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New Delhi: The debut edition of the CUET-UG examination, a major education sector reform that will alter the admission process in central universities, kicked off on Friday, July 15 amid complaints by harried students about last-minute change of exam centres, long commute and lengthy question papers.
According to University Grants Commission (UGC) officials, both slots on Friday recorded at least 85 per cent attendance.
With 14.9 lakh registrations, the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), the common gateway for undergraduate admissions in all central universities, is now the second-biggest entrance exam in the country, surpassing the JEE-Main’s average registration of nine lakh.
The NEET-UG is the biggest entrance test in India with an average of 18 lakh registrations.
Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the CUET is a step in the right direction and any challenge will be resolved at the earliest.
“CUET is a step in the right direction towards quality and standardisation. Any remaining challenge in CUET will be resolved at the earliest,” he said.
UGC chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar took to Twitter to encourage the students, who were gripped by anxiety over a delayed delivery of admit cards and a packed examination schedule.
“All set to start the first CUET at 9.00 am. Best wishes to all the students who are writing CUET,” Kumar tweeted.
Compounding the problems of the students was a last-minute change of centres, which resulted in many missing the test, prompting officials to assure that they will get another chance in the second phase of the CUET in August.
The examination at two centres in West Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri and Punjab’s Pathankot was cancelled due to technical issues. The students who were supposed to take the examination at these centres will also get a second chance to realise their dream of studying in a central university.
“Over 190 candidates who were to appear at the two centres will now be allowed to appear in the second phase in August. At other centres, the candidates who could not appear due to changes in exam centres will also get another chance,” a senior official of the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts the examination, said.
Some who took the test in Delhi in the morning slot said the questions were not difficult but the papers were a bit lengthy.
But 18-year-old Anchal was dejected and downcast. Standing outside the examination centre at the tree-lined North Campus, home to reputed institutions like St Stephen’s College, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Hindu College and Miranda House, she said she was allotted a centre in Dwarka. But when she reached there, she was not allowed in.
“I was informed that my centre was changed. I panicked and had no idea what to do. After a two-hour journey, when we finally reached the North Campus, they told us that the time for entering the exam centre has passed,” she said with a plaintive sigh.
“I rushed to the North Campus but was not allowed entry because the time was over. This is wrong. Our whole future hangs in balance,” Anchal said, visibly tired of running around.
Some aspirants, who came from faraway corners of the national capital, said it took them around an hour and a half to reach the centre.
Long queues of aspirants could be seen outside the examination centres. Books in hand, many were doing last-minute revisions for the exam that will transform the way undergraduate admissions are conducted in the country, especially at popular central universities like the Delhi University, where the Class-12 results were the deciding factor.
There were allegations that students from state boards that gave liberal marks secured admission to reputed colleges without having the required merit.
The CUET will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will be held in July and the second in August. The candidates who have opted for Physics, Chemistry or Biology have been assigned the second phase of the CUET, given that the NEET-UG 2022 for admissions to MBBS and BDS colleges will be held on July 17.
The UGC chief had said in March that the CUET scores, and not the Class 12 marks, will determine the admissions to 45 central universities, which can fix their minimum eligibility criteria.
Kumar had clarified that students from state boards will not be at a disadvantage under the new system and the exam will not give a push to the coaching centre culture.
A total of 44 central universities, 12 state universities, 11 deemed universities and 19 private universities have applied for participating in the first edition of the CUET-UG for the 2022-23 academic session.
The UGC had, on Wednesday, asked the universities to fix the deadlines for admissions to undergraduate courses only after the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) declared the Class-12 exam results.
Noting that some universities have already started the admission process, the UGC had said this will lead to the CBSE students being deprived of seats in these institutes.