New Delhi: The cut-offs for Delhi University (DU) have gone up by around 16 percentage points in the past 10 years, with an increasing number of CBSE students clearing Class XII with near-perfect scores.
Between 2017 and 2019, the number of students scoring 497 out of 500 in Class XII — which means a full score in at least three of five subjects — has gone up from one to 18. The number stood at seven in 2018. This year, over 17,693 students have secured over 95 per cent, while 90,000 have scored over 90 per cent.
While anything between 82 and 87 per cent was a good score in 2009 to get admission in some of the top DU colleges like Hansraj, Hindu, Kirori Mal College (KMC) and Miranda House, a student who cleared Class XII in the past couple of years needed as much as 97-98 per cent.
Where admissions to degrees like BA Economics (Honours) and BCom (Honours) have always had high cut-offs because economics and commerce are scoring subjects, the trend is now a mainstay for courses such as BA English (Honours) and Political Science (Honours).
For the academic year 2017-18, the English (Honours) cut-off for Daulat Ram College and Hansraj College stood at 97 per cent, while that for KMC, Ramjas College and Sri Venkateswara was between 96 and 96.5 per cent.
In 2018-19, the cut-off was 97.25 per cent for Hansraj College and 98 per cent for Hindu College, with Daulat Ram College and Sri Venkateshwara keeping it above 96 per cent.
The same is true for Political Science (Hons) admissions: The cut-offs in 2009 ranged from 82-89 per cent in 2009, but stood at 97 per cent for the likes of Ramjas, Hindu and KMC last year.
Time for jitters
DU is yet to release its cut-offs for the 2019-20 academic session, but high-scoring students looking to graduate from the prestigious university are already jittery about their shot at the 55,000-60,000 seats that will be on offer.
Kanika Gupta, a Lucknow student who scored 92 per cent in Class XII this year, told ThePrint that she is worried she won’t get into a good college.
“The way cut-offs are going for Delhi University these days is crazy,” Gupta said. “I want to get admission in a humanities subject, either English, History or Political Science, but with my marks I am worried that I will not be able to make it to any of the top colleges.”
Tanvir Aeijaz, who teaches Political Science at Ramjas College in DU and has been involved with the admission process, outlined two factors why the cut-offs were on the rise.
“There is competition among boards at state level and central level to give more marks to students, so that none is left behind the other,” said Aeijaz. “As a result, students are getting more marks, even in subjects like English, Political Science and History and hence the cut-offs are going sky-high.”
The other factor, he claimed, was a sudden increase in the number of takers for English and Political Science Honours.
“There was a misconception earlier that literature is all about Shakespeare, but the subject has expanded now and also includes political and post-colonial writings,” Aeijaz said.
“It touches upon social, political and economic aspects, and that is the reason more students are getting attracted to the subject… Political Science is another subject for which cut-offs have increased a lot in the last two years, because the demand is high,” he added. “We could have never imagined Political Science cut-offs touching 97 per cent till last year.”
Numbers support the claim. Of the roughly three lakh applications DU receives every year, the maximum over the past three years have been from students looking to pursue English (Honours).
According to data available with the university, 1.15 lakh students applied for the course in 2016, 1.1 lakh in 2017 and 1.32 lakh in 2018.
Meanwhile, 90,000 students applied for Political Science (Hons) in 2016, 99,000 in 2017 and 1.05 lakh in 2018.
Explaining the frenzy around English (Honours), Prasanta Chakravarty, an associate professor of the subject at Delhi University, told ThePrint that there “is a general sense that getting into English is a thing of esteem”.
“Also, once the students graduate, they have a number of avenues to choose as career options,” he added.
Professor Anil Aneja, another English professor of the university, echoed the argument about the subject widening students’ career prospects.
“A student can choose any field, from journalism and writing, to academia, or pursue an MBA once they graduate in English, this is why more students are opting for the course,” he added.
Additionally, both English and Political Science degrees can be pursued by any student, regardless of their chosen stream in Class XII.
University insiders also blame the stagnant number of seats over the past decade for the high cut-offs.
“Each year, the number of graduating students has been increasing and the university keeps getting more applications, but the number of seats has more or less remained constant, which is why colleges first keep the cut-off way too high and lower them later so that they can limit the number of people coming in,” former Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh told ThePrint.
“[This is] Because university rules decree that colleges have to give admission to anybody who scores the cut-off or above,” he added.
Chakravarty, however, said that a high score in Class XII doesn’t place students at an advantage once they get admissions since “there is a lot of unlearning they need to do once they come into the system”.
Professor Aeijaz added there was a need to build a regulatory mechanism through which boards can be connected with universities so they can together develop certain admission criteria.
“Entrance exam is not an option [given the scale required],” he said, echoing a view expressed by Singh. “There should be a mechanism by which admission to universities can be controlled.”