MPhil, PhD courses: Discomfort over pass marks for JNU admissions

Authorities say benchmark set to maintain the quality of Centres

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Published: January 2, 2018 1:15:45 am
jnu admission, mphil course, phd admission 2018, passing marks, vive voce, indian express Authorities say benchmark set to maintain the quality of Centres. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal/Files)

The Jawaharlal Nehru University has introduced pass marks at the interview level for admissions to MPhil and PhD courses, with the administration citing a decision taken at an Academic Council meeting. However, both teachers and students claimed that no such decision was taken at the meeting — in fact, the matter was not even discussed. They also said the decision would lead to seats remaining vacant.

Until last year, JNU followed a 70:30 ratio of written tests to viva-voce (interview). However, after sustained pressure from students who alleged discrimination at the interview level, the university’s Steering Committee in February 2017 accepted demands of lowering the viva marks, saying that “the ratio of weightage for descriptive type written test and viva-voce should be 80:20”.

This decision, however, was shelved because of the adoption of the May 2016 UGC gazette notification, which recommended giving 100 per cent weightage to viva-voce for the entrance.

Now, in a notice dated December 22, the JNU Registrar said that anyone who scores less than “40 per cent (marks) for general category, 36 per cent for OBC category and 30 per cent for SC/ST & physically handicapped” in the interview will not be part of the “final merit list for admission to MPhil and PhD after viva-voce”.
Explaining

the decision, Rector I Chintamani Mahapatra said, “In a Centre, suppose there are three seats, we will take the best three (who appeared for viva-voce). But we need some passing marks. If the person on third number has got less than 40 per cent in his viva, that means he doesn’t qualify to get admission. In order to maintain the quality of the Centre, we have set this benchmark.”

Asked if this would result in more seats going vacant, he said, “Suppose students are not up to the mark at all, is it good to fill up the seats or is it good to maintain a certain level of quality?”

The December 22 notice also states that the decision has been taken on the basis of an AC meeting. However, JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) president Ayesha Kidwai claimed, “No such decision was taken by the 144th AC… In fact, no discussion on this agenda item was allowed, as the Vice-Chancellor pronounced the matter sub judice.”

The notice would impact applicants to the MPhil and PhD courses in JNU, interviews for which will be held around March.

While the notice spells out the JNU administration’s stand on the issue, Kidwai claimed that the ‘pass marks’ system was implemented during admissions even in 2017, albeit without an official notification.

“The Centres/Schools were not intimated about the application of pass marks before the viva-voce, and the fact that such a step had been taken was only revealed when the final offers were to be put on the website,” she claimed.

The JNUTA had earlier claimed that as a result, 159 of 290 seats remained vacant.

JNU Students’ Union president Geeta Kumari also claimed there had been no discussion on the matter before the December 22 notice. “Reservation norms are being violated…. All the seats at the Special Centre for Nanoscience had remained vacant in 2017,” she said.

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