Ed-Tech companies can’t be allowed where even IIMs can’t go, says AICTE chairman

The government is not against Ed-Tech companies but they cannot be allowed to delve into areas that are not their domain like offering diploma and degree courses, according to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe.

The comments by the AICTE chairman come after the technical education regulator and University Grants Commission (UGC) warned universities and colleges against offering courses in distance learning and online mode in association with Ed-Tech companies, saying no “franchise” agreement is permissible as per norms.

“We are not against Ed-Tech companies, but they cannot be allowed to delve into areas that are not their domain. Norms are norms.

“We have given approvals to universities and colleges to offer degree and diploma programmes but they are supposed to offer it on their own and not piggyback on private companies or outsource their job to any third party,” Sahasrabudhe told PTI in an interview.

He said after closely observing the companies, it was found that they were directly releasing advertisements and were offering programmes like MBA and MCA.

“These are postgraduate programmes in management and computer applications that can only be offered by universities and approved colleges. Top institutions in the country like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are also not allowed to offer management degrees, they offer diploma in management. How can we allow ed-tech companies to do so?” he said.

The UGC and AICTE have also advised students and parents to check the recognition status of any programme on their websites before enrolling in any course.

“I am not undermining the importance of Ed-Tech companies which have emerged, especially start-ups from our approved colleges and universities. All of them have their own significance in terms of skilling and training and they can also issue certificates for the same but not degrees and diplomas.

“As far as universities are concerned, it is perfectly fine if they are using the platform of Ed-Tech companies for conducting classes or online exams but it cannot be beyond that and cannot be franchise agreement,” he explained.

The Education Ministry had earlier this month also issued an elaborate advisory to parents and students dealing with ed-tech firms asking them, among other things, to exercise caution while making payments.

The ministry had said that parents, students and all stakeholders in education have to be careful while deciding on opting for online content and coaching being offered by a host of Ed-Tech companies.

Amid growing concerns, which echoed in Parliament as well, that many such firms were indulging in various forms of business malpractices to attract consumers, a group of companies this month formed a collective — India EdTech Consortium — under the aegis of the industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Companies and start-ups such as Byju’s, Careers 360, Great Learning, Harappa, Times Edutech & Events Ltd, Scalar, Simplilearn, Toppr, Unacademy, upGrad, Vedantu and WhiteHat Jr have joined the IEC as of now and have resolved to adhere to a common “code of conduct”.
Responding to the government’s stand, Sumesh Nair, Co-founder and CEO of Board Infinity says, “The directive by UGC against the ‘franchise arrangement’ is an enormous blow on all Ed-Tech companies engaged in upskilling space, offering courses in distance learning and online mode in association with recognised universities and institutions”.

However, Harsh Bharwani, CEO and Managing Director of Jetking Infotrain, termed the move as a “welcome intervention”.

“Skilling institutes must focus on their strengths which is bridging the gap between industry and Academia. Academia must perform their role of preparing students at an academic level.

“‘For optimum functioning, the education ecosystem needs them both to co-exist and complement each other, not coincide. Combining both would pose disadvantages to both Ed-Tech as well as academia,” he said.

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