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India to Launch Digital University

During the Budget 2022 session, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, announced that India will launch a digital university by August this year. It will provide students across the country with access to the best education through personalised learning experiences. The digital university ecosystem will consist of three key elements: a technological platform provider, a digital content developer, and higher education institutions (HEIs). According to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the project is an innovative and unprecedented step with the potential to fully address the problem of seats in the universities. It could increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) from 27% to 50%, which means an additional ten million students will be in the higher education system.

The digital university will be established on a hub and spoke model, which means that the distribution will be centralised from the hub and then the information will be sent to other locations or spokes. As per reports, leading public universities and institutions in the country will collaborate on the initiative and courses will be available in different Indian languages. The digital university will offer certificate programmes, degrees, and diplomas either under its umbrella or in collaboration with the spokes.

The Ministry of Education recently organised a webinar, Digital University: Making World-Class Higher Education Accessible for All, which was attended by India’s top education experts. The event aimed to engage stakeholders in discussions about the implementation of Budget 2022 in the education sector. The government has decided on a timeline of the next six months to a year to act on suggestions that came up during the webinar.

The panellists considered the need for a multilingual, accessible learning management system and immersive learning experiences that link peers to create learning communities. Speaking at the event, the Department of Telecommunications Secretary stated that the digital university will make education more accessible and affordable through BharatNet, which is a government scheme to connect the country’s villages using fibre cable-based broadband infrastructure. BharatNet will eventually cover all 600,000 villages in India and the high-speed broadband architecture will provide students in the most far-flung regions with college and certificate-level education.

As proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), there will not be a limit on the number of seats and anyone who has passed class 12 will be able to enrol in the digital university, this is expected to open up opportunities and help boost India’s degree enrolment figures for 18-23-year-olds. The commission is also working on adding a clause about collaboration with edutech companies. Higher education institutions will be able to collaborate with edutech companies to offer programmes to students through their platform. The university is to be governed by its own set of regulations, which will decide which institutions can be part of the digital system, and what courses can they offer, among other things.

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