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.