Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked stakeholders on Monday to speed up the process of establishing the national digital university, which was announced in the Union Budget this year and claimed that it would address several existing challenges in India’s education sector.
During a webinar on the positive impact of the budget on the education sector, the Prime Minister stated that the digital university will go a long way toward assisting the country’s youth.
Following the Prime Minister’s speech, officials from the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders participated in a two-and-a-half-hour webinar on “Digital University: Making World-Class Higher Education Accessible for All,” and drew a preliminary roadmap based on the suggestions received.
Here’s what the stakeholders had to say.
What exactly is a “digital university”?
The government is considering bringing together various existing universities and world-class institutes to form a digital university that will offer various degrees such as certifications, diplomas, and full-fledged degrees. The university will operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ model, with the digital university serving as the hub and many top higher education institutions from within and outside the country serving as spokes or contributors.
There will be no limit to the number of students enrolled. There will be no entrance exam for admission. The digital university will provide tailored and personalized courses. Students will be evaluated either online using a proctored exam method or in person at a designated examination centre.
During the discussion, University Grants Commission (UGC) chairperson Jagadesh Kumar stated that the digital university, once established, will improve the “ease of providing education” to students from all backgrounds, whether rural or urban.
The stakeholders also emphasized the importance of establishing a six-month (August 2022) to a one-year timeline for the digital university. The government also agreed to develop a regulatory framework for the digital university within the next two months.
“BharatNet Project” to aid in the accessibility of the digital university
Through the digital university, the implementation of BharatNet will make education more accessible and affordable. The ambitious BharatNet plan of the government aims to bring broadband to 361,000 villages across 16 states. The Union Cabinet approved it in July of last year.
When we discuss digital universities, connectivity is at the heart of it. Broadband penetration at the household level in India is around 8%. We have a long way to go. This will necessitate a significant amount of effort in order to make it affordable and accessible to the most deserving segments of our society. The Prime Minister has already stated that the BharatNet will eventually reach 6 lakh villages.
In ten years, the gross enrolment ratio has increased by 50%.
With the proposed digital university, the government hopes to boost the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) by up to 50% in the next ten years. The stakeholders emphasized the importance of making the digital university accessible to students with disabilities.
According to the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, the country’s current GER in higher education institutions is 27.1 per cent. The number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, is referred to as the GER.
During the webinar, AICTE chairperson Anil Dattatraya Sahasrabudhe shared an example from IIT-Madras, which offers an online Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) programme and a data science course to over 12,000 students each year.
State support for the PPP model
During the discussion, stakeholders suggested that the digital university form a public-private partnership.
Participants also suggested that the digital university be run in collaboration with ed-tech companies.
In his closing remarks, the AICTE chairperson stated that the government will take all of these suggestions into consideration and will develop a framework as soon as possible.