Delhi University (DU) will start classes for first-year students regardless of whether all rounds of allocating seats to candidates through its new admission process are completed, DU Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Singh told The Indian Express in an interview on Tuesday. He spoke about the details of the admission procedure and schedule, the huge task at hand for the university, and the confusion that CUET was mired in. Edited excerpts:
Q: Why has DU not issued a proper admission calendar this year? You have only launched the admission portal.
The first thing is that the (CUET) result is not declared. Now, NTA (National Testing Agency) has announced results will be declared on September 15. Suppose they don’t declare, then things will be shifted. So right now everything is dependent on the result (declaration) by NTA… If they announce the result by the 15th, then we will prepare our schedule accordingly but October 3 is the final date for registration. We will make a calendar after the registration process is over so that we also know the exact number of aspirants for the admissions.
Till the time the results are not out, students are also confused because we have to give them time to indicate their (programme and college) preferences. It is the first time (we are conducting admissions through CUET), there are so many combinations, and so much to do, students might feel troubled. Then we will open mid-entry… This is a new system, it will take time and our team is working very hard you know, for them also things are very new. It will take some time to stabilise.
Q: When will you open the mid-entry window? Will there be just one opportunity for this?
We will conduct mid-entry after the second round of (seat) allotment. Yes there will be just one opportunity for this, but if we feel many requests are coming in, we might open again. That is not a big issue. We have one rule, merit should not be compromised. So even if we open mid-entry, admission will be on the basis of merit.
Q: This system demands a lot from students in terms of knowing what the best preferences might be for them. So, do you think some kind of counselling is required for them?
Yes, we are planning open houses, we are planning workshops, and we are also planning to have an adequate number of help desks for the students. And we are also directing our colleges that they should also constitute a group of teachers to help the students. They will get maximum queries and they should entertain that.
Q: Why have you kept such a long window of 21 days for registrations?
Because we are not sure about the date of declaration of the result. Suppose, they declare the result on the 15th, then at least we should have 5 days to get the data (from NTA), and the result. Then we would process it also on our end.
Q: Will DU be preparing a merit list this year as opposed to cut-off lists prepared by colleges earlier?
We can prepare a merit list only when raw scores come from the NTA.
Q: But will DU be preparing centralised merit lists for all programmes?
Yes we will. We have grouped programmes which have the same eligiblity criteria (in terms of CUET scores required). Programmes which need CUET score of same domain subjects can have a common merit list.
Q: By same eligibility you mean DU programmes for which the CUET domain subjects are same?
Yes. Then we can have common merit. So one programme which needs CUET score in, say Physics, Chemistry and Maths and another which needs Physics Chemistry and Biology will have two spearate merit lists since their eligiblity subjects are not the same.
Q: So, colleges essentially are not involved in this? DU will prepare the merit list, release it, and even help colleges with the allotment.
We will allot seats, not help. After that the students will go to the respective colleges, they will check their documents, deposit fee and only then the seat will be confirmed. Allotments will be done by an algorithm based on the college and programme preferences indicated by the applicant.
Q: Would this centralised process become too unwieldy for the university to manage because earlier colleges took over after students finished registration? Colleges essentially released their cutoff lists.
We could have done it that way also, but then it would be difficult for students—they have to run from one college to another. Now, on the portal they will get their seat allotted as per their aspirations and choices. Then they have to go only to the designated college to get their seat confirmed. If they are not interested, they will fill in the upgrade choice and wait for the next round of counselling.
Q: Realistically, how many rounds of allotment do you think will be needed?
Four at least for sure. But if we feel there is a need and many seats are vacant, 5 to 6 rounds is also an option. But we can’t say right now… This is the first time, even we don’t know how many vacancies will be there. That will depend upon the admission to NEET and JEE also. Students from here shift there (medical and engineering colleges) also. But in any case, our fundamental principle is, that merit should not be compromised.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in rolling out the new admissions process this time?
The biggest challenge is students’ selection of (college and programme) preferences. If they do it very carefully and seriously it would be very good for them and they should select all possible options. If they take this casually, sit and fill it with their friends, fill 4-6 options and leave it, it will be very problematic for them. That might lead to chaos once seats are allotted.
Q: This year, you have said, that DU will admit 20 per cent “extra students” under unreserved and OBC categories and 30 per cent in the SC/ST category. DU has a problem of over-admission. Won’t this step exacerbate the problem?
Suppose there are 100 seats in unreserved category in Physics Honours at Miranda House. We are saying that we will admit 120 students to ensure that there are no vacancies because of withdrawals later. So, we won’t give vacancy for the second round for this programme. Till 20 seats are empty we won’t give vacancy.
Q: But over-admission is an issue…
That happened even earlier. We are just saying 20 seats. But vacancies are created. This is the fundamental principle of counselling. The vacancy will always come and more so in better colleges.
Q: You also have a very detailed tie-breaker for admissions. Did you anticipate a lot of ties will happen?
See, we have to do it through an algorithm so we have to give all the data… We are not doing it manually, that’s why.
Q: For the last 2 years, the academic calendar has been completely out of sync. Do you think this can be fixed in the next year?
Next year, we will be on time because there will not be any summer vacations for the first-year students.
Q: When do you think CUET needs to be held next year in order to start the session on time?
There should be two exams—one two weeks before the CBSE exams and one just after the CBSE exams.
Q: Coming to the format of the CUET exam, where one V-C has already said that she is not happy with the MCQ format…
I am very happy with everything.
Q: Does the MCQ format work well according to you?
Works for me. Works very well. It removes subjectivity, but if we can think of some better system we are ready to accept that also. As of today, this is the best system.
Q: After the recent High Court decision that ordered St. Stephen’s College to compulsorily admit students based only on CUET performance, has there been any communication between Stephen’s and DU?
There has been no communication… The recent decision is only on the 50 per cent non-minority seats. I think they should not go to the higher court. We are thinking of putting a caveat in the Supreme court. If we feel they are going only then, otherwise we also don’t want any hassle. We want to cool off the system.
But if required we will also tell the court to listen to our side also before giving the judgement. If the higher court stays the order then again there will be chaos in the system. Everything will be delayed. If they go to court and the court (the higher court) stays then it will be problematic. But I think they will not go…
Q: Do you think the number of subject choices offered under CUET needs to go down because there are over 50,000 combinations?
Then it will limit the opportunities for our students. Right now, we have the technology to help them, and support them. Let us see. We will analyse after the whole admission process, after the completion of the admission process. We will find the weak areas and rebuild the whole system.
Q: On the face of it, what do you think went wrong with CUET this year?
Technology failures. In some places, technical people were also not aware… And the centres were casual… This is the world’s biggest exam. You see the length and breadth of the whole thing. In so many languages also. But we should appreciate that. See NTA also, after all, they are also humans like us. They are not superhumans. I appreciate their efforts, although with so many difficulties, but that is inevitable for the first time.
Q: What is happening with postgraduate admissions? They are quite delayed.
Most probably, the entrance exam will start on September 26.
Q: And will DU join the CUET for PG programmes as well from next year?
It is on the cards but we are not very sure as yet.
Q Why did DU not join CUET PG this year?
Because we were very busy with undergraduate. We could not find time to think of PG. We were busy with admissions, implementation of the NEP (National Education Policy), with curriculum formulation. It did not become a matter of priority.
Q: What is the status of the B.Tech. programmes DU was supposed to introduce this year?
Our file is with the Ministry of Finance right now… If we get the approval of the finance ministry, we can get started after one or two months also. It can start in January, the first year will run late, that’s all. We are not ruling it out for this year, but we will not start anything without approval.