Supreme Court has ruled that PG degree offered by open universities where no minimum degree is insisted upon are not equal to those given by regular universities. This has major implications for those who have PG degrees from such open universities.
ANNAMALAI UNIVERSITY and Karnataka State Open University admit students to PG courses directly without basic qualification of a degree being insisted upon. Students without formal qualifications (except fulfilling age criteria) have to take up a preparatory course and write a preparatory exam before taking up PG courses. UGC has categorically stated that PG courses of regular and open universities (distance education, correspondence etc) are equal. However in 2004, UGC stipulated that courses admitting students directly to PG courses without a prior degree are to be discontinued. Annmalai had stopped such courses in 2004. However, KSOU continues to offer such direct PG courses even now.
The question of equality has been plaguing universities, administrators, employers, UGC, Distance Education Council, HRD ministry and most of all the students who have obtained such qualifications where equality is in doubt. When we talk of students, during 1991-92 to 2003-04 some 2.5 lakh students got PG degrees from Annamalai alone. And they are happily employed in prestigious universities and government organisations. According to Supreme Court judgment, PG degrees where minimum graduation is not insisted upon and other PG courses where that is a basic requirement are not equal. One Ramesh was appointed as Director a Film Institute in Tamil Nadu. He had a PG degree from Annamalai. He went through the channel where no prior degree is needed. His ‘friend’ Gabriel contested that the appointment of Ramesh was not tenable. Supreme Court decided that all PG degrees are not equal, so Ramesh stands to suffer. In another case, a few years ago, Sanjay Kumar obtained his PG degree from Annamalai. He applied for BL in Gurunanak Dev University. Despite having a PG degree from a recognised University he was not admitted to BL course, because the minimum qualification for the BL course was an undergraduate degree like BA, B Com, B Sc etc. The candidate went to court. Supreme Court upheld that he cannot be admitted to BL. Equality of degrees may be required for employment or further education. Such decisions are shattering the hopes of thousands of students either when they seek jobs or when they try to study further. While the statement “Customer, Beware” is legally binding upon students, don’t universities too have some responsibility? They must make things absolutely clear in the prospectus or in their website. For example, KSOU website glibly talks about recognition by HRD ministry, Distance Education Council, membership in AIU, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Asian Association of Open Universities etc. But KSOU does not mention about UGC. Can this be due to the fact that KSOU does not get grants from UGC? In the past there have been number of cases of many degrees becoming invalid because of fake universities, inappropriate recognition, the relevant course not being recognised etc. Students come to know only after they get ditched. I often see a list of some 20 fake universities advertised for the benefit of the public by UGC. The funny thing is that the same names are appearing for well over a decade. Is the government or UGC not empowered to close down such fake universities? Lots of questions, but no answers. Sufferers is the poor, ill-equipped student and his parents. What can we do to improve the situation?