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Educational institutions can no longer partner with EdTech platforms to offer online degrees and diplomas

The UGC and AICTE reiterated the ground rules for offering online programmes, amid rising scrutiny of EdTech platforms.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have both issued notices ordering higher educational institutions to stop offering online diplomas and degrees in partnership with EdTech companies.

This is the latest attempt to rebuke the EdTech industry after Congress MP Karti Chidambaram brought up the predatory practices of EdTech companies in the Parliament in December, which was quickly followed by the Education Ministry issuing an advisory warning citizens to be careful while availing services of these companies. This reproach by the two top governing bodies of higher education harms the reputation of the programmes offered by edtech companies, which derive authenticity through partnerships with recognised institutions.

“Some universities and institutes are running programmes through edtech companies. Using a particular platform or a learning management system is different but many higher education institutes in India are outsourcing the running of their online courses to edtech firms. That kind of outsourcing or franchising is definitely not permitted,” an officer from AICTE told Economic Times.

What did UGC and AICTE say?

  1. UGC approval required for offering online programmes: Both the notices pointed out that Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) must first and foremost get UGC approval for offering Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes and online programmes.
  2. The approval comes with the stipulation that institutions do not enter into a franchise agreement: Secondly, the UGC grants approval for ODL and online programmes according to the UGC (Open and Distance Learning Programmes and Online Programmes) Regulations, 2020, which mandates that institutes should not offer these programmes under any franchise arrangement and that the institutes themselves are completely responsible for the programme, the UGC notice stated.
  3. EdTech companies advertising degree and diploma programmes: Contrary to these conditions, UGC and AICTE have both observed that some EdTech companies are giving advertisements in newspapers, social media, television etc. that they are offering degree and diploma programmes in ODL and online modes in association with institutions recognised by the either UGC or AICTE, the notice read.
  4. Action will be taken against defaulting institutes and companies: The advertised degrees and diplomas are not permissible and action will be taken against defaulting EdTech companies as well as HEIs under applicable laws and regulations, UGC said.
  5. Students must also do due diligence: UGC also advised students to check the recognition and entitlement status of the advertised programmes on the UGC (DEB) website before enrolling in any course. Likewise, AICTE advised students to check its website for approved institutions and courses.

MediaNama has reached out to Byju’s, Unacademy, UpGrad, and Vedantu for comments and will update this post once we get a response.

EdTech’s bid to self-regulate

Amidst the rising scrutiny, fifteen of the top EdTech companies last week came together to form the India EdTech Consortium (IEC) under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Members of IEC will self-regulate by setting up a grievance redressal mechanism and adopting a Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct is expected to address issues such as:

  • Aggressive marketing practices
  • Financial services which are provided as part of edtech services
  • Communication to users and marketing
  • Misleading advertisements

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