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NEW DELHI : The human resource development (HRD) ministry will meet state education secretaries this week to sort out differences over conducting mandatory final-year and final-semester exams, with the apex education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) refusing to accept unilateral decisions by state governments to scrap these exams against its directives.

“Few states are not following protocol and announcing cancellation of exams at colleges and universities. What they are ignoring is that a degree without UGC approval does not mean anything. It’s there in the UGC Act, and it’s binding. They are putting students’ future at risk and creating confusion," said an official, requesting anonymity.

The UGC guidelines are mandatory and, as of now, there is no going back, said the official, adding that the states’ position on cancelling exams may not stand legal scrutiny.

“The HRD ministry will meet state education secretaries, and possibly the health authorities this week, and find out their problems. When we sought feedback from states and experts on exams before the UGC issued the guidelines recently, some 70% said exams will be beneficial and should be conducted," he added.

While Delhi and West Bengal have openly said they are not conducting final exams due to the covid-19 crisis, and have supported devising a mechanism to graduate bachelor and masters students through an internal assessment or past performances, at least four others, including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, have told the HRD ministry about their reservations on mandatory exam rules, another official said, requesting anonymity.

“The UGC guidelines are not asking colleges and universities to hold exams now. It has given them time till September-end. It is also not mandating classroom exams, and has advised to adopt from all options—classroom exams wherever possible, online exams and a mix of online and offline. Where is the motive in putting students’ life at risk?" the official questioned, adding that even the UGC guidelines highlighted instances of foreign universities adopting an online and home examination system.

On Saturday, Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia said state universities were directed to come up with “a set of parameters for evaluation on the basis of students’ past performances" and award them degrees. While Delhi is home to seven central universities, eight universities function under the state government. CM Arvind Kejriwal also wrote to the Prime Minister requesting him to cancel exams at the central universities. Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, too, has written to PM Narendra Modi to cancel final-year exams.

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