Presidency University vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar during the siege. (Anup Bhattacharya)
Presidency University on Monday went back on a decision to hold multiple tests to assess students through the year in elective papers following a three-hour gherao of the vice-chancellor and other senior officials.
“The students said they are having to write too many tests in the elective papers. I think the practice of taking multiple tests should be scrapped. The issue will be taken up by the university council at its upcoming meeting. A formal announcement will be made once the council endorses the proposal,” said Sarkar.
The students claimed that their studies in honours papers were being affected because of frequent tests in other subjects.
The university had in July introduced interdisciplinary combination of honours and elective papers. A honours student studies 10 elective papers. A student with a science subject as honours has to choose at least two arts subjects as elective. Arts honours students do the opposite.
Fifteen marks were allotted for internal assessment in each elective paper of 50 marks. Students alleged that some departments were holding too many tests — including project work, viva and lab-based practical exam — as part of the internal assessment.
The promptness with which the university withdrew its decision under pressure from students has raised questions about the authorities’ firmness.
Many teachers felt such backtracking has set a bad precedent. “Even if the demands were legitimate they should have been routed through proper channel. The students should have taken up the matter with the department heads and the deans of science and arts. If such attempts failed, they could have brought the issue to the notice of the VC. But the students straightaway decided to gherao the VC, following in the footsteps of their counterparts at Calcutta and Jadavpur universities,” said a teacher.
The gherao was lifted only after Sarkar accepted the students’ demands. The dean of student affairs at Presidency, Deboshruti Roychowdhury, and the controller of examinations, Debojyoti Konar, were also kept confined in the VC’s room.
“Under the system they had tried to introduce there would have been 2 or 3-mark tests every week. There was no central guideline with some departments holding no tests at all. The course could not be completed following too much stress on exam,” said English honours student Soumyarup Bhattacharya.
The university authorities had left it to the departments to decide how they would hold the internal tests. An official admitted that some departments had laid too much stress on exams instead of ensuring that the students learnt the subjects well.
“As we don’t have boards of studies unlike other universities, we left it to the departments to hold the tests. But some of the departments focussed too much on exams. Therefore, the VC had to accept the students’ demands. Now there would be a central guideline on the tests,” said a university official
The students also demanded that they be not forced to take at least two elective papers from the other stream. A Presidency official said the council would discuss the issue.