UGC relaxes standards for online courses to attract foreign students

Foreign students will now be able to join some online programs in India without a passport as an ID, easing admission standards in a bid to attract more international students. The University Grants Commission has amended open and distance learning course regulations to allow more international students to take Indian programs online.

Earlier this week, the education body made an amendment to the UGC Second Amendment Regulations (Open and Distance Learning and Online Programs), 2022, and it was notified in the Gazette on July 18. The aim, a UGC statement said, is to “ease the enrollment process and increase admissions” of international learners into online programs piloted by the Department of External Affairs.

Prof. M Jagadesh Kumar, President of UGC, said the amendment changes the passport requirement as a mandatory ID for international students; henceforth, “any national ID with photograph” of the student’s country of residence will be permitted for the purpose of admission through the MEA into UGC-recognized online programs. “This amendment is expected to improve the enrollment of international learners in online programs through Ministry of External Affairs projects,” Kumar said.

Kumar also added that for international students who are not admitted through the MEA into recognized or UGC-affiliated online courses, the passport will continue to be the identifier.

The amendment was made after the MEA asked the UGC to consider any form of national identity with a photograph for the purpose of admission into Indian universities under the distance education project called e- VidyaBharati. For students from developing countries, a passport is not always accessible.

The MEA observed that many applications were rejected due to either the presentation of expired passports or the fact that prospective students were unable to present passports.

Currently, the MEA is offering scholarships to African students under the e-VidyaBharati project and aims to offer at least 15,000 scholarships to African students over a period of 5 years. UGC recognized and affiliated online programs and courses are offered on e-VidyaBharati portal and students are admitted through MEA.

Karen O. Fielding