Admissions are now based only on an interview, which could be detrimental to students from the backward classes who do not speak English well. The high court has stayed the admission process until August 10.
The Central University of Gujarat (CUG) has become the latest central university to find itself in the eye of a controversy involving students from the backward classes. Midway through its admission process for the M.Phil with Ph.D courses, the university has abandoned the equal weightage granted for the written examination and has decided to proceed with admissions on the basis of interviews alone – much to the detriment of backward class students, especially those from rural areas, who were relying more the objective written test to secure a seat.
The issue came to light when a student, Kalyani Ramchandra Pradhan, approached the Gujarat high court against the university changing its admission process after the written examinations had been held.
Pradhan raised a grievance about the criteria adopted for the admission to the M.Phil with Ph.D courses and submitted that while the selection, the results of which were announced on July 23, was done on the basis of only the viva voce test, it was originally stated in the prospectus that candidates would be selected for admission on the basis of an entrance test and interview.
The entrance exam was held on June 26, until which time the criteria prescribed for preparation of the merit list was the result of the entrance test and interview. However, a circular was issued on July 1, wherein it was stated that only the marks obtained in viva voce would be considered for the purpose of selection.
In light of these arguments, the high court had on August 1 noted that ‘a strong prima facie cases for notice as well as ad-interim direction is made out’ and directed that till the next date of hearing, August 10, the admissions shall not be finalised.
Speaking to The Wire after the court order, Pradhan said the university had not yet released a waiting list. But she insisted that the manner in which the selections were made was detrimental to the interests of the students from a rural background or from the backward classes as many of them cannot speak English well.
She also highlighted the confusion over the number of seats available. “There were initially supposed to be seven seats of which four were reserved for SC, ST and OBC candidates, while three were general. But later one more seat was added. However, there is still confusion about what kind of representation has been given to which categories.”
Elaborating on how the change in criteria would hamper the prospects of the students from the reserved categories, Pradhan said most of these students are “relatively better at written examination and hence are likely to do well in the written test for CUG while many of them may have performed poorly in the interview due to their limitation of English language or articulation. Such meritorious but deprived students must have been adversely affected in the admission process due to this changed criteria of merit list preparation, which was purely based on interview.”
Moreover, she said, the written test, with multiple type questions, involved objective evaluation whereas evaluations based on the interview were subjective. “Removing objective evaluation while preparing the merit list for admission into M.Phil-Ph.D. while entirely relying on subjective evaluation implies students from SC, ST, OBC and those from rural India are compelled to face greater risk of arbitrariness and bias,” Pradhan insisted.
Pradhan also noted that even when it came to arriving at a cut off mark in the written examination to choose who proceeds to the interview round, the score was set at 40 for both general and OBC candidates, which, she said, was contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court. “The University Grants Commission also treats SC, ST and OBCs equally as far as relaxation from cut-off marks are concerned while prescribing eligibility for the UGC-NET examination or for teaching position. This is because SC, ST and OBCs come from similar social and deprived background. Therefore, not inviting OBC students securing marks 35-39 in the written test for interview has deprived an unknown number of Indian students from the opportunity of attending the interview and getting an equal chance to compete for admission,” she said.
Stating that 797 applications had been received by the university for the M.Phil.-Ph.D. programmes during 2016-17, Pradhan said since students from all over the country had applied for admission it was essential that the process remained fair and transparent, and provided equal opportunity to students from all sections of society. However, she said, the policy adopted by the university had discriminated against the disadvantaged sections.
Besides filing a case in the high court, Pradhan has also written to the university’s liaison officer on matters related to the other backward castes and made representations to the human resource development ministry and the UGC.
In response to The Wire‘s questionnaire, assistant registrar Mukesh Parmar responded on behalf of the vice chancellor, saying: “The university has the admission committee comprising deans, chairperson and faculty members of various schools and centres of the university. The university has not changed any criteria of the admissions as notified. However, the admission committee issues guidelines at various stages of admission process to the respective schools and centres from time to time.”
He added that “admission to persons with disabilities (PwD) and Kashmiri migrants are considered over and above the quota to be filled wherever they have applied and hence the eighth seat in this centre is for PwD,” and said that he was unable to provide any other details as the matter is in court.