New Delhi: The National Digital University announced in the 2022 Budget will become a reality from the next academic session, ThePrint has learnt.
In her Budget speech last year, Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman announced setting up the National Digital University, which is seen as a significant step towards better employability and attaining a 50 per cent gross enrollment ratio (GER) in higher education by 2030 as envisaged in the central government’s National Education Policy 2020.
Speaking to ThePrint, UGC Chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar said the National Digital University (NDU) will start offering courses by July 2023.
The university will begin by offering certificate and diploma courses and will eventually advance to degree programmes, he said.
“A digital university will be established to provide access to students across the country for world-class quality universal education with personalised learning experience at their doorsteps,” Sitharaman had said in her Budget speech last year.
The programme would be available in various Indian languages, she had said.
“The University will be built on a networked hub-spoke model, with the hub building cutting-edge ICT expertise. The best public universities and institutions in the country will collaborate as a network of hub spokes,” Sitharaman said.
Since then, there have been several rounds of discussions between the central governments and educational institutions across the country, including the elite Indian Institutes of Technology, sources in the education ministry said.
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‘Hub-and-spokes’: How NDU will function
A source at the UGC told ThePrint that the central government has finally come up with a plan for how the university would function.
The current plan sees the central government’s massive Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) platform SWAYAM as the centre — “the hub” — of the NDU programme, the source said.
SVAYAM, which is short for Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds, was launched by what is now the Union Ministry of Education in 2017 in an attempt to democratise education by making a variety of courses available for free to students across the country.
Under the current plan for NDU, SWAYAM will host the courses and be connected to various universities and colleges — “the spokes”.
A university that wants to offer its courses at NDU will do so on the platform, the source said. Students could opt to either get their degree from the university itself or from the NDU.
For instance, a student who opts for a course offered by Delhi University and gets the requisite credits could either opt for a DU or an NDU degree, the source said, adding that the finer details of the plan, such as fees and admission process, are still being worked on.
‘One Class, One TV Channel’
Despite the government’s plans to push ahead with the NDU, the status of the second major announcement for education in the Budget 2022 — that of expanding the Modi government’s ‘One Class, One TV channel programme’ — still remains unclear.
First announced in 2021 under the PM eVIDYA — the central government’s digital education programme — ‘One Class, One TV Channel’ envisages imparting education using television programmes.
In the 2022 Budget, Sitharaman had announced that the government was expanding the number of DTH channels under the scheme from 12 to 200.
“We recognise the need to impart supplementary teaching and to build a resilient mechanism for education delivery,” Sitharaman had said in her Budget speech. “For this purpose, ‘One Class, One TV Channel’ programme of PM eVIDYA will be expanded from 12 to 200 TV channels. This will enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages for Classes 1-12.”
However, the website of the education ministry shows that it has yet to be implemented.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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