The second batch of IGNOU’s Master degree programme in Women’s & Gender Studies started from 16th August. IGNOU or Indira Gandhi Open University is India’s largest open university offering courses on a wide array of subjects and when it launches a course on Gender Studies, it definitely marks a shift in how things are fast changing in India. Though currently available only as a full time on campus course, the university plans to launch the course in distance mode too from next year.
In just a year, the batch strength has doubled, indicating the rising demand for queer and gender studies among the student fraternity. Divided into four semesters, the two year course, apart from covering topics on feminist movement and issues, also deals with the queer movement in India. “Most of the universities that offer the course focus on women related issues. Though they call it gender studies, but mostly they deal with women studies only,” told Dr. Himadri Roy, Associate Professor at the School of Gender and Development Studies in IGNOU, who is also the Programme Coordinator of the course. “What I feel is that gender not only means women, but men and other sex too. We have tried to incorporate all these aspects in our course. When we were developing the course, we called in people who are dealing with it from all the places. We also tried to compare the syllabus at Berkley, Stanford and other western universities where this is taught and then formulated our syllabus,” he added. Thus, the final syllabus has modules on Queer Liberation, Gender and Masculinity, Queer cinema etc.
The current full time MA course gives the students an option of an exit point at PG Diploma Level after the first year. “If after one year anyone wants to leave the course because they got a job or for some other reason, in that case we award them the PG Diploma degree,” explained Dr. Roy. IGNOU will be launching the course in distance mode from January 2012 as a one year PG Diploma, with centers in 13 cities across India, including Guwahati, Shillong, Jammu, Hyderabad, Cochin and Pune. The University hopes to launch the MA programme in distance mode by the year 2013. Dr. Himadri Roy anticipates that the distance programme will be much more popular than the current on-campus one as many people who want to undertake Gender Studies are working professionals who cannot enroll for a full time campus course. “Lots of NGOs are looking for courses like this. Before launching this programme, we had done a need assessment survey and found that most of the NGOs want PG Diploma. So we have kept an exit point after one year at PG Diploma Level and are launching it in distance mode first.”