules barring research courses through correspondence. The UGC argued that such courses were of poor quality.

But Ignou, which has been offering PhD programmes for over 10 years, objected to the rules, sources said.

This year, the Union HRD ministry amended rules and entrusted the responsibility of regulating distance education to the UGC, after which the regulator issued the draft rules last week.

But Aslam suggested the Ignou courses would continue. “We will continue our courses in distance mode without seeking permission.”

UGC chairperson Ved Prakash declined comment. But a senior UGC official said: “I do not know whether Ignou can defy the UGC, which is mandated to regulate higher education.” Nearly 8,000 students are enrolled in MPhil and PhD courses in distant mode in universities across the country.