Government hands edtech a larger role in higher education

he Indian government is permitting 900 more colleges to offer online degree programmes and will allow more freedom to universities and institutes offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses to collaborate with edtech platforms to develop course content and offer online degrees.

Previously, only some designated universities and their constituent colleges were allowed to offer remote degrees. However, the 2022 budget, tabled in parliament last month, included announcements concerning the expanded reach of the education and skills sector, as well as improvements in education quality and capacity-building.

Allowing collaborations with edtech companies would provide students with diverse learning experiences and is in keeping with goals for online education envisaged in the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020, Kumar said. These include a goal to reach a 50% gross enrolment ratio by 2035, from around 27% currently.

The UGC’s move runs counter to earlier announcements which warned universities against offering distance and online courses in partnership with edtech companies, saying “no franchise agreement” would be permitted.

The government is allowing edtech-higher education partnerships – including with foreign edtech companies, industry-developed courses, and overseas universities offering online courses, as long as the Indian institution owns the content – in order to strengthen the digital education ecosystem, as edtech firms possess tools and technologies that universities could be lacking, officials said.

The changes are also an acknowledgement that many institutions do not have the resources or skills to develop online curricula, while edtech companies have expanded rapidly, creating proprietary content.

At present, 59 universities in India offer 120 undergraduate and 29 postgraduate degree programmes, and two postgraduate diploma programmes, online. Out of the total courses offered online, only 15% are science courses, 50% are related to business administration, and the remaining 35% are in the humanities.

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