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Friday, January 28, 2022

Explained: Common entrance test and concerns at JNU

Why has the decision to conduct entrance examinations from the 2022-23 academic session created an uproar in JNU?

Written by Aranya Shankar , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 15, 2022 7:11:27 am

On January 12, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)’s Academic Council decided to conduct its entrance examinations from the 2022-23 academic session as per the Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET). The final approval lies with the Executive Council, but the decision is as good as final. The move has created much uproar on campus, with both the JNU Teachers’ Association and the JNU Students’ Union opposing the move.

How does JNU currently admit students to its UG, PG and research programmes?

As of now, the National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts online entrances for all courses in a Computer Based Test (CBT) format. Earlier, JNU used to conduct its own entrance, but since 2019 the job was given to the NTA. Right from announcing the schedule of the JNU Entrance Examination (JNUEE) to giving out admit cards, to preparing question papers, to the actual conduct of the entrance examination, it is the NTA that handles it all. For research programmes, after the entrance is taken care of by the NTA, the interviews are later conducted by the university itself.

One of the most distinct features of JNU’s admission policy is the concept of ‘Deprivation Points’: Disadvantaged students are given certain additional points making their admission easier. These points are granted to women and transgender students, as well those coming from backward districts. There is no clarity as of now on whether the deprivation points will be affected with the adoption of CUCET.

What was discussed and passed in the last academic council meeting?

At the Academic Council meeting held on January 12, JNU decide to hold its entrance through the Common Universities Entrance Test (CUET) from the next academic session, i.e. 2022-23. Director of Admissions Jayant Tripathi said the proposal to adopt CUET was “overwhelmingly endorsed” by the panel.

“During the deliberations in the Academic Council, a large number of members including the Deans of Schools, Centre Chairpersons, and External Members of the Council emphasised that CUET would provide a level playing field to numerous eligible students from across the country reducing the burden of taking several entrance examinations,” he said. However, the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has countered this saying the discussion was “selectively orchestrated” and “bulldozed his diktat”.

Why has JNU decided to admit through CU-CET?

JNU’s decision to admit students through CUCET came after the UGC’s push in this regard. A meeting of UGC officials was held with Vice-Chancellors of 45 central universities on November 22 last year. Following this, a letter was sent on November 26 to them stating that “after detailed deliberations, it was resolved that the Common Entrance Test for UG and PG may be conducted for Central Universities from the academic session 2022-23 through National Testing Agency (NTA)”.

Why is the central govt pushing central universities to adopt a common entrance test?

The move has come after the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), which advocates the need for such an entrance. In December last year, the UGC set up a seven-member committee under Central University of Punjab VC R P Tiwari to prepare a plan to implement CUCET from the 2021-22 academic session. The Committee submitted its report giving its go-ahead to the plan, but the Covid pandemic situation led the body to shelve the plan. However, it was picked up with renewed vigour thereafter.

Why have the teachers at JNU expressed apprehension over CU-CET? What are their concerns?

The opposition over JNU’s decision to implement CUCET comes from two places. One part of it is procedural. The JNUTA has claimed that the VC said the decision on the matter had already been taken in the 157th meeting of the AC.

“This however is not true. A perusal of the minutes…clearly shows that this was not even listed on the agenda of that meeting. It was only part of one of the several recommendations of the advisory committee on admissions which recommended that “in case of receiving any direction from MoE/UGC, the University will accordingly adopt and admit students through CUCET”. This clearly means that the adoption of the CUCET was not done… In fact, members of the Academic Council have reported that there was no discussion on CUCET during the 157th AC meeting,” the JNUTA said.

It also said that “111 faculty members submitted their opinion requesting the Academic Council to refer the agenda item for discussion at the School (BOS) and Centre (Faculty Committee) for further deliberations”, but “not only did the Vice-Chancellor not place this letter on the table, he also did not allow people to raise apprehensions with respect to the adoption of CUCET”.

The second part of the teachers’ opposition comes from apprehensions over what it could mean for them. Former JNUTA President Ayesha Kidwai said the university offered many unique and interdisciplinary courses which could be under threat.

“How does the JNU administration conceive that these will be covered by any Common Entrance Test? For example, how many CUs offer an MA course in Computation and Integrative Sciences? Or In Arts and Aesthetics? Or in Development and Labour Studies? Or in International Relations and Area Studies? So a CUCET for these MA programmes cannot be common with other universities. Will that mean that these programmes will be wound up?” she said.

Kidwai also said using NET score for admission to PhD programmes was a “terrible move” with “no academic rationale”.

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What is the university’s response to the concerns expressed by teachers?

While the university has not responded publically to the apprehensions, Director of Admissions Jayant Tripathi dismissed them saying they were either ill-founded or premature.

“At this stage, we have only adopted the CUCET. We have only decided that we will hold entrance exams next year as per this; there have no further deliberations on what the format will be or further modalities. So any apprehensions should wait till then. It is too early right now,” he said.

Tripathi brushed aside allegations of procedural impropriety in the adoption of CUCET during the AC meeting said everything was followed as per rules. “There was proper discussion on the matter this time, as well as last,” he said.

On the issue of unique and interdisciplinary courses being affected, Tripathi said, “All the universities are stakeholders and the UGC will take care of them all. I’m sure there will be further deliberations and discussions and they will take all this into account.”

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