University Grants Commission insists end-term examination for all final-year students would have to be held by the end of September 2020. Even as states say it is not at all safe now, some universities express willingness.
Twenty-one-year-old Paritosh Sable is worried. The final-year student from Latur is wondering whether to take his examinations or not.
His institute had cancelled the examinations for June 2020, but, soon after, the University Grants Commission (UGC) decided that they will be held.
Sable is not alone. Six million undergraduate students are now caught in this tussle between UGC and state governments like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The states are against holding the exams.
“Give one clear decision and stick to it. Online exams here are out of question because we don’t have laptops. I don’t even know how safe it is to visit the exam centre in the next two months,” Sable added.
On July 7, UGC said that the end-term examination for all final-year students would have to be mandatorily held by the end of September 2020 in offline (pen & paper), online or blended mode.
Under a new UGC scheme, in case a student is not able to appear for examinations, he/she would be given an opportunity to appear for a special examination by the institution at a later date.
Then, on many occasions, the UGC sounded a warning note -- that not accepting its decision would put the future of students at risk.
State governments refuse to accept this decision, considering the potential risk of contracting COVID-19 at exam halls. Also Read: Why Maharashtra government's stand on exams may not be accepted
Students write to authorities, take to Twitter
While almost 20,000 students have written to the various central regulatory authorities seeking a cancellation of examinations, they have been informed that exams will have to be conducted mandatorily, sources said.
“I was told that if I feel unsafe, I can give the exams later. But what do they mean by ‘later’? I am planning to pursue a management course. How long can I wait? Looks like we will have to risk our lives and give exams,” said Sarbori Basu, a final-year student at a private university in Kolkata.
Basu added that her institute has also been doing flip-flops initially -- telling students that exams are cancelled, then sending the UGC circular, and, finally, saying it would wait for the West Bengal government’s decision.
In fact, students have constantly trended the hashtag 'cancelfinalyearexams' on Twitter to ensure that their message reaches the authorities.
Rafeez Rehan, a Bengaluru-based student, told Moneycontrol: "We are trying to attract the attention of the authorities. We are not evading writing exams, but right now shouldn't the priority be student safety?" he said.
UGC stays adamant
UGC, on the other hand, insists its decision is binding on all universities across the country. This effectively means that the students wouldn’t get their degrees if they don’t appear for the examination.
It argues that 640 universities have shared their status on the examinations so far. Of these, 454 have said that they will either be conducting them or have already held them while 177 have said that they are yet to take a decision.
Kishore Giri, a final-year political science student from Tamil Nadu, can’t wait any longer. “At least decide quickly and let the students know. If some universities are conducting exams, that means everyone else will be forced to toe the line sooner or later. Delaying the process only spoils our chances for applying for our degrees or even jobs," he said.
Delhi University has already announced that it will be conducting open-book online examinations for final-year undergraduate students between August 10 and 30.
Maharashtra leads states in fight against exams
Maharashtra has not yet accepted the UGC decision. It is among the worst COVID-19-hit regions, with 2,84,000 cases and 11,194 deaths so far.
Unless, the HRD Ministry and UGC take responsibility for the health of each student appearing for exams, one wonders what is the guarantee apart from just that the ministry and UGC don’t realise the growing number of cases in India.
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 10, 2020
Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray also expressed concerns about the UGC decision on July 10.
“The decision of the HRD Ministry of the Union government, and the UGC is absolutely absurd and probably from an alternate universe. I urge UGC to not make this a silly issue of egos and realise that lakhs of lives of students, teachers, and non-teaching staff are at stake,” said Thackeray on Twitter.
On July 16, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court that under the UGC Act, the body has to consult respective universities before taking a decision on examinations.
On June 26, the Maharashtra government had cited a decision from the State Disaster Management Authority to cancel all examinations in the state.With no certainty on the current status in states like Maharashtra and West Bengal, it is still a long wait for students like Rehan, Bose and Sable.