Role of the Distance Education Council (DEC) in India

Update: With the dissolution of the Distance Education Council (DEC) of the IGNOU in June 2013, the regulatory powers on ODL has been transferred to the "Distance Education Bureau" of the University Grants Commission (UGC.)

According to the Indira Gandhi National Open University Act, 1985 (IGNOU Act 1985), the Distance Education Council (DEC) was established in 1991 to be responsible for the promotion and coordination of the Open University and Distance Education system and for the maintenance of its standards.

Based in New Delhi, the DEC mainly maintains the standard and quality of teaching, evaluation and research that takes place in the distance education systems and Open Universities of India.

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) has become immensely popular in India in the last few decades. And in such a scenario, the role of the DEC becomes very critical and necessary.

Members of the DEC

The Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU acts as the Chairman of the DEC. Other members of the DEC include representatives from:
• Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD)
• University Grants Commission (UGC)
• National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)
• Vice-Chancellors of State Open Universities

Following are the main roles and functions of the DEC, as far as coordinating and promoting the distance education system in India is concerned:

1. As already mentioned, the key duty of the DEC is to promote the open university/distance education system, coordinate its development and ensure that the quality of education is maintained as the best. It does this in the following ways:

a) The DEC develops a network of open universities/distance education institutions in India in consultation with the state governments, universities, and other concerned agencies.
b) It identifies priority areas in which distance education programmes should be organized and then provides necessary support for organizing such programmes.
c) The Distance Education Council tries to promote an innovative system of University level education that has flexible and open methods and pace of learning, combination of courses, eligibility for enrolment and age of entry.
d) It is the duty of the DEC to recommend to the Board of management the pattern and nature of financial assistance that needs to be given to open universities/distance education institutions.
e) The DEC helps in coordinating and sharing the instructional materials prepared by different open universities/distance education institutions and the student support systems. It makes sure that there is no duplication of efforts.
f) It also tries to develop procedures for sharing of courses and programmes and for the payment of royalty or other charges to the members of the network whose courses and programmes are used by other member institutions.
g) The DEC also sets broad norms for the fees that need to be charged from students who join various distance education programmes.
h) It also collects, compiles and circulates information relating to the courses and programmes offered by various open universities/distance education institutions.
i) The DEC also advises the State Government, universities and other concerned agencies on their proposals to set up open universities or to introduce programmes of distance education.
j) It appoints Review Committees periodically, which study and assess the performance of the open universities/distance education institutions in its network.
k) The DEC also establishes a broad framework for the pattern and structure of the distance education courses and programmes.
l) It sets the norms, procedures and practices for admission, evaluation, completion of course requirements, transfer of credits, etc. of students admitted to the programmes of the open university/distance education network and for the award of certificates, diplomas and degrees to them.
m) The DEC also develops guidelines for the organisation of student support services for the open university/distance education programmes.

2. The DEC starts the process of recognition. It recognizes ODL institutions on the basis of how prepared they are to offer programmes through distance mode depending upon their infrastructure, human and other resources, learner support system, and teaching methods.
Recognition is the certification for offering education through ODL mode. It is, therefore, mandatory for institutions to get recognition from the DEC.

3. Another major role of the DEC is in matters of financial interest. The DEC appoints committees that assess what development grants need to be sanctioned for various open universities and distance education institutions.

The DEC then sanctions grants to open universities/distance education institutions for specific projects on the basis of these reports submitted by the appointed committees.

Note: The financial assistance that is mentioned above can be given only for the following categories of institutions:
i) An Open University established by or under an Act of, a State Legislature, and declared fit to receive assistance from central sources under Section 12-B of the UGC Act
ii) Any other university as defined in Section 2(f) of the UGC Act provided that such a university is also declared fit, wherever applicable, under Section 12-B of that UGC Act
iii) An institution deemed to be a university under Section 3 of the UGC Act

Thus, it is clear that the DEC, as an apex agency, is responsible for recognizing ODL institutions in India. It is compulsory that all institutions should take prior approval from the DEC for all existing and new programmes they plan to offer through distance mode. The DEC also provides technical and financial support to the Open and Distance Education institutes in the country.

About Nishatha Abraham Bijeesh

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