Armed forces fight IGNOU's decision to scrap courses for personnel

Around 3, 00,000 military personnel have been left in the lurch by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) after it scrapped its Community College Scheme (CCS) for the armed forces. The soldiers, airmen and sailors, who had enrolled under the scheme to get diplomas and certificates, are also yet to get their money back, which totals up to over Rs 30 crore.

The armed forces, through the defense ministry, have taken up the issue with the HRD ministry to demand that IGNOU should confer the servicemen with the educational certification promised to them or expeditiously refund their money, say sources.

The Army, IAF and Navy had inked MoUs with IGNOU from 2009-2010 onwards to ensure in-house training of their personnel below officer rank (PBOR) was "recognized" with diplomas/certificates issued by the varsity under the CCS. The military personnel would then have to undergo just one year's open programme with IGNOU to get a graduation degree, which would enhance their prospects of a second career after their retirement from military service in their 30s and 40s.

Around Rs 750 each was collected from the military personnel for the IGNOU educational certification programme under the joint venture projects named Gyandeep (Army), Akashdeep (IAF) and Sagardeep (Navy).

On being contacted, IGNOU vice-chancellor Md. Aslam told TOI, "We discontinued all face-to-face courses after a (Delhi High Court) order." Senior faculty members, however, said the IGNOU review committee in 2012 had recommended discontinuance of all community colleges. But crucially, the committee had also said that the one for armed forces should be continued since it falls under IGNOU's objective of bringing those educated under non-formal systems into the formal system.

Another suggestion was that 50% credit should be assigned to in-house training of the armed forces personnel and 50% from IGNOU.

The HRD ministry recently summoned IGNOU officials but no decision has yet been taken. The review committee report came when Aslam was the officiating VC of IGNOU but the decision to scrap the course was taken after he formally took over.

IGNOU then said the CCS for the armed forces was "untenable" and not within the ambit of the varsity's charter. The armed forces, however, are unhappy. "IGNOU has gone back on its word ... it's highly irresponsible," said a source.

In the Army alone, around 4, 00,000 soldiers had enrolled for the CCS programme with around Rs 28 crore being paid to IGNOU. Similarly, around Rs 3.5 crore were collected from the airmen in IAF. But while 1, 00,000 soldiers in the Army did get their diplomas from IGNOU, around 3, 00,000 lakh were left high and dry when the scheme was scrapped.
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