Wow! The World’s Largest University – Democratic and Open to All

Size Matters

Early on in my years in the USA, when I first learned about the size of universities such as Ohio State or Texas-Austin, I gasped. My undergraduate and graduate degrees were at schools of a much more modest size, in the 5000-student range.  By comparison, the universities that boasted a student body over 50,000 were huge.

But, I learned only recently that by far, the largest university in the world serves a staggering 4 million+ students and it is based in India. Who knew?

And what better one than this vast country – to apply the concept of distance learning and technology to expand the reach of higher education to its scores of  people – including many millions who are financially disadvantaged?

Name Matters

It is an “Open University” – specifically IGNOU Or Indira Gandhi National Open University.

Open University is a concept conceived in the United Kingdom in the 1960s to open the doors of formal education to the masses.

It was founded on the belief that communications technology could bring high quality degree-level learning to people who had not had the opportunity to attend traditional campus universities.

Not only did the UK execute successfully on this concept but many other countries replicated it as well.  India was one of them when it opened its doors wider and broader than ever before with IGNOU – Indira Gandhi National Open University.  

Price Matters

Because of it’s mission to remove barriers to the maximum number of students, the tuition here is affordable.  Very affordable. Have a look at some examples to see what I mean:

Course in Entrepreneurship (12 credits):  $20

Bachelor’s Degree (B.Sc) in Life Sciences (3 years): $56 per year

Master’s in Education (2 years): $240

PhD in Physics (2 years): $280

And several high speciality degrees which are more up-market such as:

MBA in Hospitality Management (2 years):  $2600 per year

Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Cardiology (2 years): $2000

Access Matters

This concept and unique institution enables individuals (of any age) who do not come from wealthy backgrounds or have limited resources and educational backgrounds to access higher learning – this is part of  its overall mission. Can you say noble?

Education Matters

Courses range from technical Certificates and Diplomas in a range of subjects to Bachelors, Masters and PhD programs.

Check out the diverse number of schools of study available to the students!  Simply amazing. The more I dug into this bastion of innovative higher education, the more impressed I became.  It’s not often I can say this. About anything.

Success Matters

I am fascinated by this institution and what it has accomplished. Simply awesome!

There’s a slightly dated (circa 2010) but great animated presentation called IGNOU: A Success Story that I would urge you to watch.  Short…about 5 minutes or less, but with great information on its innovations and position in the world of higher education.  

Today, there are other well know open universities in India which are state based, including B.R. Ambedkar University in Hyderabad and Nalanda Open University in Bihar among many others. Copying a great success…why ever not?

But, there’s more. Now, it has expanded beyond the borders of India and is offering education to students in many parts of the world, especially the developing world. Wow!


I have to say that as many times as I find myself staggered by the bad and the ugly side of India, just as many times I run across something that amazes and inspires me with its awesome mission or accomplishments. IGNOU – the people’s University is one of them.  It is totally impressive and incredibly inspiring.  

With all humility and the greatest of respect, my hats off – to its visionaries, innovators, supporters, leaders, contributors, and administrators – now and through the years.




Posted on March 8, 2012, in india, people and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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