The Indira Gandhi National Open University (Hindi: इंदिरा गाँधी राष्ट्रीय मुक्त विश्वविद्यालय), known as IGNOU, is a distance learning national university located in IGNOU road, Maidan Garhi, New Delhi, India. Named after former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, the university was established in 1985 with a budget of ₹20 Million, when the Parliament of India passed the Indira Gandhi National Open University Act, 1985 (IGNOU Act 1985). IGNOU is run by the central government of India.
IGNOU, the largest university in the world with over 4 million students, was founded to impart education by means of distance and open education, provide higher education opportunities particularly to the disadvantaged segments of society, encourage, coordinate and set standards for distance and open education in India and strengthen the human resources of India through education. Apart from teaching and research, extension and training form the mainstay of its academic activities. It also acts as a national resource centre, and serves to promote and maintain standards of distance education in India. IGNOU hosts the Secretariats of the SAARC Consortium on Open and Distance Learning (SACODiL) and the Global Mega Universities Network (GMUNET) initially supported by UNESCO.
IGNOU has started a decentralisation process by setting up five zones, viz, north, south, east, west and north east. The first of the regional headquarters, catering to four southern states, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep, is being set up in the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.. The Ministry of HRD has entrusted the responsibility of developing Draft Policy on Open and Distance Learning and Online Courses to IGNOU.
In 1970 the Ministry of education and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the UGC and the Indian National Commission for cooperation with UNESCO, organised a seminar on 'Open University'. The seminar recommended the establishment of an open university in India on an experimental basis. The government of India appointed an eight-member working group on open university in 1974. The leading role was given to G. Parthasarathi, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The working group recommended establishing an open university by an act of parliament as early as possible. The university should have jurisdiction over the entire country so that, when it is fully developed, any student even in the remotest corner of the country can have access to its instruction and degrees (Working Group Report, 1974).
The working group suggested several measures to be followed in instructional and management processes of the open university which include: admission procedure, age relaxation, preparation of reading materials, setting up of core group scholars in different fields, setting up of study centres, vehicle of curricular programmes, live contact with teachers, and so on. On the basis of the recommendations of the working group, the Union Government prepared a draft bill for the establishment of a National Open University, but due to some reasons the progress was delayed.
In 1985, the Union Government made a policy statement for establishment of a national open university. A Committee was constituted by the Ministry of Education to chalk out the plan of action of the national Open University. On the basis of the report of the Committee, the Union Government introduced a Bill in the Parliament. In August 1985, both the Houses of the Parliament passed the Bill. Subsequently, the National Open University came into existence on 20 September 1985. It was named after late prime minister Indira Gandhi. The Indira Gandhi National Open University (established by the Act of Parliament) is responsible for introducing and promoting distance education at the university level, and for coordinating, determining and maintaining standards in such systems functioning in the country.
In 1989, the first Convocation was held and more than 1,000 students graduated and were awarded their diplomas. IGNOU audio-video courses were first broadcast by radio and television in 1990 and IGNOU awarded degrees received full recognition by the University Grants Commission in 1992 as being equivalent to those of other universities in the country.
In 1999, IGNOU launched the first virtual campus in India, beginning with the delivery of Computer and Information Sciences courses via the Internet.
As of 2011 IGNOU served over 3 million students in India, the headquarters, and 40 other countries abroad. These are UAE, UK, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives, Ethiopia, Namibia, Kenya, Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Fiji, France, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Liberia, West Indies, Samoa, Lesotho, Malawi, Switzerland, Nigeria, Mongolia, Zambia.
It has 21 schools and a network of 67 regional centres, 2667 study centres, and 29 overseas centres(15 countries). Approximately 20% of all students enrolled in higher education in India are enrolled with IGNOU. IGNOU offers 226 academic programs comprising courses at certificate, diploma and degree levels.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University has the following Eleven Divisions to take care of various activities.
The Research Unit has been established at the Indira Gandhi National Open University vide notification dated 6 October 2008. Prior to that, research-related activities were looked after by the Academic Coordination Division. The Unit has been established with the following objectives:To conduct Research Council and Research Council’s Standing Committee meetings for developing policies and frameworks for conduct of research activities.
To register and monitor all full-time and part-time MPhil and PhD candidates.
To engage Research Teaching Assistants under IGNOU-DEC RTA Scheme for conduct of research and teaching.
To conduct workshops/seminars on research methodology for full-time and part-time research candidates.
To facilitate systemic/discipline based research in the University.
(IGNOU) is granted the authority to confer degrees by Clause 5(1)(iii) of the IGNOU Act 1985. IGNOU is also recognised as a Central University by the University Grants Commission of India (UGC). The Association of Indian Universities (AIU) recognises IGNOU conferred degrees as on par with the degrees conferred by its members and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) recognises the Master of Computer Applications and Master of Business Administration program of IGNOU.
In 1993, IGNOU was designated by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) as its first Centre of Excellence for Distance Education empowered "to actively participate in Commonwealth co-operative endeavours to identify, nurture, and strengthen open learning institutions throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in the Third World ..". The notable alumni of IGNOU are Deepika Padukone, Sudipta Chakraborty,Celina Jaitly, Arjun Munda, Prateek Kr. Bhowmick, Biswatosh Sengupta & Rajesh Rajan.
IGNOU also operates as an accreditor for open university and distance education systems in India through the Distance Education Council (DEC). Authority to do so is granted under Clause 16 and Statute 28 of the IGNOU Act 1985.