Hyderabad: In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown, the University Grants Commission (UGC) committee, on 28 April, recommended a Common Admission Test at the national or state level for admissions to the undergraduate, postgraduate, and research programmes.
The UGC committee also recommended that the admission process start from 1 to 8 August. The universities have also been recommended to make the admissions to the UG and PG programmes for the session 2020-21 latest by 31 August. The committee also recommended the universities conduct provisional admissions if required. The last date for submission of relevant documents of the qualifying examination will be 30 September.
The committee suggested that all universities follow a six-day week pattern for the remaining session of 2019-20 and the new session of 2020-21 to make up for the lost academic days. The universities have been advised to conduct Ph.D. and M.Phil. viva voce through video conference using Google, Skype, Microsoft Technologies, or any other reliable and mutually convenient technology subject to the approval of the concerned statutory authority of the university in compliance of clause 9.6 to 9.9 of the UGC Regulations 2016.
The UGC had constituted a committee on 6 April to deliberate and make recommendations regarding issues related to examinations and academic calendar.
The committee discussed issues like minimum teaching days in a semester/year, existing modes of teaching-learning process, academic calendar of the universities for academic session 2019-20, and functioning of laboratories.
The committee perused the academic calendars of several universities, including Central, state, deemed, and private universities, so that uniform application of the recommendations is feasible. It also observed that most of the universities follow the semester system of education.
According to the committee, institutions of higher learning have completed the odd semester examinations during December 2019 and January 2020 and the results have been declared. Further, most of the institutions had already covered 60 to 70 per cent of the teaching-learning process for the ongoing even semester before the dispersal of classes on 16 March.
The committee report recommended, "The academic session 2020-21 shall commence from 1 August to 1 September for old/new students. Accordingly, the committee recommends following the academic calendar for the session 2020-21. The admission process should begin from 1 August to 8 August. Classes for the second and third-year students to begin from 1 August and the first semester for the fresh batch will begin from 1 September. The examinations will be conducted from 1 January to 25 January."
It further said, "The commencement of classes for even semester will begin from 27 January 2021, and classes will end on 25 May. Examinations for even semester will be conducted from 26 May to 25 June. The summer vacations to begin from 1 June to 30 June and the next academic session will commence from 2 August. The universities shall make admissions to the UG and PG programmes for the session 2020-21 latest by 8 August 2020."
After exhaustive discussions on the functioning of laboratories during the lockdown, the committee decided that the laboratories may be maintained by the research staff/teachers of the concerned departments on a rotation basis. However, the committee recommended the universities take appropriate decisions to allow Pls/Ph.D. scholars and post-doctoral fellows, with strict compliance of the guidelines and directives issued by the appropriate authorities and governments from time to time.
In view of the importance of social distancing, universities are recommended by the UGC to take necessary steps to ensure that the students are given exposure to laboratory assignments/ practical experiments through virtual laboratories, sharing of recorded visuals of laboratory work, and digital resources available for the purpose. The link provided by the ministry of human resource development for virtual laboratories to facilitate the students of science, engineering, and technology streams may be suitable for such purposes.
In order to overcome such challenges in the future, the faculty should be adequately trained to use ICT and online teaching tools so that they complete about 25 per cent of the syllabus through online and 75 per cent syllabus through face-to-face teaching.
Education expert G.V.K Reddy said, "Based on a cursory review of the proposal, it appears reasonable. The recommendations are guidelines only and respective universities can adjust them according to their local conditions and government orders. My guess is there will be challenges in implementing some of the recommendations, chiefly ones regarding online teaching. Overall there will be no major impact on the academic calendar, perhaps one month. We can make up for the lost academic days by adjusting the Dasara and Diwali holidays. Another big concern is about students who cannot attend online sessions during the current semester due to the unavailability of Internet facilities."
Dr Balakrishna Reddy, the president of Telangana Technical Institutions Employees Association(TTIEA), said, "Conducting practical exams through video call or Skype may not be a good idea. The student's physical presence is mandatory for practical examinations. So, colleges may be advised to conduct practicals in the next semester."
In view of the current scenario and future uncertainties, the committee gave universities the liberty to make alterations, additions, modifications, and amendments to the recommendations with the approval of competent statutory bodies/authorities to deal with a particular situation in the best interest of the students, educational institution, and the entire education system.