Lakhs of students across India appear in various entrance exams for higher studies every year. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying restrictions have rattled the dreams many of these aspirants in the current academic year. While the pandemic continues to rage, the exams are being held without considering the hardships of the students, which are aggravated by the mismanagements from the side of concerned authorities.
The entrance exams for Pondicherry University are scheduled for September 18, 19 and 20. However, the Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET)- a joint entrance test for 14 central universities including Central University of Rajasthan, Central University of Kerala, Central University of Punjab along with others and four state universities across the country- is also scheduled for the same dates, September 18, 19 and 20.
With the dates of both these exams clashing, several hundreds of students stand to lose the chance for appearing either CUCET or Pondicherry University Entrance Exam.
“The CUCET exam for MSc Physics is scheduled on September 19. Pondicherry University’s entrance exam for MSc Physics is also being conducted on the same day. So I could not attend both the entrance exams,”Abhijith*, a student from Kozhikode in Kerala, told NewsClick.
“Entrance exam of both Pondicherry University and CUCET for MSc Chemistry is on September 20. If the administrations could reschedule the dates to avoid overlapping, many would have gotten chance to appear for both the exams,” he added.
Along with this, the exam centres allotted for students who are appearing for the Pondicherry University entrance exam are outside the state. Many students from Kerala have been allotted Bengaluru, or Coimbatore or Manglore as exam centres.
“I have applied for MCom Taxation and Accounting and my choices of exam centres were within the state. But when I got the admit card, I found out that I have been allotted Bengaluru as my exam centre. In a short notice, it is difficult for me to reach Bengaluru especially amid this pandemic situation,” said Basil*, while speaking to NewsClick.
Like Basil, many students have been allotted centres outside the state. Raising this issue, the students’ council in Pondicherry University has written to the Dean of Student’s Welfare. “Many have been sanctioned centres far away from their residences instead of their most preferred options. As COVID-19 pandemic is becoming severe in many areas, it will be extremely difficult and dangerous to travel long distances to attend the exam. Students should not be forced to undertake such a journey and centres should be allotted according to their preferences,” the letter said.
“Secondly, as per information in the prospectus, many students have applied for more than one course but in the admit card, the date and time slot are clashing. The information on the admit card is completely different from the information given in the university prospectus regarding dates,” the letter added.
Though the candidates have contacted the University admin in individual capacities, they have been informed that changes cannot be made to the allotted centres, claim the candidates.
Notably, the entrance exams for Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) campuses in Berhampur, Bhopal , Kolkata, Mohali, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram and Tirupati is also scheduled on September 18.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty over National Eligibility Test (NET) also continues. National Testing Agency (NTA) which conducts the NET exams had earlier declared that the exams would begin on September 16 and continue till September 22. Usually, the admit cards are released at least 15 days prior to the commencement of exam. But, NTA has not yet released the admit card for the exam which is slated to begin in two days.
Earlier, a similar delay in release of admit card had been witnessed for the ICAR UG exam. But the NTA had postponed the exams to September 16-22 from September 7 and 8. But the new ICAR dates clash with the UGC NET dates. This might make it difficult for the agency to maintain physical distancing and sanitisation protocol during COVID-19 pandemic if they proceed with the NET on the same day.
The chaos in the conduction of entrance exams during the pandemic is not new. The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) have recently been conducted amid protests from a large section of students.
Also read: Students Continue Protests Against NEET-JEE During COVID-19, Centre to Conduct Exam
JEE exam was conducted from September 1-6. Of the total over 8.58 lakh engineering aspirants, 74%- which comes to around 6.35 lakh- have appeared for the JEE exams, said the official data released by Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. This means that more than 2 lakh students could not attend the JEE exams.
On the other hand, of the total 15.97 lakh medical aspirants, 85% have appeared for the NEET exam which was conducted on September 13.
Meanwhile, the minister tweeted that the low attendance rate could be attributed to the JEE being held twice a year. “Several students who didn’t appear for the exam in September may have done well in the January exam hence did not feel the need to sit for the exam this time. We are ascertaining those numbers,” he had tweeted.
The exams, however, were conducted against the requests of aspirants across the country. Along with threats of the pandemic, the protesting students had pointed out that the students from flood-hit states including Bihar, Assam and Gujarat face difficulty to commute to the exam centres since the transportation facilities are limited. They had also pointed out that the internet restriction in Jammu and Kashmir is a hindrance for the students from that region.
(*Names of students have been changed to protect their identity)