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How universities are tweaking admission process as Covid surge leads to delayed boards

Govt & private universities consider granting provisional admissions through entrance tests & ‘holistic’ processes, foreign admissions also may not suffer too much.

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New Delhi: The postponement of school board exams has not only increased anxiety and uncertainty among students, but universities in India and around the world are now preparing for a pandemic-induced delay in beginning their academic sessions for the second consecutive year. They are also working out new ways to get around their usual admission processes; the bouquet of options range from relying on pre-board results to conditional admit cards.

The institutions are preparing to push back their academic sessions by at least one to two months to August or September. Colleges affiliated to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) were already facing a delayed academic schedule as far back as January, ThePrint had reported.

There is no official word from the Ministry of Education (MoE) in this regard so far. A detailed email sent by ThePrint to the MoE did not elicit a response till the time of publication of this report.

In the meantime, universities and institutions are figuring out ways to mitigate the crisis on their own.

The Delhi University is likely to be one of the most-impacted higher learning institutions due to the expected delays in terms of the number of undergraduate students it admits each year — around 60,000. Its acting vice-chancellor P.C. Joshi told ThePrint: “CBSE results are integrally linked to our admissions. If the CBSE exams are delayed, of course our admissions are going to be delayed, because that is the main intake for us… Students from other boards also join the university, but a large chunk is from the CBSE.”

He said DU’s academic session, which usually starts in mid-July, could begin “anywhere around August”. 

Common entrance test

Joshi added that DU is pushing to admit students on the basis of the proposed common entrance test for universities — which will be the parameter across the humanities, science and commerce streams — but wants to keep 50 per cent weightage for Class 12 exam results. 

“We have given our recommendations to the Ministry of Education regarding the common entrance test. Our request is that we want to give 50 per cent weightage to Class 12 board results, because they are crucial. We are still waiting to hear an official word from the ministry regarding the conduct of exams,” DU’s acting V-C said. 

Typically, the universities that select students on the basis of entrance tests grant provisional admission to students, and then confirm it when Class 12 results are submitted. It’s not clear yet whether the same rule will apply to the MoE’s proposed common entrance test. 

Central universities that want to be a part of the common entrance test will have to express their willingness to do so and inform the central government on how they plan to admit students based on the exam.

According to sources in the MoE, an announcement about the test is expected by the end of April or early May.

Also Read: How will CBSE Class 10 students be assessed for boards? Work on options begins

What central universities are planning

The University of Hyderabad (UoH) — which does not offer direct undergraduate courses but has integrated master’s programmes that students can join after passing Class 12 and clearing an entrance test — is planning to grant provisional admissions. It conducts its own entrance exams and so does not plan to be a part of the MoE’s common entrance test.

“We will give provisional admission to students on the basis of the entrance test, and once their results are declared, they will just have to update the same to the university. That way, our session will not be too delayed,” said Appa Rao Podile, UoH vice-chancellor. 

Savitribai Phule Pune University is also thinking along the same lines.

“For the courses that are run directly from the university, we use the entrance test as a criterion for admission. The constituent colleges will also be given directions to do something similar so that the new academic session does not suffer because of delay in board exams,” said Nitin R. Karmalkar, the vice-chancellor. 

Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia also believes it will be able to minimise the delay in the start of the new academic session. “But it will also depend on when CBSE declares its results. As far as the ongoing classes are concerned, their schedule is perfectly on time because we started online classes on time and completed exams on schedule as well,” said Najma Akhtar, its vice-chancellor. 

However, Akhtar added that there could be a delay in admission of students joining through JEE and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for undergraduates — there is no decision on the dates for the latter yet, and it remains scheduled for August

On the common entrance test, she said, “We will discuss the matter internally and then take a call on whether we want to be a part of it or not.”

Process at private universities

Private universities are also trying to ensure that the delay in board exams affects them as little as possible.

The O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonepat, Haryana, uses a “holistic admission process” and the board exam results are limited to an “eligibility criteria”, according to Arjya B. Majumdar, its dean of admissions and outreach.

“Except for law and architecture, we use a holistic admissions process for all other programmes. This includes candidates’ responses on an online application form, a home-based, AI-enabled, remote-proctored entrance test and faculty interview. Using this holistic process, we are able to gauge whether a student will be a good fit for a programme,” Majumdar told ThePrint. “In that sense, the board exam results have lesser relevance for us, except as an eligibility criteria.”

On the expected delay in the start of the academic session, he added that the O.P. Jindal Global University “is fully prepared and committed to commencing in-person classes for the next academic year beginning in August 2021”.

“However, we are keeping a close watch on the situation at hand and will make adjustments accordingly if the need arises, or if we are mandated to do so by the government,” Majumdar stated. 

Shiv Nadar University, based in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, also said its admission process will be largely unaffected by the delay in Class 12 exams. 

“In the wake of the pandemic, we had altered our admission process last year. We are making provisional admission offers to candidates based on their performance in the remotely proctored entrance tests — SNUSAT and APT — and personal interviews,” a university spokesperson had said on 14 April.

“Selected candidates need to secure a defined minimum percentage in Class 12 boards to secure admission, which can be updated whenever the results are declared. We also accept admission applications through JEE, SAT and ACT scores,” the university had added. 

Also Read: That feeling of loss: What school year 2020 has been like for students of Class 10 & 12

Foreign admissions

Foreign varsity admission is another aspect linked to the Class 12 exam results, but experts in the field of international education say this should not be a problem because universities have already adopted alternative means of granting admission.

“Currently, most universities are continuing to accept and assess applications without a final mark sheet from students, taking their pre-board provisionals into consideration,” said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder & CEO of Leverage Edu, an education counselling platform for students. 

He added that a host of foreign universities have now committed to taking in additional students in January next year, which will ensure the students don’t end up wasting a full academic year. 

However, Vaibhav Singh, co-founder of Leap, an education technology platform, said the impact of delayed board exams will be smaller on aspirants to US universities, and bigger on those who want to go to the UK or Australia. 

“The delayed board exam results will lead to a potentially crunched timeline for students planning to pursue UG courses abroad. The impact should be less for US aspirants since most of their colleges have a fairly holistic approach in admissions with a relatively lower weight on just the board results. However, for countries like the UK and Australia, board results are a more important input,” Singh said. 

“These countries offer conditional admissions, which get confirmed once the board results are shared. The delay in the results this year would mean the window between admission confirmation and course commencement in these countries will be shorter,” he added. 

Singh advised students to keep everything else — visa documentation, financing etc. — ready, so that they can act quickly once confirmation is received. 

School educators concerned 

But despite all these avenues, many school teachers are also concerned about their students’ futures, and hope that universities align their admission processes to the board exam schedule. 

The principal at a private school in Patiala, Punjab, who did not want to be identified, said universities should also delay their admission processes. 

“I also think that students should have the option of giving the special exam if they want. This is especially for students who want to pursue higher studies abroad or go to good colleges,” the principal said. 

The principal is also worried that in case the current model for Class 10 — cancellation of board exams and results on the basis of internal assessments — is adopted for Class 12 as well, then “above average students will be on the same platform as average students”.  

With inputs from Kairvy Grewal

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also Read: Worried about delayed Class 12 boards and your future? Relax, revise, reach for tech


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