The Centre has lifted its six-year-old ban on B.Tech and M.Tech in distance mode but said institutions will require the approval of regulators to start such courses.
A gazette notification by the human resource development (HRD) ministry said all degrees, diplomas and certificates – including those in technical education – awarded through open and distance mode , stood automatically recognised for employment to central jobs, provided the courses have been approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC). But there is no relief for those already holding such degrees, which continue to remain invalid.
The UGC has a distance education bureau (DEB) to approve such programmes. The bureau, advised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), has been giving approval to two such technical courses – MCA and MBA – in distance mode.
The bureau – known as the Distance Education Council (DEC) before 2012 – has stopped approving courses like B.Tech and M.Tech since 2009 after the ministry put a ban on them on the ground that their quality was compromised. “The ministry has lifted its ban. Now it is up to the regulators like the UGC and the AICTE to take call on whether to allow universities to start these courses,” said a ministry official.
The AICTE , which regulates technical education, has always followed a policy of not approving B.Tech, M.Tech, pharmacy, hotel management, and architecture courses in distance mode.
Lawyer Ravi Bhardwaj said the latest notification was a “positive departure”. “The government has taken the first step for recognition of such B.Tech and M.Tech degrees in government jobs with prospective effect. I think this decision will prompt the regulators to start approving technical education courses in correspondence mode.”
However, the notification does little to help the thousands already holding such degrees and facing discrimination in jobs. While inviting applications for posts like those of junior engineers, most state and central agencies do not accept B.Tech completed in distance mode. Many such degree-holders are languishing at junior levels in the railways and other Centre-run units like the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) as these organisations do not consider their B.Tech valid.
“I have been working in SAIL for the past 10 years. My B.Tech degree is not being entered into my service record and I am not getting promotions,” said one official.
Thousands more – many from varsities like Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University – have been running from pillar to post in the hope of getting their qualifications recognised.
But lawyer Bhardwaj said the notification could not be implemented retrospectively, hence the earlier degree holders would not get the benefits unless the government and regulators took a specific decision to this effect. Sources in the ministry said the AICTE had been recently asked to look into the issue of recognition of such previously issued degrees.
An IGNOU official said many open universities were running B.Tech and M.Tech courses in distance mode, after approvals from their academic councils. The regulatory bodies had not clamped any restrictions on them till 2009.
“Before I took admission for B.Tech in IGNOU in 2008-09, I had checked with the AICTE and the UGC. They had no problems with B.Tech in distance mode. Then they arbitrarily put the restriction and pushed our career into jeopardy,” the SAIL employee said.