Universities grapple with changing admissions process in the time of COVID-19

In previous years, colleges used entrance exams to shortlist candidates.  

At St. John’s College in Agra, coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced a 170-year old institution to change its admissions process. Instead of its usual entrance examination, the college will depend on school Board examination marks to assess applicants this year.

“It is not safe to conduct a physical entrance exam at this time. Municipal authorities will not give permission, and students from other areas will not be able to travel to Agra. We don’t have the facilities or software to conduct an online examination with remote proctoring,” said Shailendra Singh, Principal of the college, which is affiliated to the Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University but conducts its own admissions.

However, many Class XII Board examinations were also disrupted this year, raising doubts about the validity of those marks. “It’s a major concern for us, but there is an air of resignation, as there is no other option. We are caught between the devil and the deep sea,” he said.

His dilemma is shared by colleges and universities across the country, grappling with how to conduct admissions for the next academic year as the pandemic continues to spread. Many school Boards — including the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) — declared Class XXI results this week and these students are now anxious to begin the process of college admissions.

“We cannot do admissions without entrance tests. There are thousands of students who have all scored above 90% or 95% in varying school Boards, and some of the Board exams were also cancelled because of COVID-19. So we need our own test,” said Shafey Kidwai, a spokesperson for Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). “Normally, we have venues in Lucknow, Kashmir, Patna and Bhopal, and Mallapuram in the south...these are our usual catchment areas. But they are all hotspots of infection now.”

Instead, AMU plans to draw on the expertise of the Indian Institutes of Technology and their Informatics Centre to provide the software and facilities needed to conduct an online test this year. AMU, which is a Central University, is also hoping for some direction from the University Grants Commission (UGC), but has already begun its own application process.

UGC Member Secretary Rajnish Jain said that discussions are on to produce admission guidelines. The regulator, however, is already embroiled in a controversy over its guidelines on Final Year exams, which were issued after a number of States had already cancelled exams.

In Rajasthan, a meeting of State-run university Vice Chancellors on Thursday agreed to go ahead with using Class XII marks, calculated by percentile to bring parity across Boards, as the criterion for admissions. “The issue was raised that CBSE and CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations) had to cancel some of their papers, but it was decided that once the result is declared, those marks must be taken as final whether the exam was written or not,” said one of the Vice Chancellors present at the meeting.

Computer science was one of the papers cancelled by the CBSE, and marks awarded have no relation to the student’s proficiency in that subject at all. At a reputed government-aided college in Coimbatore, the head of a computer science department said it would not matter as the Tamil Nadu State government rule is to use the average of physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science marks anyway for admission to a B.Sc Computer Science programme.

“We understand that the ISC (Indian School Certificate) and CBSE students have not appeared for some of the examinations and have been assessed based on their performance in the papers they have attempted and their past academic performance. But we have to accept the scores the Boards have given. It will be difficult for us to devise any other formula for admissions,” said K. R. Venugopal, Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University. He added that given the high marks scored by students this year, the university plans to sanction enhancement of intake of seats for high demand courses such as B.Com in some colleges.

C.B. Annapurnamma, Principal of Bengaluru-based National College, said that they had decided to admit students based on the scores given by the respective Boards. “It has been a distressing time for students and we want to be as liberal as possible during admissions this year. We will admit students based on those who come first till our seats are full,” she said.

(With inputs from R. Sujatha in Chennai and Tanu Kulkarni in Bengaluru.)

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 5:41:50 PM |

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