open university

This article is written by Ashraf Belal of NLUO. The article discusses the steps to be followed for setting up an open university in India.


The Open and Distance Learning system in India has emerged as an important mode of providing education to the diverse section of the society. Besides, the changing dynamics of the Open Distance Learning system in the last six decades have been encouraging. As it is said, the temporal and spatial boundaries have disappeared. The impressive number of Open Distance Learning institution in the country bears the testimony to the fact. At present 25% of students of higher education in the country are enrolled in the Open Distance Learning system.

In the last six decades, the Open Distance Learning system has registered a phenomenal growth in the context of expansion and diversification of higher education. From a single institution in 1962 (Delhi University) the number of Open Distance Learning institutions have reached approximately 250 including central, state, deemed to be and private universities along with many stand-alone institutions.    

What are open universities

Open universities in India are typically the single mode of open distance learning institutions offering education through distance mode and are established by an act of parliament or state legislature. The fact that, it is not possible for everyone to pursue a regular education system. There may be various reasons for the same, it can be location, affordability, health issue etc. For those people, Open Universities are a blessing. In India currently, there are 14 open universities such as Indira Gandhi National Open University, Dr. B.R Ambedkar Open University, etc.

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General requirements for setting up an open university

Setting up a university is not a very easy task in India, you have to comply with many guidelines and norms. There is a minimum standard defined by the UGC which means you shall comply with standards, higher than the minimum, of instruction. If you want to set up an open university you have to send a proposal to Department of Higher Education (Ministry of Human Resource Development). For sending a proposal, there must be a sponsoring body, that is the body which provides capital for the establishment of a university.  

The proposal for setting up an Open university must be submitted by a Sponsoring Body, that sponsoring body can be:-

  • Society registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860 ( Central Act No. 21 of 1860);
  • Any Public Trust registered under the State Public Trust Act, or the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 ( (Central Act No. 2 of 1882) or under the relevant laws in any other State or Union Territory; or
  • A Company registered under section 25 of Companies Act, 2013.


The sponsoring body has to submit an application along with the detailed proposal to the Department of Higher Education along with a demand draft of Rs. 1,00,000 in favor of the Director of Higher Education. That application must consist of detailed content of the proposal and other required documents.

A. The content of the proposal

When the sponsoring body proposes for the establishment of a university it has to meet certain guidelines. While sending the proposal it must also include certain documents, necessary for the verification.

a.) All the details of sponsoring body which must include the copies of its registration certificate, constitution, and other bye-laws;

b.) It must also include the proposed name of the university the location and the headquarters of the proposed university;

c.) The objective and goals of the proposed university, how it will enhance the human resource, welfare of deprived section, some particular policies to help certain groups of society for eg. there are minority institution whose goal is to promote education in their community, similarly goal of an open university may be promoting education among those people who are unable to pursue regular courses due to any reasons.

d.) Justification regarding the necessity of establishing the proposed university;

e.) Nature and the type of programmes of study, training, and research proposed to be undertaken by means of open university.

f.) For an open university, sponsoring body or any of its constituents should have experience in conducting distance/open/online, the education programme for a minimum of 10 years and should have been already recognized by Distance Education Council (DEC). the requirement of land, infrastructure and other resources may be accordingly amended to suit the nature of education being imparted.

g.) The proof of ownership of lands or plans for land procurement.

h.)Outlays of capital expenditure proposed for the next five years and its source of finance

i.) The institute must also have approval for their academic programs from respective statutory bodies like All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Medical Council of India (MCI), bar council of India (BCI), national council for teachers education (NCTE), bar council of India (BCI), Indian nursing council, distance education council.

B. Examination of Proposal

The state government on receipt of the proposal will constitute an inspection committee. The committee will consider the proposal on the following grounds:-

a.) The constituted committee will check the financial soundness and assets of sponsoring body.

b.) Background of the sponsoring body that is to say expertise and experience in the field of education, its general reputation.

c.) Whether courses are able to develop the human resources as per the requirements of contemporary demands, that is the potentiality of the courses.

d.) The committee will prepare a report to the state government within the period of two months from the date of first meeting and deficiencies observed during scrutiny will be communicated with sponsoring body and they will submit a report regarding removal of deficiencies.

C. Issue of Letter Of Intent

a.) After the submission of the report by the committee, if the state government satisfied, it may issue a letter of intent within one month of the submission of the report by the committee and ask sponsoring body to:-

b.) Establish an endowment fund for the university which will be pledged to the government which may be increased by notification from time to time. The amount of endowment fund shall be:-

            a.) 5 crores for a single domain.

            b.) 8 crores for multi-domain.

c.) give an undertaking not to dissolve the university before 15 years of its establishment and if the university is dissolved before 15 years all the assets of the university without liabilities and free from all encumbrances shall vest with the government.  

D. Submission of Compliance Report by the Sponsoring Body

The sponsoring body has to submit a compliance report along with an unambiguous affidavit, necessary documents to fulfill all conditions referred to, in the letter of intent within a maximum period two years. The sponsoring body will have the provision to include any additional details during the period of two years from the time LOI is issued and compliance report submitted.

However, the state government may extend the term of the letter of intent for the further period of one year if such request is made by the sponsoring body and the state government is satisfied with the reason given by the sponsoring committee.

E. Enactment of Law for Private University

After receiving satisfactory recommendations from the inspection committee, the state government will table a separate Act for the specific university before the state legislature for its approval. After the passing of Act government will issue a gazette notification. This notification then will be sent to UGC and MHRD for information. The sponsoring body will be further required to make an application to UGC to enlist the newly incorporated university in the UGC list of authorized universities.

The university will be required to get itself assessed by NAAC within three years of its establishment and will also have to fulfill all other requirements laid down by the various statutory bodies as applicable.

List of some Open Universities in India

1. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi
2. Dr. B.R Ambedkar Open University (BRAOU), Hyderabad
3. Nalanda Open University (NOU) Patna
4. Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University (VMOU), Kota
5. UP Rajarshi Tandon Open University (UPRTOU), Allahabad
6. Uttarakhand Open University, Haldwani (Nainital)
7. Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), Mysore
8. Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University (MPBOU), Bhopal



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