Five decades ago policy-makers realized the imperative need of DE in order to expand the base of higher education. With the expanding base at the elementary and secondary education levels, the demand for higher education had increased. The University Grants Commission (UGC) suggested in its report for 1956-1960 that proposals for evening colleges, correspondence courses and award of external degrees should be considered. The Planning Commission took serious note of such a need and in its Third Five Year Plan mentioned the need for the introduction of correspondence education in the country. In the light of the observations made by the Planning Commission the Central Advisory Board on Education recommended the setting up of an Expert Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. D.S. Kothari, the then Chairman of UGC, to look into the proposal of introducing correspondence courses. The Expert Committee recommended the institution of correspondence courses in view of the greater flexibility, economic viability and innovative methods of imparting education. The committee also suggested that correspondence courses in India should be administered by the universities only and in the first instance, by one University, viz., the University of Delhi as a pilot project.

Thus was born in 1962 the University of Delhi’s School of Correspondence Courses and Continuing Education. The success of the project led to introduction of correspondence course institutes (later renamed as directorates or centers of distance education) in more universities. In 1982 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University was established, the first open university in India. This was followed by the establishment of Indira Gandhi National Open University at the national level in 1985. Although the statutory authority for regulating higher education in India is the University Grants Commission (UGC), the responsibility for promotion and coordination of open and distance learning (ODL) was bestowed on IGNOU under the Indira Gandhi National Open University Act (1985). The Distance Education Council (DEC) was set up by IGNOU in 1991 and became operational in 1992. with the Vice Chancellor of IGNOU acting as the ex officio chairperson of DEC.

In August 2010, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) constituted a committee for investigating distance education standards in India. The committee recommended the creation of a new regulatory body, the Distance Education Council of India (DECI). It also recommended that until such body is established, the DEC may be shifted to UGC. In 29 December 2012, the MHRD published an Order transferring the regulatory authority of distance education from IGNOU to UGC. In May 2013 IGNOU dissolved the DEC and the UGC took over the entire assets and manpower, establishing the Distant Education Bureau (DEB).

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