Total Quality Management
In the last 26 years, IGNOU, through high-quality self-learning material and innovative programmes, has established itself as a National Resource Centre and a provider of quality education — at par with other national and international institutions of higher learning.
The University will have to make strenuous efforts to sustain this hard-earned credibility by continuously improving the quality of learning materials, student support services and upgrading the system of professional development and assessment of academic and non-academic staff. Total Quality Management will remain the highest priority in all areas of operation of the University. This will go in tandem with encouraging State Open Universities (SOUs), Correspondence Course Institutes (CCIs) and other providers of distance learning to adopt a holistic management strategy.
The demand for higher education in the country has grown enormously. The growth of enrollment in the conventional universities was 5 per cent in the 9th Five Year Plan. Moreover, the higher education system caters only to about 9 million learners, who constitute about 7.5 per cent of the eligible group (between 17-23 years).
The share of the ODL system in this is about 20 per cent. In the Eleventh Five Year Plan, the Government envisages increasing the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 15 per cent, and Distance Education will certainly play a pivotal role in this task.
Strengthening the Faculty and Attracting Talent
To maintain high academic standards and to compete in the fast-changing global environment of educational services, no institution can continue to be relevant without offering new programmes. This necessitates recruitment of experts on a regular basis. A dynamic system like IGNOU needs dedicated staff with vast experience, expertise and capability for research in newer areas (including that of ODL).
It also needs to constantly keep its academic offerings at the cutting edge of quality and societal needs.
The University would like to strengthen the existing faculty, attract new talent, and nurture them through better human resource development policies.
Widening Areas of Study
IGNOU, at present, offers programmes in about 30 established disciplines and a few inter-disciplinary areas. There is a growing realisation that newer and diverse programmes must be added, without compromising the needs of traditional disciplines. Since IGNOU has established its presence in the international arena, its programmes must incorporate international perspectives, and respond to contemporary issues. The University needs to develop and offer programmes in areas like Telecommunications, Conflict Resolution and Peace, Bio-informatics, Population Studies and e-Commerce.
Research and Scholarship
Research, both systemic and discipline-based, is crucial for the growth and academic credibility of any system. For the growth of faculty, creation of new knowledge and its dissemination is a must. Research in the areas of course development, media-mix, teaching-learning methods, student learning, learner support, programme evaluation, assessment systems, learner retention and success will be high priority areas.
Increasing Access — Reaching the Unreached
IGNOU, with its diverse programmes, low cost and a wide network, has succeeded in attracting a significant group of learners from amongst the disadvantaged. However, a significant cross-section of people still remains outside its reach. The University is mandated to reach out to them. Specific efforts shall be made for providing access to education and equity in opportunities to women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, the rural population, the remote areas, tribal regions, differently-abled, and the socially and economically weaker sections of society.
Differently-abled students need special attention and shall form a focused target group. Building greater flexibility in the system will help the Varsity to significantly widen its access.
Effective Student Support
Providing effective student support services is crucial for learner's satisfaction and success. Understanding the criticality of this support to learners, IGNOU has succeeded in creating a wide network of Regional Centres (RCs) and Study Centres (SCs) across the length and breadth of the country. There is, however, a need to gear up student support services further and render it more effective. It has become particularly important, because of the growing local, regional and international competition faced by the University in the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and General Agreement on Trade in Services stipulations.
Extension has always been recognised as the third important dimension of higher education. It involves taking knowledge and its applications to the community. The thrust of the University would be to generate a literacy movement, by involving all sections of the society and training the workforce to meet the challenges of the emerging professional and social needs. The focus will be on extension programmes, which promote local, integrated development and create self-employment for the poorer sections and for those living in rural and backward areas.
Electronic Media in Education
It is now recognised that ICT can provide convenient and effective tools to meet the emerging needs of diverse groups. IGNOU operates a 24-hour educational TV channel Gyan Darshan and a radio-cooperative Gyan Vani. There is provision for two-way tele-conferencing, interactive radio counselling, and for relaying educational programmes through local FM radio stations.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, has identified IGNOU as the nodal agency for collaborating with, and developing capacities in, State Open Universities, Correspondence Course Institutions, as well as other conventional universities and educational institutions for application of multimedia.
The University shall strive to develop a national network using emerging technologies to meet the challenges of access and equity. The thrust will be on strengthening online delivery of education and establishment of community-based multi-purpose tele-learning centres for ICT-enabled education and training.
International Impact of IGNOU
Currently, the overseas presence of the University is mainly confined to some regions of Asia and a few countries of Africa. For historical, cultural and economic reasons, it is imperative and possible to extend the reach of the University's programmes much beyond the current recipients. Additionally, IGNOU also intends to reach the Indian diaspora spread across the globe. South Asia and large parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the South Pacific Region are also potential catchment areas. This shall necessitate 'globalisation' of the University's curriculum and greater use of ICT.
Building Dynamism in the System
At present, the average time taken for a major programme — from its conceptualisation to its delivery — is four to five years. With the rate of knowledge-obsolescence increasing rapidly, many of the programmes may be outdated by the time they are developed, delivered and imbibed by the learners.
Therefore, it is important that the time taken to develop and deliver a new programme be significantly reduced. The University would also focus on reducing the time taken in activities such as student registration, material despatch, evaluation, etc.
Mobilisation of Resources
The Governments, both at Central and State level, has been the major source of funding in education in India. This is particularly true of higher education — largely due to the conviction that education is a social obligation, an essential vehicle for individual empowerment and national development.
However, the dynamics of globalisation and liberalisation have resulted in State agencies overseeing higher education, encouraging educational institutions to generate their own resources, offer self-supporting programmes and reduce the dependence on the Government for resources. Resource mobilisation has become the responsibility of the Universities as well.
IGNOU has witnessed a continuous decline in non-Plan funding from the State, which is bound to put a strain on the financial resources of the University. There is, therefore, an immediate need to evolve new strategies for mobilising resources, so that the University can continue to work on its mandate without hindrance. Hence, maximising non-monetary inputs and achieving cost-effectiveness in operations and economy in spending shall be the guiding principles of the University in this effort.