CIC: UGC directed to secure information regarding Karnataka State Open University whether the degree certificates issued by KSOU are valid; If not, action to be taken to resolve the crisis & provide relief to the students including compensation for losses
1. Appellant is not present. Mr. Amit Kr. Verma, Education Officer, Mr. Megha Kaushik, Education Officer and Mr. Ankit Singh, Consultant represents Public authority.
2. Through his RTI application appellant wanted to know from Karnataka State Open University information whether a student who appeared and passed first year MA in Nov-Dec 2014 from KSOU from Franchise in another State is valid for Government job or not after doing MA (Final)? He specifically asked whether Statement of Marks issued to a student Shri Devender Kumar in December 2014, with registration number 13225 MSA 049 will be valid for Government job purpose? Claiming that KSOU did not give any information, appellant has filed fresh RTI request with these questions to UGC. Dissatisfied with UGC response he filed second appeal.
3. The UGC answered on point 1 of RTI application, that KSOU being a state university; it can operate within its state only. The University is not authorized to open study centre/off campus centre beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the state as per the judgment of Supreme Court in Prof Yashpal vs State of Chattisgargh, Writ Petition (civil) 19 of 2004, dated 11 February, 2005. The UGC has not granted any approval to the KSOU to open off campus/study centre anywhere.
4. The appellant wrote a letter on 11.2.2016 saying he was 74 years old suffering from both knees arthritis problem and unable to avail himself the opportunity to appear in person, hence made written submission. He alleged non-seriousness in response by the CPIO, and said that UGC as a superior body could have directed the PIO of Karnataka Open University to furnish the information sought. He also sought action against CPIO and compensation for the loss suffered because of denial of information. Claiming that the CPIO did not provide information, the appellant filed appeal before the first appellate authority (FAA) against the reply of CPIO claiming FAA did not respond, the appellant filed a second appeal before this Commission under section 19(3) A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission: Provided that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time. of the RTI Act.
5. On 13th Jan, 2016, the Education officer Mr. Megha Kaushik wrote to Registrar, KSOU not to admit any student during 201516 before getting approval/recognition from UGC. The UGC also stated that KSOU will be responsible for consequences. In the letter dated 13.01.2016 the Education Officer wrote: “An Expert Committee was constituted for the consideration of matters related to KSOU, Mysore. The 2nd meeting of the Expert Committee, was held on 27th October 2015, where after deliberating over the issues, recommended the following, which was also considered by the Distance Education Committee meeting held on 18.11.2015. Subsequently, the recommendations of the Committee were approved by the competent authority of UGC. 1. Regarding the request of the University for Renewal of recognition for academic year 201314 & 201415, the committee decided that the request cannot be acceded in the context of directions/actionable points of Prof. Madhav Menon Committee conveyed by the MHRD vide its letter No. F. No. 620/ 2000DL dated 29.12.2012 and in consonance of the observations of Supreme Court as in case of Annamalai University, wherein expostfacto recognition was not permitted. Therefore, the ODL programmes offered by the university during the academic session 201314 to 201415 are not recognized by the UGC.
2. Regarding the request for recognition for academic year 2015-16, the Expert Committee under the chairmanship of Prof. H. P. Dixit visited the university on 11th - 12th December 2015 for the said purpose. The report of the committee is under consideration and further communication will be sent soon by UGC in respect of the recognition during 201516.
Therefore, the university is directed to issue a public notice regarding closure of study centre/franchisee and closure of technical/professional/online programmes in daily news paper, any two national dailies and on the official website to ensure their action in public domain for the interest of the Students/other stakeholders. The university is required to submit a compliance report (along with documentary proof of the action taken) in respect to the above direction with 10 days of the intimation. The university is also directed not to admit any student during the academic session 2015-16 before getting approval/recognition from the UGC. The university will be held responsible for consequence, if any arising out of it.
6. Deccan Herald prominently published a news item on June 18, 2015 saying “University Grants Commission has derecognized the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), Mysore, for offering programmes through distance learning mode by "blatantly flouting the norms".
7. KSOU, in collaboration with private institutions/ entities/coaching centres spread all over the country and even abroad, has been offering programmes through distance learning mode by blatantly flouting the norms, guidelines and directives of UGC and erstwhile Distance Education Council (DEC) of Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, UGC's public notice said.
8. The June 16 notice said that it is declared that the programmes offered by KSOU, Mysore had not been recognised by UGC beyond 201213. This has been done after issue of a show cause notice to them on June 10, 2011 and after considering their response including personal hearing of the officials of the University. The university remained undeterred and continued to offer programmes through distance learning mode in violation of the UGC policy on territorial jurisdiction vide UGC public notice dated 27th June, 2013, the notice said. It has also been offering professional/technical programmes in violation of the norms of the concerned regulatory bodies and without their approval. The university has also started offering online programmes, which are not recognised by UGC, as an exclusive method of distance education, it added. The Karnataka State Open University established in June 1996 is considered to be a reputed Open University amongst the open learning institutions in the country”.
