New Delhi: The 2021-22 academic session for colleges, universities and other higher education institutions is set to be delayed for the second consecutive year due to the postponement of many board exams. But unlike last year, the University Grants Commission has given no word about when central and state universities and non-technical colleges will be able to begin classes.
In 2020, when the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic had hit India, the UGC had formed a panel in April itself to decide the new academic calendar, but this time, as the country struggles to come to grips with the massive second wave of infections, neither the regulator nor the Ministry of Education have made any announcements on this matter.
The UGC-appointed panel had submitted last year that for those students who began their first year after the pandemic-induced delay and are now set to begin second-year classes, the session would begin in August 2021. But the panel had not mentioned any timeline for the new batch of students beginning college/university in 2021, or for those in other batches, in case Covid-19 forced another delay, like it has.
ThePrint has twice — on 20 April and 12 May — sent questions to the Ministry of Education, through text messages and emails to the government’s PR arm Press Information Bureau, on the plans for the new academic calendar. But neither communication yielded a response. UGC secretary Rajnish Jain also didn’t respond to a text message asking about the regulator’s plans.
For technical colleges which come within the purview of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the session will start from 1 September for existing students and 15 September for first-year students, according to a schedule announced last week.
Last week, on 5 May, the UGC did send a letter to all universities, asking them to “keep offline exams at abeyance in the month of May”, and look at the feasibility of conducting online exams wherever possible.
“The situation may be relooked by the HEIs (higher education institutions) during next month for taking an appropriate decision in this regard,” the letter issued by UGC secretary Jain read.
In another letter issued Monday, the UGC also asked universities to “stand united in their fight against the pandemic”.
The letter, issued by UGC chairman D.P. Singh, urged all vice-chancellors to constitute Covid task forces, encourage Covid-appropriate behaviour, arrange for mental health counselling for teachers, students and staff, and form a team of National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers that can extend help.
Amid the silence from the UGC and the government on the new academic schedule, many universities have already worked out a plan to mitigate the delay.
ThePrint last month spoke to Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Hyderabad Central University and Savitribai Phule Pune University among government institutions, and Shiv Nadar University and O.P. Jindal University among private ones, to find that they are looking at methods like entrance tests and using pre-board marks to grant admissions.
Most of these universities said they expect a delay in the academic session this year as well, and are assuming the new session will start around the end of August or early September.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)