An upgrade of the education system in India – especially higher education – was long overdue. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown has given authorities an excuse to do so. Seizing the available opportunity, it was stated in the 2022 budget that India will have a digital university, which would link local and national levels and reach out to the remotest parts of the country, along with improved internet connectivity in areas rural.

What is the Digital University?

It was proposed to establish a digital university for the first time in the 2022 Union Budget of India. Digital University’s goal is to expand access to high-quality higher education programs using state-of-the-art ICT tools and platforms.
The digital university is presented as a hub and spoke concept, with the digital university serving as the hub and many leading higher education institutions across the country serving as the spokes. Under its aegis or in partnership with the spokes, Digital University will offer programs at the bachelor’s, diploma and certificate levels.
The digital university ecosystem will consist of three key elements: a technology platform provider, a digital content developer and higher education institutions (HEIs), with the digital university at its core.

Digital University Webinar: Making World-Class Higher Education Accessible to All

In a webinar hosted by the Government of India’s Ministry of Education, education experts said it could increase gross enrollment ratio (GER) by 27% to 50%.
As part of the Ministry’s initiative “Achieving Atmanirbharta through the Amrit Mantra of Digital Education and Dynamic Skills”, the Ministry of Education organized a webinar titled “Digital University: Making Higher Education World Class accessible to everyone “. The objective of the webinar was to engage stakeholders in discussions on the implementation of the 2022 budget in the education sector.

Webinar results

Improving digital connectivity through BharatNet

In his opening remarks, DOT Secretary Rajaraman said that the digital university will make education more accessible and less costly through the installation of BharatNet.
“BharatNet will eventually cover 6 lakh villages in India and provide high-speed broadband to rural India. The architecture we will have will enable learning for different segments of society for college-level and certificate-level learning,” he said.
“We believe that BharatNet will act as a dynamic hub and with active collaboration with AICTE and state governments, we can maximize the integration of millions of students into the digital university,” Rajaraman said.

Need to increase TBS

Secretary of State for Higher Education K Sanjay Murthy believed that a digital university combined with high-speed internet connectivity would double the country’s GDP.
“With the kind of infrastructure we expect, we hope to increase the gross enrollment ratio from 27% to 50%, as planned by the NEP. This means we will have 10 million more students in the higher education system,” he said.
“The GER of tribal students is well below the national threshold. We need to increase the rate of this segment as well as the female population of the country,” he added.
Professor Sahasrabudhe also said that physical universities will not be able to increase the gross enrollment rate.
“Digital education is a way to reach those who are inaccessible in remote areas, villages and mountainous areas,” he said.
“For them, it is very difficult to move to cities for quality education as it will put a lot of pressure on their living expenses. The digital university is one of the best things that has happened to India under the Digital India initiatives,” he added.

Reduce the female dropout rate

Dr. Swati Piramal, Vice President of Piramal Group, highlighted the importance of a digital university that gives access to everyone, saying it could prevent girls from dropping out of school.
“Online education across the world has seen a big spike due to Covid norms, but the solution has to be unique to our country. We know that many girls have dropped out of school even though they had access to digital education,” she said.
“Besides educating children, digital universities are important in health care for training ASHA workers, adult education, and upskilling. The only way to do that is to manage change and get people on the ground involved,” she said.
“Piramal University of Education has 5000 young people doing preparatory work and he managed to work with NITI AAYOG, the government and have experience in rural areas to retrain where he had the most need,” she said.

Affiliation of Colleges to the Digital University

Professor V Kamakoti, Director of IIT Madras, believes that if colleges connect to a digital university, barriers to access will be reduced.
“We actually understand some barriers to access much more clearly and we’ve been able to break down barriers to access. For example, we are trying to get such a local chapter that can bring together these people who can become a very interesting kind of thing in the digital university,” he said.
“In addition, colleges can affiliate with the digital university. And it can admit students to the local program and provide local support to local students,” the professor said.

Collaborations with Ed-Tech companies

Professor M. Jagadeesh Kumar, chairman of the University Grants Commission, said the government was working on legislation that would allow them to collaborate with education technology companies to help students in remote areas become exceptional learners. and contribute to the economic prosperity of the country.
“India is ahead of the curve in terms of educational technology, there is huge talent in our own country, both in terms of ed-tech and start-ups that are emerging,” he said. he declares.
“As per the regulatory reforms we are making, universities will be able to have collaborations with ed-tech companies and use their cloud platforms, and the technological facilities they have in terms of animation, visual effects, games, comics to create high quality digital content to enable these students to become exceptional learners and contribute to the economic growth of our country,” Prof. Kumar said.
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