Coronavirus | UGC may scrap final year exams

Academic session may be pushed back.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) is considering advising colleges and universities to cancel their final year examinations and semester examinations in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

It may also recommend further delays in the academic calendar, with the next session pushed back to October.

On Wednesday, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank tweeted that he had advised the UGC to revisit its earlier guidelines on these issues. “The foundation for revisited guidelines shall be health and safety of students, teachers and staff,” he said.

This comes a day before the Supreme Court hearing on cancellation of Class 12 and 10 examinations of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) due to the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry and the CBSE told the court that a final decision on the issue would be communicated by Thursday. The Class 12 examination is scheduled to begin on July 1.

In April, a UGC panel, headed by Central University of Haryana Vice-Chancellor R.C. Kuhad, had recommended that final year examinations could be held in July, while intermediate semester students could be graded based on internal assessment or examinations where possible. UGC’s guidelines, based on the panel’s report, had also recommended that the new academic year begin on August 1 for the second and third year students, and September 1 for the first year students.

However, Ministry officials say the Kuhad panel has updated its suggestions due to the rapid spread of the pandemic. UGC will consider its recommendations to cancel the examinations and delay the calendar, and is likely to issue fresh guidelines later this week.

There are concerns regarding the alternative assessment methodology to be adopted if examinations are cancelled. Internal assessments usually translate to project work. “For a small college with 500 students in the final year, their project reports can be checked and graded. But for large State universities, with two to three lakh students from affiliated institutions, it will be impossible to check that many project reports,” said a senior official, detailing the difficulties. Another option would be to use students’ performance in previous semester examinations instead.

Although UGC’s guidelines are only advisory in nature, with each university making its own decision in accordance with local conditions and State government rules, several Vice-Chancellors said they would await the Central body’s norms before taking a final call.

UGC regulates 945 universities across the country, including 412 State universities and 53 Central universities. All educational institutions have been closed since mid-March, although many have continued classes through online and distance education.

With inputs from The Hindu