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New Delhi: The nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus scare has pushed back the start of academic sessions in universities across the country, which will now begin in September 2020.
It is one of the recommendations made by a seven-member committee set up by the University Grants Commission so as to give recommendations on the start of the new academic calendar and conduct of higher education examinations across the country.
The panel in its recommendations suggested that the academic sessions should be started two months late.
The expert panel pointed out that the examinations could not be held as per the earlier schedule due to the lockdown. So, it suggested, the examinations at the end of the course or semester should now be held in July.
It is pertinent to mention here that the schools, colleges and universities across India have been shut since March 15.
The UGC will now plan the academic calendar and issue necessary guidelines for the coming session on the basis of the panel's recommendations.
Once the UGC gives the go-ahead to the recommendations, the government will have to adopt legal course of action to push back the last date of admissions to medical and technical institutions.
In normal course, the last date for admissions to engineering institutions is August 15 and for medical colleges August 31.
Two committees were constituted by the UGC to look into the issues of academic loss and online education in the wake of the lockdown in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the committees led by Haryana University Vice-Chancellor RC Kuhad was formed to look into the ways of conducting exams in universities amid the lockdown and work on an alternate academic calendar. The second committee, to suggest measures to improve online education, was led by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) V-C Nageshwar Rao. Both the panels submitted their reports on Friday.
"One panel has recommended that the academic session be started from September than July. The second panel has suggested that universities should conduct online exams if they have the infrastructure and means or wait for the lockdown to get over and then decide a date for pen-and-paper examinations," a source said.
The UGC had also set up an experts committee headed by IGNOU Vice Chancellor Nageshwar Rao on online education. This panel is in favour of adopting online examinations in view of the educational infrastructure, the diverse range of higher education institutions and local influences.
According to HRD Ministry officials, the two reports will now be studied and official guidelines in this regard are expected to be notified by next week.
"It is not binding that all the recommendations will be accepted. After deliberating on the feasibility issues and keeping the situation in mind, guidelines will be issued," an official said.
Another hurdle in starting the academic session is the delay in conducting entrance examinations as well as the pending board exams, the panel has pointed out.
"As of now the plan is to conduct entrance examinations like NEET and JEE in June. But it is extremely important to keep reviewing the COVID-19 situation," the official said.
Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the Union government announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the outbreak. Later, a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24 which has now been extended till May 3.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has already announced that it will conduct pending board exams for only 29 subjects which are crucial for promotion and undergraduate admissions.
(With Agency Inputs)