The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) dissolved the Distance Education Council (DEC)[1] of IGNOU[2] and entrusted University Grants Commission (UGC) with the responsibility of managing and regulating the operations of Open and Distance Learning (ODL)[3] as notified by MRHD vide a notice dated 28th May, 2013.


The DEC under Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), was the apex regulatory body for distance education offered by universities across the country. It regulated the affairs related to the Distance Learning such as giving affiliations and approvals to the Distance Education Centers or Courses. The Notification[4] dated 4th May, 2013 repealed Section 28 of the IGNOU Act, 1985 under which the DEC was established, thereby dissolving DEC with immediate effect.

DEC[5] was constituted for the purpose of co-coordinating and promoting the open universities and the system of distance education and maintaining its standards in the country. It was empowered to take all the steps necessary to promote the open and distance learning. DEC had its head quarters at New Delhi[6].

However in the year 2009 a tripartite committee was set up by the MHRD comprising of DEC-UGC and AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education). All the distance learning programs and courses offered by the universities were required to be approved by the committee. The confusion prevailed among the Universities regarding whether the approval granted by DEC amounted to the approval by the Committee.

The Ministry of HRD, government of India has now entrusted all the responsibilities of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) education system in the country upon UGC. UGC is now the sole authority governing and regulating the Distance Education system in the country. UGC in the meantime is working on development of appropriate regulations for maintaining standards in ODL programs and has asked the Universities to abstain from giving further approvals or affiliations to the ODL centers or courses unless the regulations made by UGC are notified and are in full effect.


The move has been appreciated as a good move in the interest of the Distance Learning and Education. UGC[7] is being considered as the suitable statutory body and being appropriately empowered to regulate and maintain the Distance Education and the approvals and affiliations related to distance learning centers and courses. DEC was a toothless tiger with limited power to regulate the Distance Learning Courses and Universities. It could only issue guidelines or give advice to the State Government.[8] It had no power to take any necessary action in case any university commits default. The guidelines issued were not binding upon the parties. On the other hand UGC has a unique distinction of being only grant giving agency in the country. It has been empowered to grant[9] or withhold grants to be awarded to any University on the grounds of it being not fit to receive grants.[10] It has the power to make regulations and the Universities.


There is a large proliferation of courses covered by distance mode without adequate infrastructure, both human and physical and it is difficult to regulate all the courses. There is a strong need to correct these imbalances. UGC being adequately empowered to maintain and regulate the functioning of the Universities in India is expected to correct the shortcomings in the distance education system. This step of dissolution of DEC will also make UGC the sole body granting the approvals thereby removing the confusion created due to establishment of tripartite committee.

[1] The Distance Education Council (DEC), was an authority of IGNOU co-coordinating 13 State Open Universities and 119 institutions of correspondence courses in conventional universities.

[2] At higher education level, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) co-ordinates distance learning. It has a cumulative enrolment of about 15 lakhs, serviced through 53 regional centres and 1,400 study centres with 25,000 counsellors.

[3] First open university was started in 1982 and National Open University of India was started in 1985, then IGNOU Act was brought into effect in 1985

[4] The Section 40 (2) of the IGNOU Act states that – Every Statute, Ordinance or Regulation made under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament, while it is in session, for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the Statute, Ordinance or Regulation or both Houses agree that the Statute, Ordinance or Regulation should not be made, the Statute, Ordinance or Regulation shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that Statute, Ordinance or Regulation

[5] It was declared as an authority of IGNOU under Section-16 of the IGNOU Act, 1985.

[6] IGNOU Act was amended and the amendment came in force in 1997 regarding the headquarters of IGNOU.

[7] UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION is a recommendatory body set up by the central government to make suggestions for improvement in the higher education system in the country. It also disburses financial grants as per norms and benchmarks to Universities and Colleges. UGC maintains Universities and Colleges. UGC maintains a list of courses with eligibility and duration that are called “nomenclature”, this has to be adhered to by all Universities while conducting programs and awarding degrees.

[8] Statute 26 of IGNOU Act, 1985

[9] Section 12 (a) (b) (c) of the UGC Act, 1956.

[10] Section-12 A of the UGC Act, 1956.