EVEN in nightmares about her academics, Mrudhugandha Gaikwad never faced the fear of dropping a year. But now, having made it to the waiting list of a course at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the graduating media student is unsure if she will be able to join the course. While she is positive of securing a seat at the prestigious institution, Gaikwad is unsure if the University of Mumbai will declare her sixth and final semester results in time. Gaikwad’s dilemma is shared by thousands of final-year students of the University of Mumbai.
This year, the sixth semester results will be significantly delayed, owing to the varsity’s novel onscreen assessment initiative aimed at curbing tampering of answer sheets, a move that has left final-year graduating students in the lurch.
Gaikwad, a third-year Bachelor of Mass Media student at the Maharshi Dayanand College in Parel, will have to produce certificates and provisional marksheets immediately to secure her admission once her seat is guaranteed. “There’s no clarity on what will happen. I am afraid I will have to drop a year because the results will not be out in time,” says Gaikwad. “How will I convince any college I am applying for that I won’t fail?”
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Following a scam related to tampering of answer sheets last May, Mumbai University Vice-Chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh announced in January this year that all final-year answer sheets would be evaluated digitally. The process requires answer sheets to be scanned and then evaluated, leaving no room for tampering. But the university failed to appoint an agency in time to help with the technology and infrastructure. Response from private parties was lukewarm and the online tendering process extended the dates four times. To draw in some interest from contractors, the university also eased technical criteria. Finally, at the fifth attempt, an agency was appointed on April 27. This meant that paper assessment, which usually begins three days after the exams, was this year delayed for more than a month after the exams.
Till date, the university remains unclear on when the results will be declared. “The assessment process is on in full swing. Once all the papers are corrected, we will be able to get clarity on result declaration,” said Deepak Wasave, Director, Examination. There are around 2 lakh final-year answer sheets — 79,000 from third-year BCom, 18,000 from third-year Science and 14,000 from third-year Arts.
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Deshmukh did not respond to attempts by The Indian Express for a comment, but registrar M A Khan acknowledged the problem. “We have just started correcting the answer sheets. Processing the results will take time but we are trying to minimise the time taken,” said Khan. With teachers leaving for summer vacation, the paper correction process has been hit further, with senior officials fearing that results could be released as late as August. “The vacations are from May 1 to June 6. It is an earnest request to teachers to cut their vacations short and finish their assessment duties in the interest of the students,” said Khan.
Meanwhile, students’ organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) launched an online petition against the university’s apathy. “We have already received over 1,000 petitions. We will begin a protest in June once all exams are over,” said Rohit Chandode, Mumbai secretary, ABVP.
Delay in declaring the results is not a new problem for Mumbai University. Students who took the fifth semester examinations in October last year got their results only in January this year. This despite a Maharashtra Public Universities Act mandate to declare results within 45 days of the exams. Several students are yet to receive their marksheets for the fifth semester.
Worse, delayed results are only a part of the problem plaguing the Exam House. Sagar Gupta graduated last year after clearing a back paper but may not be able to keep his new job at a bank owing to an error in his marksheet. Gupta failed a paper in his sixth semester but cleared it in the re-examination held in October 2016. However, he was surprised to see that instead of carrying forward the marks for the other subjects, the university had marked him absent in another subject. “For no fault of mine, the university has failed me in a subject that I passed in the first attempt,” said Gupta.
Another problem that has persisted is that the re-examination is almost always held before results of the revaluation process are declared, forcing those who have applied for a revaluation to anyway take the re-examination. The rule, however, is clear: students who fail in subjects can apply for revaluation. They also get a chance to retake the examination.
A writ petition on the matter was filed by students at the Bombay High Court earlier this year. “Students often find out after taking the re-examination that they had actually passed in the first chance and there was a tallying error,” said Sachin Pawar of the students law council, an organisation of law students. Students end up paying the re-examination fee of Rs 500 per paper only to find they had passed in the first go. Hearings in the petition will continue when the court resumes after vacation.
Meanwhile, the digitisation plan for assessing answer sheets has done little to restore the image of the Exam House, which still remains vulnerable to security breaches. Today, the Exam House in a corner of the sprawling Kalina campus has two three-storey buildings. Only one building has 20 CCTV cameras for surveillance. On the third floor of the main building is the office of the Controller of Examination. The second floor, which houses the university’s accounts department, is frequented by many. On the first floor is the results and certificates section and the ground floor is address to a bank that draws in its own customer crowds. The three-storey annexe building, minus any CCTV surveillance, is where the setting of question papers and assessment of answer sheets are conducted.
Following the scam in May, the V-C had announced a flurry of security measures including CCTV cameras, control rooms and intrusion-detection software to curb pilferage in the Exam House. However, those plans are yet to see the light of the day. The Exam House itself was to be moved to a new seven-storey building with improved security measures by the end of 2016. That, too, hasn’t happened. “The new building is still not ready. We are yet to get an occupancy certificate. All the security measures will be set up in the new building,” said Khan.