After several state governments and vice chancellors voiced their strong reservation over the UGC’s directive to hold final semester examinations “compulsorily” by September, the Centre on Saturday (July 11) said that those who would not take the test now would get the chance to appear for the same later.
Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, in a series of tweets in Hindi, said that the universities could conduct these exams anytime based on the convenience of the students.
यही नहीं, यदि विश्वविद्यालय द्वारा आयोजित परीक्षा में टर्मिनल सेमेस्टर/अंतिम वर्ष का कोई भी विद्यार्थी उपस्थित होने में असमर्थ रहता है, चाहे जो भी कारण रहा हो, तो उसे ऐसे पाठ्यक्रम(पाठ्यक्रमों)/प्रश्नपत्र(प्रश्नपत्रों) के लिए विशेष परीक्षाओं में बैठने का अवसर दिया जा सकता है,
— Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (@DrRPNishank) July 11, 2020
The minister, however, reiterated the importance of examination, saying that performance in “exams gives students self-confidence and satisfaction,” indicating that the Centre would still insist on conducting examinations for assessing the performance of the students.
The minister’s tweets coincide with the Delhi government’s announcement that it would not hold the term-end examinations because of the increasing coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, on the same day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention in the matter.
The state governments of Odisha, Maharashtra, and Punjab too opposed the UGC move.
For the sake of our youth, I urge Hon’ble PM to personally intervene and cancel final year exams of DU and other central govt universities and save the future. pic.twitter.com/V7iinytR9O
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) July 11, 2020
The University Grants Commission (UGC), in its earlier guidelines issued in April, had said that the universities could give equal weightage to previous performance and internal assessment while assessing students, giving flexibility to the institutions to take a call on the issue.
But the July guidelines made it mandatory for the institutions to hold examinations by September-end even as the COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country. The move expectedly drew the ire of several non-BJP state governments as well as the academics.
Vice chancellors of several state-aided universities of West Bengal on Friday vehemently opposed the UGC’s directive and decided to convey the inability of their institutions to hold examinations to the UGC.
The VCs said the process of assessment adhering to the UGC’s April guidelines and the subsequent advisory of the West Bengal higher education department was almost in the process of completion and as such it would not be possible to roll back the process now.
The VCs of at least 13 universities attended a videoconference wherein they resolved that “all the state-aided universities of the state of West Bengal will follow the guidelines issued by the UGC on 29.04.20 followed by the advisory in this regard by the department of higher education, Government of West Bengal, dated 27.06.20, in respect to process of evaluation and publication of results of terminal examination of both undergraduate and postgraduate course of studies.”
Banerjee told the prime minister that the state government’s advisory was issued after consulting the VCs and stakeholders, and that it was in the interest of the “health, safety and future” of the students. She also stated that the UGC’s revised guidelines were against the interest of the students and their health.
“With the current trend of rise in the COVID-19 cases in the country and considering such unforeseen, uncertain and challenging situation, our government after extensive consultation with all Vice-Chancellors and stakeholders issued an advisory on 27.06.2020 to all state-aided universities/colleges of the state. Our advisory issued in the interest of the health, safety and future of students, provides due weightage to the internal assessment and performance of the candidates in the previous semesters in order to ensure transparency. Besides our advisory has provisions for holding special exams after the situation gets normalised, for such students who wish to appear in a formal examination instead of alternate evaluation method,” Banerjee wrote in her letter.
Two days ago, state higher education secretary Manish Jain, in a stern letter to HRD secretary Amit Khare, said that the UGC’s move was against the spirit of federalism enshrined in the Constitution.
He pointed out that though education was placed in the concurrent list, the state government was not consulted before issuing the fresh guidelines.
Amidst the ongoing showdown between the Centre and West Bengal government over the issue, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is set to convene a virtual conference with the VCs and Pro-VCs of all state-aided universities on July 15 to address the “outstanding issues” concerning students.