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UGC fully empowered to impose territorial restrictions on offering distance education courses, rules HC

The need for such regulations had only arisen because of some universities’ attempt to commercialize education, the Bench said.

The Madras High Court has upheld the right and primacy of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to impose regulations for the conduct of distance learning programs by the universities established by the state government and deemed to be universities.

Judges R. Subramanian and K. Kumaresh Babu rejected petitions filed in 2015 and 2016 by the University of Madras, Bharathidasan University, Periyar University, Bharathiar University and others, declaring the territorial restrictions imposed by UGC on course delivery for distance learning, were challenged.

“Once the rules are made by the UGC in exercise of the powers conferred on it under section 26 of the UGC Act, the same shall prevail and the UGC will have the power to prevent the state universities from operating outside the state,” the Division Bench wrote.

It further stated, “All state universities established under different state laws with a particular area of ​​operation or territorial jurisdiction will be required to limit their functions to that jurisdiction only. We are not suggesting that these universities cannot enroll students from out of state, but their activities cannot extend beyond the state.”

Since the UGC introduced new regulations in 2020, pending the assessment of the subpoenas, and the new regulations had not been challenged by anyone, the judges ordered that those who had already obtained diplomas on the basis of preliminary injunctions in recent years should be disqualified by this judgment unaffected.

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Pointing out that the confrontation between the UGC and the universities started in 2012 when the territorial restrictions were first imposed, the judges said: universities to commercialize education.”

The Bench said many universities had indiscriminately entered into franchise agreements with individuals who lacked the expertise or infrastructure to provide quality education to students in their desire to turn education into a profitable business. “It is quite surprising that even state-funded universities have ventured into such unethical practices,” it added.

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