Don't Take the Mantle of Giving Degrees on your Own: Chairman of AICTE Tells Edtech Startups

Speaking at Entrepreneur India's Education Innovation Awards, Prof. Anil D. Sahasrabudhe clarified that edtech companies can provide support in terms of technology platforms for creating content but not give their own degrees by themselves without having the approval

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The University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have warned their recognized varsities and institutions against "franchise" agreements with edtech companies offering courses in distance learning and online mode. 

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Prof. Anil D. Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, All India Council of Technical Education ( AICTE)  threw more light on the circular and spoke about the do’s and don’ts at Entrepreneur India’s Education Innovation Awards on January 17, 2022.

“The universities are the ones who are entitled to offer programmes which lead to postgraduate degrees and diplomas. They are all approved by a process of regulation, be it by UGC or by AICTE. In the new national education policy when a single regulatory body comes up called the Higher Education Commission of India, one of the verticals will be the national higher education regulatory council, which will continue to do the task of what the AICTE or UGC is doing. So, there will be regulation, which will be in place and institutions or universities that are going to be set up, new ones or the existing ones, will continue to be regulated by some kind of regulatory mechanism,” he said. 

He clarified further that the only thing which the warning issued by both AICTE and UGC says is that edtech companies should not take the mantle of giving an MBA on their own without having approval for doing so. And that going as a franchisee of an existing University is also not permissible.

Talking about what startup companies can do, he said that if they also form what is known as Section 8 companies and then apply them for giving education, they are most welcome. But if it is a profit-making company, today’s education system doesn’t allow profit-entity to give formal degrees, but certification and ad hoc programs are most welcome.  

Sahasrabudhe also spoke about the value that edtech companies can bring in. “Education that is monitored by colleges and universities will create citizens of tomorrow with a background which will be helpful in their lifetime, but when it comes to employability, at times, what is relevant at the current point in time is not taken care of. And that is why there is a value addition which happens with such kinds of skilling problems. Iit is not just when they are in the colleges and universities but even post their graduation when they are employed,” he said, while adding, “They are doing a particular type of a job because of changing technology which often comes in and today we talk about emerging technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning (ML), robotics, 3D printing, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain, data science, these are all areas which are very important to have,” he said.

He believes that edtech companies can provide support in terms of technology platforms for creating content that is more interesting by using AR or VR in order to make sure that there are better learning outcomes that are going to be achieved out of the education that has been imparted. “So there is a place for edtech companies for skilling,” he said at the event. 

By skilling, he not only meant in schools and colleges but also when students enter into the job market. “If they're employed by x company, they want to shift to ‘y’ company which is doing some other activity naturally, the skilling that candidate had earned during graduation and during the job of 5 to10 years of experience may not be sufficient. So, there is upskilling, reskilling which is required not only when someone is shifting from one company to the other, but also within the same company because the job profile has changed. You will have more IoT, AI, ML. These are all called emerging areas but they are no more emerging areas, they have entered the market with many new things which will come up which we call 'the future of learning.” 

He added that in that case, unless one who is a lifelong learner does not continue to learn he doesn’t think he or she will fit into the industry at all.

“And therefore there is a great deal of work that is required to be done not only by universities by giving online programs but also by edtech companies in order to give the latest technology that is happening in the industry world to the students or to the employees who are already working. And that's why the valuation of these companies will continue to rise. There's no doubt about it. It's such a huge population and India being a software giant in some way or another all these edtech companies who have been creating products, which can be and which are AI-based,” he said. 

He then went on to clarify the latest circular further. “If you want to enter the market of giving MBAs and MCs or even whatever online degrees, you come to the regulatory process, get approved and then run it.” He also clarified that certification courses do not require any approval.

He also explained that the platform created by the government, called Swayam has four quadrants, one quadrant is for delivery of lectures in the form of video lectures, the second quadrant is additional reading material provided as PDF files or additional videos from other sources which are in the open-source market, the third one is the discussion forum where the students can interact with each other with the faculty who is coordinating the course and the fourth window is that of examination.

He believes something can be created by edtech companies for universities. “If some kind of AR, VR is to be made use of or a lot of animation is to be made use of and there are all software which is available, both ones which are in the free domain, as well as paid, then do it. If they do help faculty of the universities to create content with a lot of simulation which makes the class interesting, they are most welcome. This is the role that edtech companies are required to play in collaboration with the universities, but not give their own degrees by themselves without having the approval,” he said.