Online courses from stand-alone colleges are a great idea. But institutions must prepare

UGC’s plan to allow nearly 900 stand-alone colleges in the top 100 of the NIRF subject rankings or with an NAAC score above 3.26 to offer online degrees starting next term academic promises to be a big game-changer for higher education institutions. There are a handful of stand-alone colleges across the country that attract intense admissions competition, pushing the thresholds to surreal levels. Although many universities offer online degrees, allowing prestigious colleges to do so can change the dynamic. If these colleges can deliver the same quality online, the number of students who benefit can be huge.

Admittedly, this may not be much of a consolation to a deserving student who narrowly missed admission to a top-notch college due to the mismatch between supply and demand and dislikes an online degree. For them and for the future of the country, India has no choice but to continue to create more quality-oriented physical institutions. UGC’s proposal, however, will certainly help those with average grades who may not mind virtual classrooms and are looking for quality education, which is in short supply. Moreover, these online degrees could help India improve the gross enrollment rate in higher education, a key indicator for improving human capital.

Nearly three out of four young Indians do not enroll in higher education. One reason is economic pressure. Affordable online degrees with some flexibility could offer a ray of hope for these young people. The employability of many graduates is also poor. Online education at a top-tier college may be a better alternative than on-campus learning at a lower-ranked institution. But for UGC to be a game-changer, top colleges must invest in improving the quality of online education and put in place the infrastructure, including manpower, for continuous assessment. of a larger number of students.

From internet speeds for live-streaming classes to creating engaging online content and committing the National Testing Agency to conduct semester exams online, there is a lot of work to be done to make the ambitious idea lives up to its billing. Generous public funding will be needed for low-income students and for infrastructure upgrades. The national education policy wants to nearly double India’s GER to 50 while ensuring quality. This objective may depend on the success of this initiative.



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This article appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of the Times of India.



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Karen O. Fielding