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Lokesh Kumar’s voice chokes up a little, as he recounts his
time in Alagappa University as being hellish and regrettable. A 35 year old and
a sole breadwinner of his family, he has no job. His MBA marksheets still
haven’t arrived, despite having done the course in 2012. “I take care of both
my parents, my wife and my child. I don’t care if the University sees this, but
I, Lokesh am just one of many people in this position. There are many others,
from even 2002, who haven’t received their marksheets,” he says. Because of
this, he has not been able to find a job for the past 5 years. Having spend
lakhs and taking out a loan, Lokesh is still paying it back.


In the University Grants Commission list of 2017, the
following universities have been approved. 

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1. Tamil Nadu Open University State Open University –  2016-17 to 2017-18

2. Tamil University State University 2016-17 to 2017-18

3. Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha Govt. Institution 2016-17, onward

 4. Mother Teresa Women’s University State University ,
2015-16 onward

5. Sastra University – 2016-17 to 2017-18 onward


These are just five universities. But Tamil Nadu has several
universities offering distance education courses en masse apart from these.
Those are:

1. Annamalai University
2. Periyar University
3. Bharathiar University
4. Madurai Kamaraj University
5. Bharathidasan University
6.Vinayaka Mission Trust
7. Madras University
8. Anna University

None of these universities have made it to the 2017-2018 onward list of the
UGC, and have received various notifications directing them to discontinue
their courses, particularly engineering, biotechnology, medicine, physiotherapy
and nursing. While all of them have regularly applied for UGC recognition, and
removed the following courses, the UGC has denied them certification since
2015. But they continue to function, and on their websites, state that they
have received UGC recognition. 

The UGC guidelines issued in 2017 clearly states reasons for disqualification
of universities. If the universities are found conducting fraudulent affairs
that deteriorate the course education, or produce fake documents, UGC
recognition will be withdrawn. 

But since 2015, the universities – particularly Periyar, Annamalai and Madurai
Kamaraj have been granted a stay order, allowing them to continue providing
courses to students. According to the UGC, The order dated 14 August
2013 of the UGC states that recognition to distance mode education for the
academic year 2015-16 had been cancelled for not accepting all the conditions
laid down by the UGC. But counsel for the Annamalai University called the order
unlawful and arbitrary and the High Court had ordered an interim stay. The
appeal is pending. 

However, the rest being Alagappa, Bharatidasan and Vinayaka
Mission Trust did not receive a stay order, and continue functioning without
UGC recognition.

For distance universities, the biggest challenge remains funding. It’s a catch
22 situation.

They have three issues – they can only receive UGC grants if they operate
within the territorial jurisdiction, in this case, Tamil Nadu. They do not
receive any help from the government’s higher education department, for which
they can only make money if they operate out of centres violating the
territorial boundary norms. More importantly, the Ministy of Human Resource
Development has failed to address this issue post 2014, after which many
distance education institutes have mushroomed. Two major violations have
been reported, but universities continue to function despite these.

Violation 1:
Territorial boundary 

The territorial boundary violation is one main reason universities have not
been accorded recognition by the UGC. While some universities like Periyar,
Bharathiar and Bharathidasan, Alagappa have shut down centres in other states
and countries, many students have been left in the lurch, and students outside
of Tamil Nadu have filed writ petitions against the universities.

The Madras university’s distance education program  has 50 study centres,
28 of which are outside Tamil Nadu, including in Kuwait, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Only 15 study centres are in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts.

But as of now, students don’t have to worry. Examinations
for programs will be conducted till December 2019- January 2020. After this,
the most predictable move would be the court issuing a stay order, as it has
for many universities in the past.

The same year, Periyar University was also granted a stay order, allowing the
university to offer over 150 courses. The UGC had directed the university not
to admit any students during 2015-2016, but it was overruled by the
University’s counsel saying it was illegal.

The Lede reached out to the Directorate of distance
education in Madurai Kamaraj University, which confirmed that study centres in
Mumbai and Delhi are still functioning. The Lede was then directed to their
website to find the number of centres overseas, and received confirmation that
all centres on the website are functioning. These include Ghana, UAE, Nepal,
USA, UK, Vietnam, Singapore and Srilanka.

Madurai Kamaraj University received a stay order for the
same in 2016 under the claim that more than 1.2 lakh students pursuing various
courses through the Directorate of Distance Education of the varsity would get
affected if the entire mode of education was halted abruptly.

While the University has shut down all centres outside Tamil
Nadu as per their website and official communication The Lede received, many
writ petitions were filed by students who had studied in centres of the
University outside Tamil Nadu.

