Will review panels’ recommendations
Panels set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) have submitted recommendations on the revised academic calendar and suggestions for holding examinations at a time when the country is under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission’s members are likely to discuss the recommendations via video-conferencing on Monday and issue advisory guidelines for institutions of higher education by the middle of next week, according to UGC officials.
Meanwhile, Press Trust of India reported that a panel headed by Central University of Haryana Vice-Chancellor R.C. Kuhad had recommended that the new academic year begin in September instead of July. Another recommendation was that universities conduct their year-end examinations online if they had the resources to do so. If not, they should wait until the lockdown is lifted to set a date for the hand-written examinations.
No semester exams yet
Most colleges and universities have not yet held their semester examinations to close out the current academic year.
Apart from Dr. Kuhad’s panel, another panel headed by Indira Gandhi National Open University Vice Chancellor Nageshwar Rao also submitted its report on improving online education in the midst of the lockdown.
While UGC secretary Rajnish Jain would not confirm these reports, he noted that any guidelines on these matters issued by the Commission would “not be binding, but only advisory in nature”.
“The situation in every State is different, including the rate of COVID-19 infections. Also, some universities may be small and be able to provide online facilities to all students. Others have thousands of students and fewer resources. We cannot mandate one standard solution for all. There will be flexibility in the guidelines,” said Dr. Jain.
The vice chancellors of State universities also felt that the decisions of State governments would play a key role in decisions regarding a revised academic calendar.
“The role of UGC is only as a facilitator,” said the vice chancellor of a law university, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It may have more control over central universities. Most States have set up their own advisory panels similar to UGC’s panel, which will make their own recommendations,” the vice chancellor added. “Supposing a university is located in a hotspot area, which still has high infection rates late in the year… Ultimately, each university will have to make its own decisions based on the needs of its students.”
Another vice chancellor, who was consulted by the Kuhad panel, agreed that each institution would have to make its own decisions, but felt that the UGC guidelines would provide a valuable indicator. “There has to be some coordination, so that students do not suffer because of wildly differing calendars,” said the vice chancellor, adding that the major challenge was that many State and central education boards — including the CBSE — have not completed their Class 12 examinations.
“Those exams cannot be conducted online, so they will only be held once the lockdown is fully lifted. Only after that, major entrance exams can be held and then we can talk about starting the university academic session for those students,” added the senior academic.
With inputs from PTI