Rajasthan High Court upheld NAAC-based eligibility conditions of University Grant Commission (UGC) to offer Open and Distance Learning (ODL) or online education, the UGC said in a statement on Monday.
NAAC-based eligibility conditions of the UGC to offer online education/ODL was challenged in the court by Jaipur National University, a self-financed University, on September 30. But after observing UGC’s point of view, the court upheld the UGC guidelines.
The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) conducts assessment and accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) such as colleges, universities or other recognised institutions to derive an understanding of the ‘Quality Status’ of the institution.
Discussing the guidelines, UGC chairman professor M Jagdish Kumar said that the Rajasthan High Court dismissed the writ petition filed by Jaipur National University and held that viewed from any angle, the grievance raised by the petitioner has no legitimacy, much less legal foundation.
“Further, while dismissing the petition, the Hon’ble Court upheld the legal validity of the UGC Regulations and its provisons,” Kumar added.
The self-financed university sought to assail the legality and validity of second proviso to Regulation 3(A) of the University Grants Commission (Open and Distance Learning Programmes and Online Programmes) Regulations, 2020 and sought a declaration that the impugned second proviso to Regulation 3(A) of the Regulations of 2020 was bad in law and such a condition could not be imposed. The petitioner also prayed for writ or direction in the nature of Mandamus to the respondents to allow the petitioner to run and conduct Open and Distance Learning (ODL) courses for next academic session 2020-21.
On October 12, 2020, UGC had issued a public notice, where recognition was continued for academic year 2020-21, starting from July, 2020 to certain Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) for offering only those programmes under ODL mode which were already recognised for the academic session 2019-20.
“However, name of the petitioner-University was not included in the eligibility list of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) for continuation of recognition for a period of one year. Apparently, non-inclusion of the petitioner-University in the list of eligible HEIs was in view of second proviso to Regulation 3(A) to the Regulations of 2020 as the petitioner had not submitted application on or before February 29, 2020 to the NAAC. This gave rise to the cause to the University for filing the writ petition,” the UGC claimed.
“While opposing the relief sought in the petition, the UGC argued that the impugned second proviso to Regulation 3(A) of the Regulations of 2020 was introduced to deal with the cases of those HEIs which were compliant with various legal requirements and directions issued by the UGC from time to time and had submitted applications for accreditation on or before February 29, 2020 and the benefit of said proviso could not be claimed by non-compliant institutions like the petitioner, which despite repeated opportunities, did not submit any application for accreditation on or before February 29, 2020 to the NAAC,” it said.
The UGC chairman said that the court observed that while many institutions applied, the petitioner, for reasons best known to it, did not apply to the NAAC for upgradation of its grading, to secure a minimum of 3.26 NAAC score on a 4-point scale, so as to be eligible to offer Distance and Learning (ODL) programmes in the next academic year 2020-21. The requirement of achieving NAAC score in order to become eligible to offer Distance and Learning (ODL) teaching programmes for the academic session 2020-21 was statutorily mandated under the Regulations of 2017 (amended from time to time).
“The UGC had fixed February 29, 2020 as the last date for submission of applications keeping in view that unless applications are submitted well in advance, there is no possibility of institutions achieving higher grades through NAAC accreditation process prior to the forthcoming academic session. Therefore, fixation of cut-off date of February 29, 2020, which is four months before the end of academic session, was not irrational, arbitrary or without any basis,” the UGC said.
The court further observed that even under the new Regulations of 2020, the requirement is of having NAAC accreditation of 3.01 on a 4-point scale whereas the petitioner’s NAAC score is only 2.28. Thus, viewed from any angle, the grievance raised by the petitioner has no legitimacy, much less legal foundation.