The Supreme Court on Friday cancelled the engineering degrees of students who earned them through distance learning from three deemed universities after 2005, Live Law reported. The court said the amount paid by these students towards tuition will have to be refunded by the universities by May 31, 2018.

The students who had their degrees suspended were from the JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth in Udaipur, the Institute of Advanced Studies in Education in Rajasthan’s Churu district and the Allahabad Agricultural Institute in Uttar Pradesh. The Times of India reported that a fourth, Vinayaka Mission Research Foundation in Tamil Nadu, is also included in the list.

The bench found that the universities had conducted correspondence courses without proper approval from the authorities concerned. Unlike regular universities that are established through state or central legislations, existing institutions meeting certain requirements can be declared “deemed to be universities” through a provision of the University Grants Commission Act 1956.

The bench also suspended the engineering degrees of all students who graduated between 2001 and 2005 through distance learning from these three educational institutes. The bench said the students’ degrees will remain suspended until they clear an examination under the joint supervision of the All India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission. The students will have two attempts to clear the exams before January 15, failing which their degrees will stand cancelled.

“Any benefit which a candidate has secured as a result of such degrees in engineering in the nature of promotion or advancement in career shall also stand recalled,” the Supreme Court said, according to Live Law.

The bench comprising Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit said if the students did not wish to appear for the test, the universities will have to refund the money that the students had deposited towards tuition fees and other charges.

The Supreme Court further ruled that technical education can not be provided through distance learning or correspondence courses, reported The Times of India. The bench set aside an Odisha High Court order allowing technical education through correspondence, and instead supported a Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling.

In 2015, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had said that a degree in computer science obtained through a correspondence course could not be considered to be equal to the one attained by attending regular classes.