MUMBAI: Maharashtra on Thursday insisted it will clear lakhs of final year university students, including 3.9 lakh who have backlogs from previous semesters, without exams. Disregarding UGC guidelines mandating that states hold online/offline tests by September-end, higher education minister Uday Samant reiterated the MVA regime’s stand that exams cannot be held till then owing to the Covid outbreak.
To ensure the class of 2020 faces no difficulties in placements or further studies, he said no report card will reflect if “any special formula” was applied to pass the candidate or that exams were not taken in the final semester. The formula is: an average of all subjects in the semester in which the student failed to clear a particular paper will be the new score.

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The state has balked at the UGC diktat on exams because of logistical issues involved in holding it for lakhs of students in the midst of a pandemic. But the decision to do away with exams entirely cannot be the answer. Careers and future academic prospects are at stake. Maharashtra’s strategy must be in line with what is acceptable to higher education centres and recruiters across India. An exemption on the grounds that it has more Covid-19 cases than other states will not wash with regulators which have to certify students. The best way will be to stagger the schedule and hold exams when possible.

Plan to ‘pass’ students has experts worried; not our decision, say VCs
Maharashtra higher education minister Uday Samant has claimed that the formula evolved to clear backlogs of university students was put together by a group of vice chancellors. But a section of them told TOI that they had misgivings about it and expressed their resentment at being misrepresented by the government.

Under the proposed plan, an average of marks in all the subjects would be considered the final score in the failed subject. If the subject has an internal test, 50% from it too would be added. And if a student still does not make the cut, grace marks would be given. In case of no backlog, the final semester’s internal marks will be added to average of previous semester (first semester of 2019/20) scores.
However, experts said it may be tough for the 2020 batch to find jobs or acceptability in universities abroad without clearing exams — for one, regulatory bodies may not certify them, a point that’s been communicated to the government. Academics were taken aback by Samant’s claim that the decision was a unanimous one by vicechancellors and institutions heads who met on July 4.
Samant had outlined the state’s position earlier this week in a letter to Union minister for HRD Ramesh Pokhriyal, with a copy to Amit Shah. “Maharashtra is the worst affected state with more than two lakh cases confirmed cases so far,” it said as the reason for its inability to comply with UGC guidelines.
Samant showed recorded clips from a meeting held by VCs and other academicians to prove the point that they were aligned to the state’s position. However, one of them told TOI that the meeting was held before the UGC guidelines were out. “This is not right. We were asked if exams could be held in July. Also, we were given a strict mandate to draw up a formula to clear all ATKT students. Clippings shown during the press briefing make it look as if the VCs took all the decisions by themselves. We were forced into all this…” Former education minister Vinod Tawde said it was obvious that the government was using the vice-chancellors to further its own agenda.
About the ATKT plan, one vice-chancellor said, “There is a lot of irrationality to it. What if a student has remained absent? How many grace marks will you give? In fact, some students with backlogs may end up with a better score than those who have cleared all subjects without “special state treatment”. The state’s reluctance to conduct online exams has also raised questions. It has said it does not have the connectivity to do it across the state.
VCs feel the standing of their institutes is at stake due to the impasse. However, the Maharashtra Federation of University and College Teachers’ Union has asked the state not to budge. UGC guidelines are at variance with the grim reality in Maharashtra, it said. “We demand there should be no change in the decision,” said president Tapati Mukhopadhyay.
When asked about professional regulating bodies like the Architecture Council and Bar Council that refuse to grant practising licences to those not examined in the final year, Samant said he had written to them and was awaiting their reply.



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