AICTE Releases New Guidelines for Distance Education and Online Learning
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), in pursuit to achieve the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 objectives and to promote Open & Distance Learning (ODL) and Online Education, has framed comprehensive guidelines — AICTE (Open and Distance Learning Education and Online Education) Guidelines, 2021.
The AICTE Guidelines 2021 aim at imparting education through ODL & Online mode, particularly for offering courses in Management and allied areas, Computer Applications, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in the Engineering & Technology domain, Logistics and Travel & Tourism while emphasizing on increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) through the use of technology and ICT.
Applicability & Standards:
The AICTE Guidelines 2021 apply to the following institutions: Standalone Institutions, Institutions-Deemed to be Universities and other Universities. These guidelines include adherence to minimum norms and standards for programmes, curricula, admissions, physical and instructional facilities, faculty and staff patterns, their qualifications, quality teaching-learning, instructions, assessment and examinations for the award of Diploma, Post Diploma Certificate, Post Graduate Certificate, Post Graduate Diploma and Post Graduate Degree Level Programmes (as defined in Approval Process Handbook) through ODL and/or Online Mode.
As per the AICTE Guidelines 2021, any institution having a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) score of 3.26 and above or a National Board of Accreditation (NBA) score of 700 on a scale of 1000, or ranking in the top-100 in the University category of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), at least twice in three preceding cycles (at the time of application), shall be permitted to start full-fledged ODL courses and/or Online courses without prior approval of the AICTE in NBA-accredited programmes.
All other institutions that have been in existence for at least 5 years, with a minimum NAAC Score of 3.01, are required to apply to the AICTE and seek prior approval for conducting any programme.
An institution intending to offer a programme through ODL mode and/or Online mode is required to make an online application. The AICTE after scrutiny of the application may either point out deficiencies or cause an inspection to examine the application with the help of the Expert Committee. After processing the application, the AICTE may either accept/reject the proposal wholly or in part.
Permissions and Prohibitions:
The AICTE Guidelines 2021 strictly provides institutions from offering any ODL and/or Online programme and admit learners thereto unless it has been granted approval by the AICTE and the intake is a maximum of three times the sanctioned intake of a specific programme in conventional/regular mode. Additionally, the programme is required to be offered on a credit system. It also mandates that if any programme requires approval of any regulatory body then the institution shall necessarily have to take the approval of the AICTE and UGC to conduct the programme. Affiliated colleges/institutions are not permitted to conduct programmes in ODL mode and/or Online mode.
Equivalence and Mobility:
Programmes offered by the institutions through ODL mode and/or Online mode are equivalent to the Certificate / Diploma / PG Diploma / PG Degree level programme offered in conventional mode. Additionally, a learner enrolled for a programme under ODL mode and/or Online mode shall be eligible for mobility from one mode of learning to another mode of learning within the institution as per the provisions stipulated under the Institutions Act and with the approval of statutory authorities of the Institution.
Concerning territorial jurisdiction, a learner residing in any part of the Country may enrol in any programme being offered by an Institution recognized by the AICTE for offering the programme under ODL mode. The total number of learners admitted at any Learner Support Centre shall not exceed 1000 at any time. However, in respect of online mode, a learner residing within or outside India may enrol on any course being offered by an Institution recognized by the AICTE.
An institution recognised by AICTE may offer Certificate or Diploma programmes in ODL mode and/or Online mode in the domains other than prohibited programmes, upon approval by its statutory bodies.
Withdrawal of Approval:
Under the AICTE Guidelines 2021, the AICTE has the power to withdraw the approval granted to an institution that has contravened any of the provisions of the guidelines or has submitted or produced any false information. Moreover, offering a programme without prior approval of AICTE may also lead to the lodging of FIR and other punitive actions.
Earlier, the AICTE had issued Guidelines in 2019 for imparting education through ODL mode by Standalone Institutions and Institutions-Deemed to be Universities and amended the same in 2020 to bring these guidelines in conformity with UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017 & UGC Regulations, 2018. The earlier ones are now replaced with the release of the AICTE (Open and Distance Learning Education and Online Education) Guidelines, 2021.
Read the AICTE-ODL-Online-Guidelines-2021 to know more
Legal Editor | Swapna Iyer
The UGC had earlier issued the University Grants Commission (Open and Distance Learning Programmes and Online Programmes) Regulations, 2020. This has been followed by the AICTE Guidelines 2021 which is substantially the same barring a few clauses.
Personally, I recommend that all regulatory authorities come together and draft a common comprehensive regulation for the entire country and for all streams of education. Different regulations issued by different authorities with more or less the same provisions add to confusion to the education ecosystem.
Having said that, the AICTE (Open and Distance Learning Education and Online Education) Guidelines, 2021 is positively forward-looking and if implemented in letter and spirit will certainly aid the governmental objective of increasing the GER. At the same time, institutions too must continually work towards developing their internal system and infrastructure rather than outsourcing essential educational activities.
Ravi Bhardwaj | email@example.com | www.edulegal.org