Finally, a level-playing field for those seeking admission to UG courses?

In a path-breaking education reform,  the UGC has come up with a novel proposal to have a Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for admission in UG programs. The first  such test will be held in the first week of July, 2022,

As a truly remarkable path-breaking education reform to provide uniformity across various formats, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has come up with a novel proposal to have a Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for admission in Undergraduate programs.  The first-ever mandatory common entrance test for admission to Undergraduate programmes in all the 45 Central Universities will be held in the first week of July, 2022.

The CUET is aimed at providing a level playing field. For instance in top universities of the country, admission to undergraduate programmes saw 100 per cent cut-offs. The high cut-offs for admissions in college is not just unfair, but also a reason for many to leave the country and pursue their higher education abroad. Little doubt that the country is already losing out on so much talent because students go abroad for higher studies and the reason includes the high cut-offs which means even a person who has secured even 90 percent would not be able to get into a good college. Also it meant that if one could mug up the entire NCERT textbooks one could get over 90 per cent marks and as such Board exams were not really a measure of intelligence.

The Common University Entrance Test would be a computerised, multiple-choice exam and will be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). The application window for the examination will open in the first week of April.  The exam will be conducted in 13 languages namely Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Urdu, Assamese, Bengali, Punjabi, Odia and English. The UGC says that the CUET may also be adopted by the State or private university.  While the discussions are squarely on the Undergraduate students, these exams will also be used for Postgraduate entrances. But the CUET for PG level is not mandatory at least in 2022-23.

The UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar has observed that the introduction of the CUET is aimed at providing a level playing field for the students across the country and also at reducing the stress experienced by them due to lack of uniformity during admissions to the undergraduate courses.  “The introduction of Common University Entrance Test is a major student-friendly reform. The National Education Policy 2020 also advocates introducing such one national-level entrance exam,” he quipped. Apart from the eligibility criterion of different universities, Class 12 board examination marks will not have any bearing on the admission of the students. There are 45 central universities funded by the University Grants Commission.

Explaining how the move will bring uniformity, therefore reducing confusion, the UGC Chairman said, “If you look at the UG admissions across the country, not necessarily in Delhi, you see they use multiple methods. Some universities use +2 marks and some universities conduct entrance examinations and this is causing lot of stress and confusion in the minds of the students.”

“The idea behind introducing CUET is to provide a level playing ground to the students and also help them get rid of the stress they undergo during the UG admission process because they have to write multiple entrance examinations. When you consider the marks of the board exams, you see there’s a large of number of boards, lot of diversity in how they award the marks in the 12th standard. Therefore, it is not providing a level playing ground.”

A major advantage will be for those studying in their mother tongue or local language as this computer-based examination will be conducted in 13 languages.  The syllabus for the entrance test will be based on the NCERT-defined 12th standard syllabus.

Key points

  1. The new Common University Education Test (CUET) will take place in the first week of July when most of the Class 12 board exams would have been completed. The application process will be online and start in the first week of April.
  2. The exam will be a computer-based, multiple-choice test which will be easy in terms of technology, the UGC chairperson said.
  3. Students will now be able to focus more on learning rather than just trying to score the highest marks in class 12 exams.
  4. The entrance test, to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), is compulsory for all the central universities and the top education body is also asking all state, deemed-to-be, and private universities to use the test scores for admissions to undergraduate programmes across the country.
  5. The UGC Chairman says, “one nation, one entrance test”.  To do away with different kinds of entrance tests.
  6. Anyone who has passed class 12 exams is eligible to take the common entrance test.
  7. So, even though the universities will have to admit undergraduate students based on the common test, they are free to set a minimum benchmark for class 12 marks in deciding eligibility.
  8. The syllabus of the entrance test will be mirrored with the Class 12 model syllabus of the NCERT.
  9. The reservation policy of the universities will not be impacted due to the common test.


Mixed reactions

Those opposed to the introduction of the common entrance exam have pointed out that the CUET will be based on National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) syllabus, which is only followed by the CBSE, and will therefore not pose an equal opportunity to the students of other boards. Many pointed that before such a policy decision, stakeholders should have been consulted. They point out that students would skip Central Universities and choose private ones instead.

However, a cross section of students was of the view that the policy was in the interest of students because the common test would level everyone out and give all students a chance. No doubt, the UGC Chairman emphasises that CUET will reduce the mental stress related to the final board exam. Students will focus on the clarity of concepts rather than the reproduction of the textbook content. Admission criteria will be purely based on the understanding of the subject and knowledge gained.