ANIL KUMAR SASTRY
BU move to allow private consultant to screen distance education study centres draws flak
Bangalore University (BU) Syndicate’s recent decision to rope in a private education consultant to screen prospective study centres for its distance education stream has created a flutter in academic circles. While the University says it had no other option because of the shortage of faculty to constitute as many Local Inspection Committees (LICs) as required to inspect hundreds of prospective applicants, former Vice-Chancellors (VCs) and academicians argue that LIC work, which is academic in nature, cannot be delegated to external agencies.
The BU Syndicate in its meeting last Thursday approved the appointment of Bangalore Educational Resources Pvt. Ltd., as the consultant to screen study centres which will apply for grant of permission to the Directorate of Correspondence Courses and Distance Education of the University.
BU Registrar Sanjay Vir Singh said the move was aimed at enhancing the spread of BU distance education and earn more revenue. The consultant will screen the applicants and recommend the eligible institutions to the University, which in turn will send LICs for inspection. Thereafter, permission will be granted by the Academic Council and the Syndicate.
A former VC dubbed the move as “shocking,” and said it was nothing but appointing a middleman. Apart from leading to corruption, the move may bring disrepute to the University, he felt. When an external agency can screen study centres, there is no guarantee that degrees and certificates will not be up for sale, he said.
At a time when private institutions long to get University assistance for research work or study on a particular subject, it is shameful on the part of BU to go to a private player to get its work done, the former VC lamented. There is no precedence of other universities having adopted a similar mechanism. The job done by the LIC — inspecting the infrastructure of the institute — is purely academic and cannot be delegated to an external agency by the University, he argued.
During the Syndicate meeting, one of the members, A.P. Ranganath, raised objections and submitted a dissent note, along with another member. Mr. Ranganath noted that the decision was not supported by any statute and it was illegal to rope in a private agency for LIC work. “While BU is unable to cope up with the pressure of conducting examinations and declaring results for regular courses, what is the guarantee that examinations will be conducted in a fair manner under distance education mode for students registered in far-off places,” he asked.
The decision has come at a time when some members were attempting to get two study centres of the Directorate located in Haryana closed for difficulties in conducting examinations, Mr. Ranganath told The Hindu. Though the answer scripts are evaluated at BU, there is no assurance that examinations will be conducted in a fair manner in study centres located at far-off places even as there are apprehensions of degrees getting sold for a price, he said.
A few years ago, BU had entered into an agreement with a leading information technology education company to utilise its facility to conduct practical examinations for Bachelor and Master of Computer Application (BCA and MCA) under distance education mode.
Though the institution had nothing to do with the examination, let alone any academic work, the then Government had turned down BU’s decision, saying the institute will get mileage out of BU’s name. And here is a case where BU is virtually delegating its academic powers to a private player, critics of the decision lamented.
However, BU Vice-Chancellor N. Prabhu Dev strongly defended the move, saying the University has to rake in more funds to carry on development projects. Given the serious funds crunch and restrictions on recruitment, BU is unable to draw more faculty to constitute LICs and hence the decision to appoint an external expert.
BU feels that by expanding the reach of distance education stream and offering popular courses, namely, BCA and BBM, more revenue could be earned to fund development projects.
There is no violation of any statute and in fact, statutes are still under the framing stage after the enactment of Karnataka State Universities Act, Mr. Prabhu Dev claimed.
He said the agency will only screen the applicants and has nothing to do with granting of permissions. It is the LIC which will do actual inspection of screened institutions and submit recommendations to the University, he said, adding BU’s supremacy is not at all undermined.
On the possibility of the agency ignoring applications of qualified institutions, the VC said there is always scope for such institutions to directly approach BU with the grievance, which will be redressed.
On the conduct of examinations, Mr. Prabhu Dev said a separate examination wing with a special officer will be created for the distance education stream. “We’ll take the help of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) till the system gets stabilised,” he said. There should be no concern about the quality of examination being conducted.
The Distance Education Council (DEC) guidelines are silent on the role of an external agency.