New Delhi: Several states that had decided to cancel final-year college and university exams in light of the Covid-19 pandemic will revisit the order in consonance with a controversial directive issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) Monday.
The UGC Monday received clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs to mandatorily conduct final-year college and university exams, with officials of the university watchdog telling ThePrint that institutes could choose to hold the tests online if feasible.
At least seven states — Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal — had earlier decided to cancel final-year exams amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The idea was to mitigate the risk of exposure for students, as the prospect of online exams seemed unfeasible to implement.
However, speaking to ThePrint, the representatives of several states claimed they were looking into the UGC order and might revisit their own directives. Maharashtra, however, has conveyed to the union government that holding exams won’t be possible.
In Rajasthan, where the decision to cancel final-year exams was taken last month, the state government had asked universities to evaluate students on the basis of internal tests. Now, the state will rework its plans, Rajasthan Higher Education Secretary Suchi Sharma told ThePrint.
“When we announced the cancellation of exams, we had put a rider that if UGC comes up with revised guidelines, our scheme will change,” she said. “Now that the UGC has said exams have to be conducted, we will consult vice-chancellors of various universities and see what we can do,” Sharma added.
According to Sharma, the state would need to find a way around several challenges to conduct the exams.
“Exams were cancelled because there were a lot of challenges. If we conduct pen-and-paper exams, students who are out of the state would have to travel back, their safety is at risk. When it comes to the option of online exams, we do not have the infrastructure,” she said.
“These challenges still remain… We will now have to see how we work around this.”
In the last week of June, Punjab announced the postponement of exams until UGC orders, but decided to cancel them Saturday. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced that final-year students would be evaluated on the basis of the previous year’s performance and would get a chance to improve their results once the Covid crisis ends.
Speaking to ThePrint Tuesday, Punjab Higher Education Secretary Rahul Bhandari said, “We have received the UGC order this morning and we are considering it. There were a lot of challenges in conducting exams, which is why we postponed them in the first place.”
Haryana had cancelled final-year exams last month. In light of the UGC order, Haryana Principal Secretary for Higher Education Ankur Gupta said Tuesday that a decision on the way forward will be taken in the coming days.
“It is too early for us to take a final decision… We are consulting various stakeholders and will be taking a decision regarding exams in the coming days,” he added.
The state worst-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Maharashtra had also decided to cancel the exams last month.
Maharashtra Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant wrote a letter to Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ Tuesday, saying it’s not possible for the state to conduct examinations, offline or online. The state, he said, would award degrees/certificates to students based on previous semesters.
“Government of Maharashtra in consultation with vice-chancellors of universities and all stakeholders concerned has arrived at a decision to award degree certificates based on evaluation of students’ performance of previous semesters and internal assessment, since conduct of examination is not feasible,” Samant wrote in the letter, which has been accessed by ThePrint.
He also requested the ministry “to issue uniform guidelines on awarding degrees to students in the final year based on an appropriate formula”.
Many states like Gujarat and Karnataka had been waiting for the UGC’s orders before taking a call on final-year exams.
Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama told mediapersons last Wednesday that universities had made arrangements to conduct exams, but they were awaiting the HRD ministry’s directive.
Tamil Nadu had reportedly formed a panel last week, under the higher education secretary, to look into the feasibility of holding exams.
In its exam order Monday, the UGC said it “is important to safeguard the principles of health, safety, fair and equal opportunity for students” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but “it is (also) very crucial to ensure academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of students globally”.
“Academic evaluation of students is a very important milestone in any education system,” it added. “The performance in examinations gives confidence and satisfaction to the students and is a reflection of competence, performance and credibility that is necessary for global acceptability.”
(With inputs from Chitleen Sethi and Manasi Phadke)