The University Grants Commission (UGC) wants all Central universities to introduce a common university entrance test (CUET) to be organised by the national testing agency (NTA) to govern admission to all graduate and post-graduate courses they offer. The commission wants admission to the courses beginning in 2022-23 to be based on the CUET results. The ball is now in the court of the vice-chancellors and they, being nominees of the Central government, would be only too eager to implement the UGC’s direction. In fact, the test would reduce their workload, particularly during the time of admission.
So far, admission to graduate courses in universities like Delhi University was based purely on the marks scored at the Class XII board examination, whether conducted by the state board or the CBSE. Students from certain states who scored higher marks, rightly or wrongly, used to be the beneficiaries of the system. This year, some university functionaries tried to create a hullabaloo over students, especially from Kerala, cornering most of the seats in the so-called ‘prestigious courses' in ‘prestigious colleges' in the national capital. It is not because of the liberal marking in Kerala but because of the increasing migration that there are now more Keralites studying in Delhi University. The UGC plan should be seen against this backdrop.
Take the case of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where students from backward areas were given weightage in admission. That is why it attracted students from every nook and cranny of the country. The test will change the character of JNU, which will be like any other university. The entrance test will further reduce the value of the school-leaving certificates. These are no longer checked for eligibility for jobs. For that the candidates have to clear the civil service exam and similar exams. Yet, students try to score good marks only to get admission to ‘good' colleges and universities. Thus, the test will reduce the value of school education to a large extent.
One reason why many students migrate to Delhi University is also to take admission to coaching institutes which have been proliferating. Anyone who knows the system knows that cracking the entrance test is more a skill than wisdom. When admission to medical colleges began to be through the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the number of candidates who had the benefit of coaching began to dominate the show while the students from the disadvantaged sections began to fall by the wayside. Medical colleges could no longer give weightage to those who were committed to serve in the rural areas after getting their medical degrees. The UGC plan will give a fillip to the coaching industry which also thrives on its marketing skills.