The COVID-19 lockdown has officially delayed the 2020-21 academic year, with a government-appointed committee recommending that the traditional mid-July start for higher education should be pushed to September.
Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the Union government announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the outbreak.
The seven-member committee, which was set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to deliberate on issues related to examination and the academic calendar in the wake of the classroom shutdown, submitted its report Friday.
Besides the two-month delayed start to the new academic session, the panel has also recommended that the year-end or semester-end examinations that could not be held on schedule should be held in July.
A delay in the new academic session was expected since none of the entrance tests will be held on time. However, for the first time now, there is an idea of how many months’ delay are students starting at.
Haryana Central University vice-chancellor R C Kuhad headed the panel. A C Pandey, director of Inter-University Accelerator Centre; Aditya Shastri, vice-chancellor of Banasthali Vidyapeeth; and Raj Kumar, head of Panjab University, are among its other members.
The UGC will frame guidelines on university examinations, and the academic calendar based on the committee’s report. “The guidelines will not be binding on higher education institutions, but they will lay down the outer time limit by which the government expects them to start their new academic year,” said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
This committee’s recommendation, if and when accepted by the UGC, would mean that the Union government would have to approach the Supreme Court to seek an extension of the last date for completing admissions to medical programmes (August 31) and technical applications (August 15) such as engineering. These deadlines are mandated by the top court and hence the need for its permission before being tinkered with.
Another committee set up by the UGC to make recommendations on online education has advised against asking universities to conduct online examination mandatorily, given the “diversity, local environment, composition of students and preparedness of the learners, current infrastructure and technology support”.
Nageshwar Rao, Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), is heading the committee on online learning.