With the last five years witnessing an unprecedented attacks at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) by the incumbent Vice Chancellor that included denial of promotions, denial of leaves, destruction of the academic structure, among others, JNUTA has now expressed their annoyance over the complete authority of National Testing Agency (NTA) for taking the responsibility of conducting entrance examinations at the varsity.
The statement from a report put forward by JNUTA highlighted that from 2019 onwards, the responsibility for conducting entrance examinations was handed over to the NTA. In 2019-20, while NTA was responsible only for conducting the online examinations, in 2020-21 complete control of the process was given over to the NTA ranging from preparing question papers, hosting exams, to declaring examination results.
It was also mentioned that the changeover was executed without any intensive consultation with the faculty of Centres and Schools of the university.
The association also brought into prominence that the shift to multiple choice based questions from essay type format for all students was another major concern.
This changeover by the NTA did not consider whether the new pattern of examination is actually useful for gauging interests and evaluating potential of students applying for an undergraduate degree or a Ph.D programme.
The previous mode not only had the option for those students, not so proficient in English, to write the entrance exams in their regional languages and gain access to JNU, but helped retain the diversity among the student population.
It was also learnt that the shift from old to new pattern of examination was done in violation
of procedures laid out in the statutes of the University. Even before the consideration of the matter by any University body, the VC had already committed himself to the shift by including it in the Tri-partite MoU signed with the UGC and the MHRD. Since then, the VC has been wilfully keeping the University’s faculty and the Centres out of any process of deliberation and discussion on the matter.
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In addition, till date, neither the Memorandum of Understanding nor the complete financial accounts for the two year period have been provided by both JNU and NTA to the RTI seeking details of their deal.
Till 2018, JNU conducted its own system of pen and paper based examination for its MPhil-PhD, master’s and bachelor’s programmes and charged a fee between Rs 250 and Rs 300 per subject for the entrance exams. University sources said that it had spent between Rs 2.5 crore and Rs 3 crore for holding the tests every year while making a surplus of Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
Whereas, NTA, after taking over full control for conducting the entrance exams, announced a hike on exam fee of Rs 800-900 per subject. However, student protests forced NTA to stick to the previous exam fees.
Former JNU students’ union president N. Sai Balaji said varsity officials had told him that the cost of holding the entrance tests has increased threefold after they were converted to an online-based system. Balaji also announced that JNU may be diverting its fellowship and hostel management funds to pay the NTA.
“Students entitled to the non-NET fellowship and the Merit-cum-Means Scholarship haven’t received their stipends for the past six months,” Balaji said.
“Our hunch is that JNU has diverted the fellowship funds to the NTA for the conduct of the entrance tests. This expenditure could have been avoided had JNU continued to conduct its own tests,” he noted.