The human resource development (HRD) ministry is to meet state education secretaries this week to ensure uniformity with regard to final assessment of students pursuing degrees.
The meeting follows the announcement of cancellation of final year exams at colleges and universities by some states (in the light of covid disruptions), which goes against University Grants Commission norms. UGC, the apex regulator of higher education has, in its turn, stated that it would not accept the unilateral decision of state governments to scrap exams against its directives.
“A few states are not following protocol and are announcing cancellation of exams at colleges and universities. What they are ignoring is that a degree without UGC approval does not mean anything. It’s there in the UGC Act, and it is binding. What they are doing is putting students’ future at risk and creating confusion,” said a government official requesting anonymity.
The UGC guidelines are mandatory and as of now there is no going back, explained the official cited above, adding that the position of states on cancelling exams may not stand legal scrutiny.
“The HRD ministry will meet the state education secretaries, and possibly health authorities this week and find out what their problems are. When we sought feedback from states and experts on exams before UGC issued the guidelines recently, some 70% respondents said exams will be beneficial and should be conducted,” the first official asserted.
Delhi and West Bengal have openly stated that they are not conducting final year or final semester exams due to the covid-19 crisis. They favour a mechanism to graduate bachelor’s and master’s degree students at universities on the basis of internal assessment or pass performance. At least four other states, including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, have informed the HRD ministry about their reservations on mandatory exam rules of the UGC, two government officials said requesting anonymity.
“The UGC guidelines are not asking colleges and universities to hold exams now; the regulator has given institutions time time till end September to hold exams. The guidelines also don’t mandate the mode of exams; institutions can adopt any mode—be it online exam, a mix of online and offline or face-to-face classroom exams wherever possible…where is the motive here of putting the students’ lives at risk?” the second official said and added that the even the UGC guidelines have given the example of foreign universities that have, among other things, adopted online and even take-home exam systems.
On Saturday, Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia had said that state universities have been directed to come up with “a set of parameters for evaluation on the basis of students’ past performance” and award them degrees.
While Delhi is home to seven central universities, including Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, eight other universities function under it. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has written to the prime minister seeking that final exams for central universities in Delhi be cancelled. Similarly, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, too, has written to PM Modi on the exam issue.
On 6 July, UGC said that while health of the students was of paramount importance, it is also “crucial to ensure academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of students globally”. “Academic evaluation of students is very important milestone in any education system. 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,” UGC said in its revised exam directive, after the home ministry allowed universities and colleges to open only for exams. “The terminal semester(s)/ final year(s) examinations be conducted by the universities/ institutions by the end of September, 2020, in offline (pen and paper)/online/ blended (online + offline) mode,” UGC said in the statement.