4 million in one university

Nieuws | de redactie
21 februari 2012 | Open education grows increasingly popular in India. Having to deal with millions of additional incoming students, universities expand their operations. One of them teaches 4 million students via distance, online and on-site learning.

Being part of the prestigious BRIC group, India is oftenreferred to as the upcoming nation of this century. Its governmentunderstood that this cannot be done without significantly boostinghigher education. That is why it is currently undertaking major reforms aiming at expanding university accessfrom currently 15 to over 40 million students.

With more applicants pushing into the sector, the elite IndianInstitutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes ofTechnology (NITs) are spoilt for choice. By now, it has become acommon phenomenon that parents send their children to study bootcamps. These prepare them for entrance exams where 450.000 peopleapply for 8.000 spots available.

Affordable tuition fees

Exclusivity, however, can do little to massively boost access tohigher education. Consequently, open education institutes havegained popularity as Time Magazine reported. One of them, IGNOU, isfeaturing a total student population of 4 million. This represents15% of all students in the country with most of them coming frompoor families and rural areas.

Bachelor tuition fees are usually in the range of €28 for menand €20 for women per year and all applicants are accepted. Most ofthe education is done via old fashioned distance learning bysending study material by mail. Some classes in computers andsciences are taught in labs.

Access through open education

More recently, teachers increasingly work with online wikismaking material available for free to anyone who is interested. Ona national level, the government has furthermore launched a meta-university initiative throughwhich students can follow courses at any university in the countryonline.

“Middle-class students are not getting enough opportunities inthe universities or colleges. And it goes beyond that. The poorpeople living in rural areas and slum dwellers, all of them havedirect access. Quality is one of the major focal points,” commentsRenga Ramanujam, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU.

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