The delay in conducting the maiden Central University Entrance Test (CUET) and lack of clarity on exam centres and admit cards have forced students to secure admission to private universities by paying hefty amounts that they might have to forfeit if they switch to a central university later.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) had announced that the exam would be held by the National Testing Agency (NTA) in the first week of July. However, the students came to know about their exam dates only on July 11. The CUET will be conducted from July 15 to August 20. The scores will be used for admission to undergraduate courses in the central universities except those in the Northeast.
Utkarsh Chauhan has secured admission to Shiv Nadar University’s (SNU) four-year BA-with-research course with sociology as the major subject. He will appear in four CUET exams, including general studies and a language paper, on August 5 and a fifth paper the next day.
“There are several concerns about the CUET. Science students will take the test in their subjects and may score better than students appearing in the humanities subjects. The scores obtained by the science students will be treated as they are for selection in case they want to pursue humanities. This will deny a level playing field,” Chauhan said.
In the admission process now followed by DU, the university deducts 2 to 3 per cent from the board scores of science students seeking admission to humanities programmes.
“I do not know how many questions will be set. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had deleted several chapters from the syllabus for the board examinations. There is no clarity whether questions will be set from these chapters in the CUET,” Chauhan said.
Given these uncertainties, Chauhan has secured admission to SNU paying Rs 1.25 lakh. He will have to pay a total of Rs 13 lakh in fees for the four-year course and hostel charges. He has reason to consider a switch of institutions: he wanted to major in psychology but SNU does not offer that subject.
“If I get psychology at (the Delhi government-run) Ambedkar University or a good college under DU, I will think about it. I’m not sure what I will do,” he said.
Another student, Suramya, said that studying at a public university provides a lot of experiential learning opportunities as one’s peers come from diverse backgrounds, but the scope for such experience is limited at private institutions. She will appear for the CUET on August 5.
“The CUET has left students confused. There is no information about my exam centre. I do not know when I will get my admit card. All these make students apply to private universities,” she said.
Suramya had applied to Ashoka University, O.P. Jindal University and SNU. She has secured admission to SNU.
“In the government system, there is uncertainty and delay. Private institutions are prompt in starting their academic sessions, holding exams and declaring results,” she said.
Zafar Habib, who has already secured admission to SNU, cited the delay in the conduct of the CUET as the main reason driving students to private institutions.
“Even today, there is no clarity when the CUET results will be declared and when the central universities will start the admission process. I have obtained admission to SNU to be safe. My first preference is a DU college like St Stephen’s or Hansraj. If I get admission offers from these colleges, I will leave SNU,” he said.
Habib and his friends have already paid the fees for one semester. The chances of a full refund appear remote as the admission process has got delayed at his preferred colleges.
According to UGC guidelines, if a student withdraws more than 15 days before the closure of the admission process, the institution can deduct up to 5 per cent of the admission fee paid by the student, subject to a maximum of Rs 5,000. If they withdraw within the last 15 days before the closure of the admission process, up to 10 per cent of the fees can be deducted.
Withdrawal within 15 days after the end of the admission process can invite a 20 per cent fee deduction, while withdrawal between the 16th and the 30th day can lead to a 50 per cent deduction. A student will not get any refund if they seek to pull out after 30 days have elapsed from the closure of the admission process.
However, the Shiv Nadar University said in a statement the students will be granted "full refund" if they opt to withdraw till 13th August, three days before the university’s session begins.
Abha Dev Habib, associate professor at Miranda House College under DU, said private institutions were benefiting immensely from the delay and uncertainty over the CUET.
“Such delay in an entrance exam can only benefit the private universities, which are free to admit the way they like. By the time the private universities complete the first semester, central universities like DU will just be finishing their admission process. It’s obvious that parents and students will not take so much risk and will go to private institutions,” she said.
Sudha Acharya, the principal of ITL Public School, said that students from poor families face a lot of hardship when they get to know about their test centres at the last moment because they have narrower options for means of transport. The norm is to inform students about test centres 15 days in advance, she said.
The Telegraph sent emails to the NTA and the education ministry asking about the delay in the CUET and the allegation of private institutions benefiting, but is yet to receive a response.
The University Grants Commission has asked varsities to fix their deadlines for admission to undergraduate courses only after the CBSE declares its Class XII results, UGC chairman Jagadesh Kumar said on Wednesday.
Noting that some universities had started their admission process even though the CBSE is yet to declare the Class XII results, Kumar said this would lead to the board’s students being deprived of seats at these institutions.
“The UGC has requested all higher educational institutes to fix the last date of their undergraduate admission process after declaration of Class XII results by the CBSE so that students get sufficient time for admission to undergraduate courses,” he said.
The CBSE is likely to declare the board exam results by July-end.
Additional reporting by PTI