Since its establishment in 1985, IGNOU has contributed significantly to the development of higher education in the country through the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode.
The 'People's University' follows a learner-centric approach and has successfully adopted a policy of openness and flexibility in entry qualifications, time taken for completion of a programme, and place of study.
The University, at present, offers 338 programmes of study through over 3,500 courses to a cumulative student strength of over 30 lakh students.
The programmes are offered by the University at the following levels: doctorate; masters and bachelors degree programmes; post-graduate and under-graduate diplomas; and certificates.
The education is disseminated in conventional, as well as emerging inter-disciplinary areas, such as consumer protection, disaster management, environment, human rights, tourism, women empowerment and child development, participatory forest management, participatory planning, resettlement and rehabilitation, teacher education, food and nutrition, continuing medical and health education, HIV/AIDs, laboratory techniques, and online learning.
One of the biggest contributions of the University has been making available to long-distance learners, courses which were hitherto exclusively limited to Face-to-Face classroom transactions. These include programmes in physical and natural sciences, nursing, health, engineering and technology, computers, library and information sciences and BEd degree, among others.
The University develops its academic programmes through 21 Schools of Study. A dedicated faculty, trained in distance education methodology, is responsible for planning, designing, developing and delivering academic programmes.
IGNOU involves a large number of senior teachers and experts from premier institutions in the country as 'content experts' for developing and delivering its course material.
The University has established a network of 43 Regional Centres (RCs), 6 Sub-Regional Centres and 1,400 Study Centres (SCs) all over the country to provide easy access and effective support services to the learners. These include Programme Study Centres (PSCs), as well as Special Study Centres for SC/STs, minorities, differently-abled learners, jail inmates, and personnel of different wings of Defence and Para-military services.
The University has also begun to focus on the educationally backward regions. New educational and training initiatives in the North-Eastern states and Sikkim are currently under way. These initiatives would lead to the creation of basic infrastructure in the region, using the latest in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for the region.
The University has also extended its outreach beyond the borders of the country. IGNOU has entered into bilateral and multilateral alliances with several countries, especially in Asia and Africa: Australia, United Kingdom, France, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Liberia.
IGNOU intends to establish collaboration and partnership with government agencies and other open universities through international organisations like UNESCO, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Wide Fund (WWF).
To promote international understanding, the University has a scheme of fellowships for academics and other staff working in the open universities of Asia under the Inter-University Staff Exchange Scheme. The University also hosts, supports and participates in national and international conferences to give impetus to research and academic activities of the faculty and staff.
The University has developed capabilities for training in distance education methodologies. It has successfully organised training workshops for the staff and faculty from within IGNOU, and a number of other institutions like State Open Universities (SOUs), Correspondence Course Institutes (CCIs), administrative staff of Government agencies, and overseas faculty. These have been conducted through the joint coordination of the Schools of Study, Staff Training and Research Institute of Distance Education (STRIDE) and the Distance Education Council (DEC), besides some national and international sponsoring agencies.
The academic programmes of the University have multi-media support. The University has facilities for audio, video, radio, television, interactive radio and video counselling, as well as tele-conferencing. IGNOU has also been identified as the nodal agency for running a 24-hour educational TV channel — Gyan Darshan — in collaboration with other institutions of higher learning. Gyan Vani is emerging as a huge cooperative network of FM radio stations, exclusively devoted to education.
Apart from teaching, research and training, extension education is an important component of academic activities at IGNOU. Extension education provides the much-needed linkages between the community and the University. Various literacy programmes focusing on community awareness and education and training in need-based and relevant areas have been successfully executed by the University. This is part of the University's strategy of social intervention, and building the skill and knowledge capability of the community.
IGNOU has the unique distinction of combining the conventional role of a University with that of an apex body in the promotion, coordination and maintenance of standards in distance education, through continuous assessment and accreditation of the ODL institutions. The University established the DEC in 1991 as a statutory authority to ensure high-quality education through the ODL systems. The DEC has developed the ethos of sharing professional capabilities and resources with its peers.
IGNOU, the National Resource Centre for Open and Distance Learning (ODL), with international recognition and presence, shall provide seamless access to sustainable and learner-centric quality education, skill upgradation and training to all by using innovative technologies and methodologies and ensuring convergence of existing systems for massive human resource required for promoting integrated national development and global understanding.
To advance frontiers of knowledge and promote its dissemination through sustainable Open and Distance Learning systems, seamlessly accessible to all, including those hitherto unreached, from among whom the leaders and innovators of tomorrow will emerge, the University shall:
- Strengthen the development of the National Resource Centre as a proactive role model for high-quality and learner-centric Open and Distance Learning system;
- Share professional capabilities and resources to improve standards of distance education in the country;
- Periodically assess and accredit institutions of Open and Distance Learning to promote centres of excellence in the country;
- Develop networks, using emerging technologies and methods, with global reach for effective programme delivery;
- Provide an intelligent and flexible system of education to meet the challenges of access and equity, and work towards development of a knowledge society;
- Forge convergence of all systems and work for seamless education across national boundaries to develop global collaboration and partnership;
- Take education to the hitherto unreached and promote community participation for local development through life-coping skills;
- Provide specific need-based education and training opportunities for continuous professional development and skill upgradation to in-service professionals; and
- Strive towards continuous development of methods and strategies for research and development for generation of knowledge in frontier areas, including Open and Distance Learning.