Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) has been caught in the middle due to its decision to implement the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) in 20 programmes for the 2023-2024 academic session.
While the University Grants Commission (UGC) wants JMI to apply CUET across all subjects, majority of students are fearing the loss of its identity as minority institution. They also fear that it will adversely impact the marginalised and underprivileged students and affect many deserving students.
“Last year, as CUET was implemented, we saw that many students were not able to fill their forms properly and later could not take admission to the desired colleges and universities. Mostly, students from rural areas were affected. Now, UGC is forcing JMI to adopt CUET which is not good for the institution as this is a minority institution. It (implementation of CUET) will change its current status and make the minority feel alienated,” says Ajmal Syed, an undergraduate student in Political Science at JMI.
“The UGC has said that CUET will not affect the students or the reservation quota there but many students who are filling forms are not able to see option for reservations like those for Muslim women. They want to destroy the minority status of JMI. Elimination, not admission is the real motive here,” says Syed.
While most of the central universities have adopted CUET for the upcoming academic session, JMI has decided not to use CUET for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate programmes except in 20 courses. It has cited lack of time to change university’s rules as the reason for the decision.
Recently, UGC had requested JMI to begin using CUET in all courses from the 2023–2024 academic year.
In response to the letter from UGC, the university wrote that it will not implement CUET for undergraduate programmes since it needs time to modify its admission policies.
The university has stated that it would accept applications for only 20 courses through CUET – 15 of them are undergraduate courses and five are postgraduate courses.
JMI offers admission to several programmes on merit, which is determined by an entrance exam administered by the institution. The exam is followed by an interview and/or other components.
Ever since CUET was implemented by UGC, it has witnessed backlash and protests from various students and stakeholders in other universities too.
Students, who say that it was forcefully imposed without being discussed, have raised concerns over the adverse impact of CUET.
The students claim that there are no proper guidelines and structure given to them which could have eased the process for them for better understanding. They also say that it will exclude the marginalised and underprivileged instead of including them.
In Jamia’s case, it is not only the lack of information regarding CUET, but also fear that it may force the university to lose its identity as minority institution.
EDUCATION FOR PRIVILEGED
The students are also wary of the rise of coaching mafia following the implementation of CUET. They claim that most students are forced to go to these coaching institutes where they have to pay hefty amounts besides the fees at the university.
Waqar, a postgraduate student at JMI, says, “Students from underprivileged backgrounds want to come to JMI as it has a lower fee structure in comparison to other institutions. But now the situation is such that the students are forced to go to coaching institutes and the fees over there are high and beyond expectations.”
Waqar adds, “Parents, who cannot afford hefty charges [of coaching] are compelled to force their children to discontinue their education and bury their dreams. This should not happen. As I come from a poor family, I know how I have managed to come here. I oppose CUET as it will lead to commercialisation and centralisation.”
Saurabh Tripathi, a PhD student in the Hindi department at JMI says, “According to CUET, only the privileged will determine the type of education they want to pursue and the college they want to attend. The CUET exam will disqualify candidates from state boards and other smaller boards because of the exam’s extensive syllabus, the skills it requires from candidates, and the use of the NCERT syllabus as the benchmark for Section III.”
The privileged have access to more facilities and resources and will get what they want. As an example, he says that it is usually students from the urban, English-speaking backgrounds who pass NEET (medical) and JEE (engineering) exams.
“A centralised common exam will continue to strain students from rural and marginalised backgrounds because all the existing inequities in different levels of education have not yet been addressed,” he adds before talking how much of a negative impact reliance on coaching institutes can have.
“CUET reduces and/or takes away the choice to change one’s stream after 12th. The inequalities will get amplified with loot by the coaching institutes. The additional burden of a vast syllabus will be big especially for students wanting to get admitted this year but who had no clue of such an exam until now.”
According to him, CUET will consist of two sections of languages chosen by the students, one section of six domain specific subjects chosen by students, and another one section of a general test with questions on general knowledge, current affairs, mathematical reasoning, logical and analytical reasoning among others. It is stated that these choices have to be made as per the requirements of the universities.
“For increased chances of getting admission, a student may have to undergo rigorous preparation in as many as nine courses, even if we club the general test as one course,” says Saurabh.
“When opportunities are so disparate, the country needs common and equal access to education for all, not common tests to eliminate. Instead of imposing a ‘common entrance test’, why isn’t the government committing to the ‘common school system’ that educationists have been demanding for decades? Instead of inventing new tricks of elimination like CUET, the government should increase the number of seats and courses available in colleges and universities to accommodate an increasing number of students seeking higher education,” says Tripathi.
He sums it up by saying that the CUET favours those from the privileged background.
“To summarise, CUET is a component of the education push-out policy, which the Modi government refers to as National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The more privileged one is – socially, regionally, caste-class-wise, and gender-wise, the better are one’s chances of getting into one’s desired college or university,” concludes Tripathi.
A faculty member at JMI on condition of anonymity says, “Even if we are forced to implement it, we cannot do it for a long time. If the CUET is being implemented, then there should be a proper guideline and blueprint.”
JMI officials Patriot spoke to said that since admission to some courses is handled through interviews, the Executive Council, which is the top decision-making body of the university has decided that CUET cannot be implemented this year.
“We will accept admission through the CUET for courses where interviews are not necessary and the university has no intention to fully integrate CUET even starting with the upcoming academic year.”
THOSE IN FAVOUR
There are, however, some students who favour implementation of CUET in JMI as they say it will provide the students with a proper way and force them to work hard in competitive exams and excel in life. It will also help them in becoming competitive and sharp-minded.
Rahul Tyagi, an undergraduate student at JMI said, “As JMI has opted for 20 courses particularly for CUET, it will enhance competition and develop competitive skills in students. The pattern CUET follows will allow deserving students to be enrolled in the desired courses and there will be fewer chances of partiality in it.”
“I, as a student, want this kind of exam because I feel there is transparency in this. Some students do not want it. But I feel UGC has taken the right decision by introducing it. It will improve our education sector. There will be the proper procedure followed during the admission process. I do not feel there is any point in opposing it.”