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UGC,MHRD, Courts and Final Year students: A Case of Chaos

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Back in April this year, the University Grants Commission (UGC) setup a committee of eminent Educationists to prepare a draft academic calendar taking in view the situation posed by the COVID 19 pandemic. The committee came up with a guidelines detailing the date of commencement for new and existing students. The UGC also sought to conduct final semester exams by July end. The guidelines also laid down provisions in case of imminent threat posed by Corona Virus disease. The UGC left it to the discretion of States/Universities to either conduct the exams or promote Students on the basis of their earlier aggregate marks. It also gave an option to students who may not be satisfied with the evaluation process to sit in the optional exam to mitigate their marks.

Working on the Guidelines, the Universities charted out their own plans and were about to grant provisional degrees to the graduating students. Meanwhile the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development( MHRD) asked UGC to revisit the guidelines, as a result UGC amended it’s framework and asked Universities to mandatorily conduct the final Semester/Year exams of the Graduating Students. Furthermore it asked Universities to conduct exams by September. The amended guidelines also laid down the provisions for conducting the examinations, the options provided are either Offline, Online or a blend of both.

Now the real problem begins here. The problem here can be divided into Academic and Administrative heads.

Academically speaking, the extra weightage by UGC on the final semester exams goes against the standard frameworks of the Indian Education System. In our Education system, the curriculum followed is Cumulative rather than the Hierarchical. Which means that the First semester is as important as the Third and fourth is as important as the Final semester. Take Civil Engineering for Instance, here Subject on Road and Construction Engineering is important as Subject on Sanitary Engineering or Drainage systems. Take another example of legal education, here Jurisprudence is as Important as Constitution and Criminal Law is as important as Civil Law.

To say that final semester is important because its the gateway to Final degree is illogical and goes against the ethos of education which itself is laid by The UGC. So here in this case the UGC is infringing upon or violating Its own framework through the Amended Guidelines.

The another big problem posed by UGC goes against the administrative practice and feasibility. The Country is witnessing a surge in COVID 19 positive cases and it is showing no trends of dying down. Howsoever hopeful one may be, but to envisage that the COVID-19 will end before September is nothing but a highly surreal Utopian Dream. Almost all the students are at home now, Public Transport is not operating. How can students travel back to Universities in the absence of Public Transport? Now take Online exams into Consideration. Internet availability and faster speed is yet far from the ground reality. A sizeable student population doesn’t own a personal computer. And there’s a paucity of internet Infrastructure across the country. So given the infrastructural realities, online exams too seems to be non feasible and discriminatory in nature.

Thus, Infuriated by Guidelines, an association of  Aggrieved Students decided to file petition in the Supreme Court. The Court had its first hearing on the matter on July 24th ( Friday), the matter was posted for today. And today the court granted another few days Government of India to file an Affidavit, now the matter will be heard on next Friday. While arguing the matter on behalf of the UGC and MHRD, the Solicitor General of India, Learned Tushar Mehta argued and insisted before the Apex court that the government is only concerned with the Final year/Semester exams. And that’s pretty much sums up the whole issue.

In Conclusion, given the situation posed by Ongoing pandemic and in the absence of Internet Infrastructure, exams cannot be concluded. And if forced upon student, it will ultimately lead to more and more chaos. At this juncture it is of vital importance and highly pertinent to say that the court should rule in favour of the students, so that many more lives can be saved

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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