New Delhi, Feb 16 (UNI) Vice President M Hamid Ansari today stressed upon the need for open and distance education delivered though information and communication technology to provide quality higher education to the masses at minimum cost.
''The biggest challenge is to provide quality higher education to the greatest number at minimum possible cost to the intended beneficiaries... It is here that open and distance education... has the potential of providing answers,'' Dr Ansari said in his address at the 19th convocation of the Indira Gandhi National Open University here.
''Distance education has emerged as a critical link in achieving our goal of ushering in a knowledge society,'' he added.
At the convocation, the University conferred Doctorate Degrees (Honoris Causa) upon eminent scientist C N R Rao, Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, eminent cardiac surgeon M S Valiathan, Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Kashmiri poet Rahman Rahi and Assamese writer Indira Goswami.
Prof Rao will receive the degree on March 8.
Pointing out that the conventional brick-and-mortar campuses of higher education had long gestation periods for completion, Dr Ansari said higher education in the country was facing a crisis.
''The conventional campuses of higher education have been unable to keep pace with growing demand. Increasing the access to higher education has concomitant requirements of enhanced budgetary outlays...,'' he added.
He said distance education was the confluence of development, education and public policy.
''It is a prime instrument to ensure sustainable and inclusive development and address the core issues of achieving universal education, improving health and reducing poverty,'' he pointed out.
Emphasising that distance education required concerted action of the government, academia and civil society, the Vice President said there was an urgent need to revisit the regulatory structures governing open and distance education institutions in the country.
Dr Ansari said despite the benefits of distance education, ''stigma'' was still attached to those who pursued it.
''It is unfortunate... The degrees of students of open and distance education are not accorded the same weight and credibility in the job market and even by academia,'' he added.
Addressing the Convocation, IGNOU Vice-Chancellor V N Rajasekharan Pillai announced 'Walk-in-Admission' round the year for all academic programmes of the University.
''Henceforth, all the academic programmes of IGNOU will be offered in both cycles of admissions i.e. January cycle and July cycle. A common prospectus will be prepared incorporating details of these academic programmes,'' he added.
As many as 1,01,346 students, including 58 gold medallists, were awarded degrees, diplomas at the Convocation which was held simultaneously at 32 Regional Centres of IGNOU via teleconferencing.
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