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Lack of UGC approval for SNG open university courses dashes hopes of 1.5 lakh students: UDF

Opposition says Kerala govt. should allow other universities in State to conduct distance education courses; Minister says approval will be ensured before October

The Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) on Thursday said the “abject failure” on the part of the Kerala government to get University Grants Commission (UGC) approval for the distance education courses offered by the Sree Narayana Guru Open University (SNGOU) had dashed the hopes of an estimated 1.5 lakh students.

Moving an adjournment motion to discuss the “predicament of the affected students,” Congress legislator K. Babu said the SNGOU set up with much fanfare by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had become a white elephant of open and distance learning.

The government had used the SNGOU as a vehicle for irregular and illegal appointments. The university was a non-starter. The LDF had besmirched the memory and legacy of the social reformer after whom the university was named, he said.

From poor families

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said most students of the SNGOU hailed from marginalised and underprivileged sections of society. Daily privation and pressures of livelihood prevented many of them from attending college classes in regular mode. Many were breadwinners for their families.

Mr. Satheesan said the government had quashed their academic aspirations through “thoughtless” legislation that barred other universities from conducting distance education courses. The students had no other recourse but to enrol in SNGOU.

The government should urgently promulgate an ordinance amending the law that stifled the academic choices of students.

The government should give students a broader opportunity by re-allowing other universities to conduct distance education courses and open university learning, as in the past.

Mr. Satheesan said the “irregular appointments” in the SNGOU impeded UGC recognition. The Vice-Chancellor did not have the requisite experience, he said. The Pro Vice-Chancellor was above the prescribed age of sixty. The Registrar’s sole qualification was he assisted former Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel, Mr. Satheesan said. He demanded that the government terminate their service and appoint qualified persons to the posts.

The UGC was yet to inspect the SNGOU’s infrastructure and faculty. “The government had baptised the child (SNGOU) before it was born,” he said.

Minister’s reply

Higher Education Minister R. Bindu said UGC’s distance education bureau’s web portal for submitting applications for approval of open and distance learning courses remained shut due to the pandemic situation in New Delhi. The government was in touch with the UGC. It would ensure approval for SNGOU courses before October.

The SNGOU conducted undergraduate and postgraduate education programmes. The government would ensure that the SNGOU would fulfil its social aim, Dr. Bindu said.

Speaker M.B. Rajesh rejected the Opposition’s adjournment motion based on the Minister’s reply.

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