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The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the largest in the world, will open study centres in six European nations, including Germany and France.

We will open our centre in Paris next month. Negotiation is going on with Germany. I hope we will start in Germany by the end of this year. Our target is to open five-six centres in Europe by July 2011, Pillai told media persons.

The Netherlands and Austria are other European countries where IGNOU, the world’s largest by student enrollment, is considering to open study centres. It already has a centre in London, the vice chancellor added.

Pillai, who also heads the government’s Distance Education Council, said IGNOU would also offer personalised courses in Gandhian studies and some Indian languages such as Sanskrit through its new study centres in Europe, besides the regular courses.

“We are in discussion with several institutes in the US, Australia and Europe to develop personalised courses. It will be done keeping in mind the needs of partner institutes,” he said, adding IGNOU’s low course fee was hindrance in forging accords overseas.

“Our fee is quite low when you compare it with what is charged by universities in the developed countries. We are planning to restructure the fees for courses offered outside India,” Pillai said.

IGNOU has presence in 35 countries through 56 study centres. Over 42,000 students are enrolled at its overseas centres. More than 90 percent of them are the people of India origin.

The vice chancellor said student enrolments at the university have almost trebled in the last four years.

“Now we have 3.2 million active enrollments. It was 1.1 million in 2006. This indicates increasing popularity of distance education,” said Pillai, adding the university targets to sustain over 25 percent annual growth in enrollments in the coming years.

IGNOU courses were also becoming increasingly popular in Africa and the Gulf region that has a large strength of India expatriates. “Many African universities have approached us for collaboration. We will help in designing course and study materials.”

He said IGNOU will also introduce e-books within six months to increase the popularity of its courses among high-tech students. “We will start with management and IT and gradually introduce it for all the courses. It is cost effective and user friendly.”

The university also plans to introduce video-conferencing facilities for all its 56 overseas study centres within a few months.

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