The University Grants Commission (UGC) has told the Supreme Court that the decision of the Delhi and Maharashtra governments to cancel the final term examination will "directly impact the standards of higher education in the country". It said that the UGC has taken the policy decision to conduct final year/ terminal semester examinations in the interest of students across the country after duly considering the prevailing situation of a pandemic.
"The UGC is the apex body for regulating the standards of higher education in the country, including the standards of examination," UGC added.
The UGC filed an affidavit on Delhi and Maharashtra governments' stand of not conducting the final term University exams. The affidavit was filed on a batch of pleas challenging UGC's July 6 circular and seeking cancellation of final term examination in view of COVID-19 situation.
Earlier, Delhi and Maharashtra governments' had told the top court that they have cancelled the examination in the states.
"The decision of state governments will directly impact the standards of higher education in the country, which the UGC is mandated to maintain," the UGC submitted.
The Supreme Court has scheduled the next hearing on this matter tomorrow. The Centre will submit its reply on whether states can issue orders contradicting UGC guidelines under the State Disaster Management Authority.
It added that in exercise of its powers under the UGC Act, the UGC first published the Guidelines dated April 29, 2020 which laid down a policy backed by statute that all higher education institutions must conduct final year/ terminal semester examinations so as "to protect the academic and career interests of students" while, at the same time, safeguarding their health.
"Subsequently, the UGC issued the Revised Guidelines dated July 6, 2020 which re-emphasised the need to conduct terminal/ final examinations, be it in the form of course-ending terminal semester examination or final annual examination, because it is a crucial step in the academic career of a student. Therefore, the UGC has issued such guidelines to protect the academic future of students across the country which will be irreparably damaged if their final year / terminal semester examinations are not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety," the affidavit of the UGC stated.
"The State's decision to cancel final year/ terminal semester examinations and graduate students without such examinations, encroaches on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education that is exclusively reserved for Parliament under Entry 66 of List I of Schedule VH of the Constitution. As such, the State Government's decision is contrary to the UGC's Guidelines which have been issued for maintaining the standards of higher education, and is void ab initio," the affidavit further stated.
The affidavit further added that the examination/ assessment process was actually completed by online mode in six out of the eight State universities/institutions in Delhi, despite the pandemic.
In any event, the UGC was conscious of the difficulties faced in the teaching-learning process while issuing the Guidelines of April 4 and the Revised Guidelines of July 6, 2020, it said.
The UGC said it has addressed the concerns relating to the evolving situation of the pandemic by providing sufficient time till the end of September 2020 to conduct the final year / terminal semester examinations after following the prescribed protocols and procedures relating to Covid-19; by giving sufficient flexibility to universities/ institutions to conduct such examinations in online, offline (pen and paper) or blended (online + offline) mode; and by providing for an examination through special chance for students who "for whatsoever the reason(s) may be" are unable to appear for the examinations conducted by a university/institution by end of September 2020.
The state governments have unilaterally chosen to cancel the final year/terminal semester examinations and graduate students using
"alternative assessment measures" in contravention of the UGC's Guidelines, even though it was required to hold such examinations in the interest of the students, it said.
(With ANI inputs)