Mumbai: Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari on Thursday (September 3) directed vice-chancellors (V-Cs) of the state’s non-agricultural universities to begin the practical tests for final year students from September 15 and complete the entire examination process, including declaration of results by October 30. The directive comes days after state higher and technical education minister Uday Samant announced that the final year exams will begin in the first week of October, assuring students that they will get the entire month of September to prepare for the tests.
Koshiyari, who also serves as chancellor of all the state universities, gave these instructions at a video-conferencing with V-Cs on Thursday afternoon, which was also attended by the state higher and technical education minister Uday Samant and other state government officials. According to sources familiar with the meeting, the governor also opposed home assignments or open-book tests as modes of examination for final year students, favouring Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) and Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) methods instead. Even this view contradicts Samant’s earlier assertion that the exams will be conducted in a simplified manner, including through assignments and open-book tests.
The open-book examinations, which allow students to write their papers at home and scan and upload them online, submit them at designated centres or post them to educational institutes, have been adopted by several universities across the country, including Delhi University, Benaras Hindu University and universities in Madhya Pradesh, in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
The minister, however, didn’t contest the instructions the governor at the meeting, said a source. Later in the evening, the minister released a statement terming the discussions at the meeting as “positive”. “It’s important to ensure that the examination process gets over as soon as possible so that the subsequent academic years are nor affected adversely. Some of the universities wanted to continue the examination till November 10, which can’t be allowed. The colleges can start with the practical exams and can conduct theory tests as soon as the practicals are completed,” said an aide to Samant.
The aide was however astonished by the governor’s insistence on MCQ-based exams. “The students are used to descriptive questions. They may not be prepared for the objective questions,” said the aide.
In the wake of the pandemic and lockdown, Maharashtra government, despite Governor’s opposition, had made all the college examinations non-mandatory and decided to grant degrees to final year college students without examinations. However, the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex higher education regulator, directed the universities across the country to conduct final year examinations by September. After 31 students challenged UGC’s guidelines, SC ruled that the states can’t promote final year students without examinations, while allowing them to seek postponement of the exams.
Following the verdict, the state formed a committee consisting some of the V-Cs as well as directors of higher and technical education to decide modalities of the exams.
According to statements from Samant and Koshiyari, it was decided in the meeting that the V-Cs would hold the meeting of the Board of Examinations and Academic Councils of their respective universities within the next 2 or 3 days and prepare their exam time-tables in the light of the committee’s recommendations. The universities would then approach the state’s Disaster Management Committee for its approval. Subsequently, the state would apprise UGC of the pandemic situation and modalities of final year exams.
“Considering the shortage of time available for setting question papers, the Governor asked universities to coordinate with Savitribai Phule Pune University and University of Mumbai and other universities for preparing question banks” read the statement from Koshiyari.
“It was discussed that the universities should complete the examination process in time and also be prepared for the next academic year. They should also conduct the exams of Allowed to Keep term (ATKT) students in time. If any students are deprived of the tests due to unavoidable circumstances, universities should arrange for their exams,” read the statement from Samant.