Glitch-ridden CUET leaves out vast number of students in the cold

The decision to offer a last chance, a window of two days, to register online for the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) left students with no access to the Internet in the lurch

Glitch-ridden CUET leaves out vast number of students in the cold
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Furqan Qamar

Common University Entrance Test (CUET) is now a reality. CUET-UG commenced on 15 July and will go on until 20 August 2022.

All central universities must now admit students to undergraduate courses on the basis of the ranking and CUET scores from this year. Many have also agreed to admit students in their postgraduate courses too on the basis of CUET. Several private and deemed universities too have fallen in line.

Although the universities had a harrowing time planning and adjusting their academic calendars at short notice, the authorities were unconcerned. How does it matter if some students faced difficulties? These were only teething troubles. All big ideas do have them when implemented. Isn’t it?

Why must it worry us if millions of students aspiring to get admission to a decent programme in a decent institution felt hassled, pushed around and suffered anxiety over a prolonged period? It is all in the past and is over.

Students could download their admit cards at the eleventh hour to ensure enhanced security. The first day had many hiccups and was marred with chaos, cries, disappointments and dejections. Many reached their allotted examination centres only to be told that their centre had been changed, reportedly as far as 30-40 kilometres away.

As a kind gesture, the students were permitted in, even if they reached their centres half an hour late. Reportedly, 85 per cent of the candidates turned up on day one. The turnout declined sharply to about 74 per cent on day two.

Ruthlessness being the hallmark of decisive and efficient administrators, they lost no time to convey that no retest would be done; those who missed the exam missed the chance for good, at least for this year. Who has time to wonder if they would have felt the same way if the future of their own children were at stake?

It may not have occurred to them that many of the parents may not have cars or even bikes. They depend on public transport which is not known for speed or reliability. For an urban-centric, rich, and upper-middle-class worldview, it is well-nigh impossible to empathise with the plight of people with meagre means.

Had such concerns weighed heavily in the minds and hearts of people at the helm of the affairs, the common entrance test for admission to all undergraduate programmes would not have been thrust on universities. As suggested by NEP2020, they would have left the choice to universities. Even if they believed that people and institutions do not easily accept change and hence must be forced to follow, they could have taken a year to plan and execute better from the next academic session.

The online application process has been beset with repeated changes of critical import. Many courses offered by universities for admission were later withdrawn. The Delhi Technological University (DTU), which had agreed to participate in the CUET-UG took itself off.

Corrections were made in the information bulletin. New courses were added. Course codes were changed. Eligibility mappings were modified and all this happened after the CUET process had already begun. The rule of games was being changed after the match had already begun and was in progress.

What about those in the rural, remote and tribal areas who had difficulty accessing the net? By the time, the information reached them, the last window of opportunity had already closed.

A little reflection suggests that this decision benefited largely the urban netizens with unhindered access to devices, data and connectivity.

But guided by the belief in ‘Kal kare so Aaj Kar, Aaj Kare so ab’, they went ahead. They wasted no time announcing on 26 March 2022, that the online registration for CUET-UG would begin on 2 April and would close on 30 April 2022.


Submission of the application required students to upload their 12th class marks sheets and certificates, knowing fully well that many boards, including the central boards, would not be declaring the examination results by that time. No wonder, the deadline for filing the online application was extended many times from 30 April to 6 May, then to 22 May and then again to 31 May 2022.

Arguing that the CUET-UG was the only chance to get a seat in a central university, the National Testing Agency (NTA) gave yet another ‘last chance’ to apply. It announced on 22 June that the portal would be opened for the purpose from 9:00 AM on 23 June till midnight on 24 June 2022. By the 31 May deadline, 9.51 Lakh students had applied. This last chance of two-days enabled 5.4 lakh more students to apply. Consequently, the total number of applicants shot up to 14.90 lakh.

We must indeed be happy about them. They at least got the chance to appear in the entrance exam. But a little reflection suggests that this decision benefited largely the urban netizens with unhindered access to devices, data and connectivity. What about those in the rural, remote and tribal areas who had difficulty accessing the net? By the time, the information reached them, the last window of opportunity had already closed.

The online application process has been beset with repeated changes of critical import. Many courses offered by universities for admission were later withdrawn. The Delhi Technological University (DTU), which had agreed to participate in the CUET-UG took itself off.

Corrections were made in the information bulletin. New courses were added. Course codes were changed. Eligibility mappings were modified and all this happened after the CUET process had already begun. The rule of games was being changed after the match had already begun and was in progress.

Those who applied earlier did not know that there were more choices in terms of programmes, institutions and subject combinations. They were expected to visit the ‘Samarth’ website continuously and do necessary changes to their applications. Again, it was the poor and the deprived sections of the society living in the rural and remote areas who were short-changed. They were deprived of the equality of opportunity to even apply. They were made to cede in favour of the rich and better offs.

But why should we worry about them? They could access quality higher education online and through the proposed digital university. In any case, these modes have been visualised as means of promoting inclusion.Sigh.

(Furqan Qamar is a professor in the Faculty of Management Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, & former Advisor (Education) in the Planning Commission. Views are personal)

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