 On 4th April 2017, Mohith N.Kumar vs
Alagappa University along with 130 other petitioners pled that they were left
in the lurch after the direction by the UGC in 2015 to shut down all study
centres outside of Tamil Nadu. The petitioners were studying in Karnataka and
were mostly 2nd and 3rd year students who had enrolled in the course in and
before 2015. On 29.09.2015, the University explained that that the closure
action would not affect the students pursuing II and II year, and they were
hoping that they would be allowed to continue their study as per the programmes
conducted by the respondent University.

They were given no notification about the centres being
closed down. The university had approached the UGC to continue study centres
outside Tamil Nadu until 2020. But the court then ruled that there was no
requirement for the students to re-enroll and take examinations in the study
centres, and the existing students were directed to be attached to the
Directorate of Distance Education as direct students. The court also ruled that
the exercise of providing examinations shall be completed within a period of
two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

On the same date, Adari Tulasinaidu and 62 other petitoners vs The Alagappa
University received a similar ruling to continue examinations and courses in
their centre Vizhinagaram. Vasantha Kathula vs The Alagappa University had also
been filed on the same date along with 69 other petitioners to continue
examinations in Karimnagar, for which the court ruled in favour of them.

Over 5 more writ petitions were filed, the number of petitioners ranging from
60-200 were filed between March and April 2017. The court similarly ruled in
their favour. 

Bharathiar University’s courses were struck down as
completely illegal by the Madras High Court, and in an order dated July 2017,
requsted the University’s vice chancellor to shut down the University and all
the study centres. The university however, is still functioning. Vice
Chancellor A Ganapathi then announced that the centres and university will
close down in the academic year of 2018-2019.  

In 2016, the Indian consulate in the United Arab Emirates
had issued a public notice warning students not to join the university in Sharjah
after students were educated about the UGC guidelines not to violate
territorial jurisdiction. 

In July 2017, the Madras high court issued an order directing Bharathiar
University to shut down all its distance education centres and in the UAE
centre for partnership programmes (CPOPs).The Vice Chancellor of the University
pled that the admissions for 2017-2018 had already been completed and could not
discontinue its courses abruptly. The High Court then gave a breather to The
University, allowing it to conduct courses till 2020.

Vinayaka Mission Trust has been notorious for its treatment
of student and unrecognised professional courses. Since December 2017, the
website of the Trust has a red font sidebar which calls for students who have
completed their engineering degrees to fill out a form. On Nov 2017, the
Supreme Court cancelled engineering degrees of three colleges obtained between
the year 2001-2005. The college is a deemed-to be university and the SC has
restrained deemed-to be universities to conduct distance education courses from

The college not just requires the UGC’s approval, but also
the AICTE’s approval to conduct engineering courses. Medical courses have been
conducted as well. The HRD Ministry has convened a three member committee to
look into the working of these universities offering distance education.

Violation 2: Franchisee centres:

As per UGC guidelines, any use of private agents, services
and trusts to offer distance education courses from the universities and
provide degree certificates is completely illegal, and has been deemed so in a
2015 UGC notification issued by then Secretary of the UGC, Jaspal Sandhu. The
high courts in various states have also quoted this notification in cases
against universities offering distance courses requesting a stay order.

On the complaints board website, Former Bharathiar
University student Jeevan has threatened to end his life if he doesn’t receive
his provisional certificate for the MBA course he had completed. He completed
his course through an affiliated college called AKS Institute of Management in
Noida, and after the college shut down, he was left in the lurch. After
repeated attempts to contact the Bharathiar University staff and director, he
was told that he must wait. His wait has been almost 5 years long.

But these franchises still function across the country. The
Lede contacted these franchises posing as study centres and learning centres
for various universities.

In the third floor of a mall and office space, SS
Educational Trust is hard to find. The centre is a fire hazard, and wears the
look of a cushy learning centre inside.

The centre offers degrees from Alagappa, Periyar, Annamalai and Madurai Kamaraj
Universities – PG, UG and MBA courses, The Lede was told. Asked if they were
franchisees and private agents, they replied “Yes. And we will give degrees as
well.” Not just that francises are illegal, they are definitely not allowed to
issue degrees .Though they call themselves a non-profit trust, they revealed to
The Lede that they received a cut of 60:40 revenue share from the Universities
they provide admissions from.

MFT Academy in Vadapalani offers courses from “a tie-up with 41 universities,
including Madras University,” the academy’s enquiry desk said. These include
Madurai Kamaraj, Alagappa, Periyar, Annamalai,  Bharathiar and
Bharathidasan universities. They also claimed that they were officially
recognised by the Universities. “We can offer MBA in one sitting courses, and
you can get a pre-dated certificate in 6 months time,” the representative said.
Pre-dated is because various universities like the above have not received UGC
recognition since 2015-2016, and their degrees would be unrecognised if dated
years after 2016.
Representatives of the Sri Ram Nallamani centre in Anna Nagar are unaware of
the law and the fact most of the universities have not received UGC

Continuous attempts to contacts the directors of Periyar,
Madurai Kamaraj, Alagappa, Annamalai and



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