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UGC issues guidelines to chart out Academic Calendar, conduct of exams in the wake of COVID-19 Lockdown

Rintu Mariam Biju

Based on the recommendations of an expert committee, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued advisory "Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities" in view of COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, to avoid academic loss during this time and in the interest of students.

The expert committee had interacted with the stakeholders such as Vice Chancellors of the Universities, Principals of Colleges and academia through various electronic means such as email, phone, Whatsapp, online meetings to formulate the above recommendations. The recommendations were later developed as guidelines by the UGC.

UGC, however, made it clear that the guidelines are only advisory in nature and that each University is at liberty to chart out its own plan of action keeping in mind the present pandemic situation.

These guidelines concern aspects such as the academic calendar, admissions, online teaching etc. and are intended to be flexibly adopted by Universities in a transparent manner.

The UGC adds that these may be adopted while taking into consideration factors such as the level of preparedness, residential status of students, the status of the COVID-19 spread in the particular region and the best interests of all stakeholders, “giving highest priority to health and safety of all concerned.”

The Guidelines issued include the following:

  • Universities may adopt simplified modes and methods of examinations such as MCQ/OMR based examinations, Open Book Examinations, Open Choices, Assignment/presentation based assignments etc. to complete the examination process within a shorter period in compliance with CBCS requirements as prescribed by UGC.

  • Exams may be cut short from 3 to 2 hours using innovative methods to ensure that there is no compromise in quality of evaluation, so that exams may be conducted in multiple shifts.

  • Exams may be conducted in offline/online mode, ensuring that social distancing is observed during its conduct.

  • All Universities examinations shall observe the norms of social distancing and ensure fair opportunity to all students.

  • For intermediate semester/ year students, the Universities may conduct examinations after making a comprehensive assessment of their level of preparedness, residential status of the students, status of COVID-19 pandemic spread in various regions, state and other factors.

  • In case the situation does not appear to be normal in view of COVID-19, in order to maintain "social distancing", safety and health of the students, grading of the students could be composite of 50% marks on the basis of internal marks and the remaining 50% may be awarded on the basis of marks of the previous semesters, if available. If the previous semester marks are not available, the grading made be based 100% on the internal marks. If the student wishes to improve grades, s/he may appear for special exams in the next semester. This provision is only for the intermediate semester exam during the present academic year (2019-2020).

  • The scheme of "carry forward" (for subjects in which the student has failed) will be allowed for the current academic year in the Universities and every student will be promoted to the next semester/ year. However, such students may clear the examination for the course in which he or she has failed/remained absent, whenever examination is held next.

  • Moreover, the students may be allowed to improve their grades by offering one additional opportunity to appear for the current semester in succeeding semesters.

  • The modalities for examinations and other related activities should be applied uniformly across all the courses in Universities. Further, the students shall be informed well in advance regarding such examinations and related activities.

  • On the point of minimum percentage of attendance for students, the period of lockdown may be treated as "deemed to be attended" by all students, research scholars.

  • The Universities may also adopt appropriate strategies for UG/PG students pursuing projects/desertation in view of the prevailing circumstances.

  • Universities may also conduct viva vice and practical examinations via skype or other meeting apps and in case of intermediate semesters, the practical examinations may be conducted during the ensuing semesters.

  • All universities shall establish a cell for handling student grievances related to examinations and academic activities during COVID-19 pandemic and notify the same to the students.

  • The UGC will establish a helpline for monitoring student grievances related to examinations and academic activities during COVID-19 pandemic.

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