9. The UGC, Distance Education Bureau, in its minutes of 9th Meeting held on 21st January, 2016, decided as follows:
i) The committed noted the University has been delivering its programme in elearning mode, face to face mode and distance mode through private collaborating institutions under MOUs signed between them. Under the MOU, complete autonomy in terms of admission and evaluation was also granted to the collaborating institutions. Therefore, the role of KSOU was limited and the whole process of evaluation was vested with collaborating institutions.
ii) The Committee did not observe any convincing effort made by KSOU in ensuring/monitoring of the implementation of the circulars regarding discontinuation of programmes with collaborative institutions. The committee noted that the University very recently initiated Reregistration of the students who had cleared first semester/First year of course/programmes.
iii) The Committee feels deeply concerned about an open university not only running face to face programmes like B.Tech, M.Tech, MCA without the approval of AICTE but also authorized the private collaborators to run these programmes.
iv) In the absence of any effective monitoring mechanism to coordinate the teaching, learning and evaluation system, the committee was constrained to infer that it was not possible to ensure maintenance of standards of higher education. The committee also noted that giving admission at the end of the academic year shall mean condensation of one year programmes to six months or less to six months, which may not be academically justifiable.
10. The visiting Committee also expressed its serious concern for violations of the prescribed norms of the statutory bodies UGC/ AICTE for conduction of academic programmes of KSOU particularly, in the context of large number of bonafide students and their employment potential. As per the observations of the visiting Expert Committee, the recognition for the academic year 201516 has not been recommended.
11. It was also recommended that after submission of convincing documentary evidence that KSOU has adhered to the norms of legal jurisdiction, closure of study centres outside the State, termination of MOUs with private collaborative institutions, franchising/outsourcing the academic programmes and adherence to norms stipulated by UGCDEB and respective statutory bodies, KSOU’s request for recognition of academic programmes/courses may be processed.
12. The Committee considered and approved the recommendations of the visiting Expert Committee. Also, it was decided by the Distance Education Committee:
Not to accord recognition to offer ODL programmes during 201516.
KSOU will submit compliance report as per the recommendations of the visiting Expert Committee.
13. Respondent officer stated that in 2011, UGC had closed franchise of Karnataka State Open University as it was not acting in accordance with standards prescribed by UGC. Under section 4(1)(b) Every public authority shall publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,- (i) the particulars of its organisation, functions and duties; (ii) the powers and duties of its officers and employees; (iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; (iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; (v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions; (vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control; (vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof; (viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public; (ix) a directory of its officers and employees; (x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; (xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; (xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes; (xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form; (xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use; (xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers; (xvii) such other information as may be prescribed and thereafter update these publications every year; of RTI Act notification about cancellation of franchise of Karnataka State Open University was made specific to the public. Officer from the UGC stated that Karnataka State Open University was continuously defying the UGC norms and it was only after they made declaration of it’s derecognition publicly that they were complied with. They said KSOU cannot start functioning until issuance of approval/recognition from the UGC. They wrote to the Karnataka State Higher Education to take stern action against that university. Regarding the validity of degree issued to the students, the officer stated they can comment upon that as they are concerned with the recognition aspect only. They refused to say anything on validity of degree issued by Karnataka State Open University.
14. The Commission finds that a grave situation arises if the degrees awarded by KSOU are not considered valid because of defiance of norms prescribed by UGC, parents & students will be helpless after spending prime year and huge money if degree certificate is rendered useless. The UGC is apex body to regulate Academic norms in the entire nation. Its Distance Education Bureau has set certain standards, which need to be followed by all distance educational institutions in different states. If any university wants a change, they can negotiate/represent/or take appropriate measures to secure validity to their courses and degrees.
15. From the answers and submissions it can be inferred that KSOU is not authorized to run these courses outside the territory of Karnataka, as prohibited by the Distance Education Bureau, which was made clear by the notification, minutes of the meeting and submission dated 13th Jan 2016.
16. If that is the case, then what will be the fate of student Mr. Devender Kumar and thousands of other students who are in similar situation because of doubts about the validity of degree obtained by them? Professor P S Naik, the Vice Chancellor of Karnataka State Open University, the office the Governor of Karnataka, His Excellency, Shri Vajubhai Rudabhai Wala, being the chancellor of KSOU, and office of Mr T B Jayachandra, the Minister for Higher Education of the Government of Karnataka and ProChancellor of KSOU have a duty to clarify the appellant and thousands of students from who the University collected fee running into crores of Rupees,
a) Whether the degree certificates issued by KSOU are valid or not?
b) If they are not valid, how does the KSOU provide relief to the students including possibility of paying compensation for their losses, and
c) What measures they would take to resolve this crisis reflected in the minutes and other communications by UGC Distance Education Bureau, within one month from the date of receipt of this order.
17. The CPIO, UGC is directed to coordinate and secure the above information in interest of the students, and send a report to this Commission within 45 days from the date of receipt of this order.
18. The Commission also directs respondent authority to put all the relevant information along with the order relating to Karnataka State Open University on the official website so that the public is aware about the derecognition of Karnataka State Open University. Compliance report of the above stated direction shall be submitted to the Commission. With this observation, the present appeal is disposed of.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: M C Sharma v. PIO, University Grant Commission in Case No. CIC/SA/A/2015/001541