Common University Entrance Test (CUET)

  • IASbaba
  • March 23, 2022
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Education

Common University Entrance Test (CUET)

Context: From the academic session 2022-23, admission to undergraduate programmes in all 45 central universities in the country will take place through a common entrance test.

How many students are enrolled at the undergraduate level in India?

  • Enrolment has been growing over the years. At undergraduate level, it has risen from 2.74 crore in 2015-16 to 3.06 crore in 2019-20
  • According to the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, out of 3.85 crore students enrolled in all levels of higher education in India
    • 3.06 crore, or 79.5%, were at the undergraduate level, followed by postgraduate, with 43.1 lakh students or 11.2%.
  • Course wise break up in 2019-20
    • 96.56 lakh students (47.1% male and 52.9% female) were in BA 
    • 47.55 lakh students (48.7% male, 51.3% female) were in BSc 
    • 41.6 lakh (51.2% male, 48.8% female) in BCom
    • 37.27 lakh (70.8% male, 29.2% female) in Engineering and technology 
    • 13.5 lakh (41.5% male, 59.5% female) in Medical courses
  • Diversity/ Equity in Higher Education Institutes (2019-20 AISHE report)
    • 14.7% belongs to SC
    • 5.6% to the Scheduled Tribes 
    • 37% to Other Backward Classes. 
    • 5.5% were Muslims while 2.3% belonged to other minority groups.
  • The number of class 12 candidates each year is over 1 crore. 

Situation in Central Universities 

  • 7.2 lakh students are studying in 48 central universities in 2019-20 out of which 5.4 lakh were pursuing undergraduate programmes 
  • Equity in Central Universities 
    • 13.73% belonged to the SCs
    • 4.5% to the STs
    • 17.9% to the OBCs
    • 8.41% were Muslims
  • Out of 19,366 sanctioned faculty positions in the central universities, 6,558 are vacant.

Is CUCET new?

  • CUET is not new. It had been launched as the Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET) in 2010 under the UPA-II government
  • However, it had failed to gather steam since only 14 central universities had adopted it until 2021.
  • CUET is a revamped version of CUCET and it’s now compulsory for all 45 central universities to adopt it.
  • CUCET has come after the announcement of the new National Education Policy (NEP), which advocates the need for an entrance test for university admissions.

Who will conduct CUET and what will be the pattern of exam?

  • The National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts entrance tests such as JEE (Main) and UGC-NET, will also conduct CUET for all central universities in the first week of July. 
  • It is a three-and-a-half-hour computer-based test that will be held in two shifts and can be taken in 13 languages 
  • It will only have multiple choice questions based on the content of NCERT textbooks.
  • CUET will essentially have three parts.
    • First part tests language which will consist reading comprehension, questions on vocabulary.
    • Second part of CUET is focused on testing a candidate’s domain-specific knowledge (27 domains on offer, student chooses at least one and max of six)
    • The third part will be a general test with questions on general knowledge, current affairs, general mental ability, numerical ability, quantitative reasoning. A candidate will appear only if its desired by the University of choice.
  • Even state, private and deemed-to-be universities are free to adopt the CUET
  • For now, admissions to postgraduate courses are not mandated to be held under any common entrance.
  • But unlike JEE (Main), there will be no common counselling for admission to central universities based on the CUET score. Each university is free to define its admission process based on the merit list prepared by the NTA. 
    • However, UGC chairman did not rule out joint counselling in future.

Why a common entrance test?

  • To replace multiple entrance tests with a single one so as to reduce the burden on higher education aspirants.
  • Students can opt to write the CUET in any of 13 languages, which levels the field significantly
  • Sky-high cut-off marks will now be history which was the case with certain reputable universities like Delhi University. 
  • A student’s Board marks will have no role in determining her admission to a college or a programme. It will be based only on her CUET score. This flattens out the differences in assessment practices across various boards. 
    • At best, colleges affiliated to central university can use Board marks as the minimum eligibility criteria for admission.
    • For skill-based courses that have major practical components, such as music, painting, sculpture and theatre, universities will be allowed to conduct practical exams or interviews along with CUET.
    • For professional programmes such as engineering and MBBS, central universities will admit through the entrance exams JEE (Main) and NEET respectively.

What are the concerns?

  • A lot will rest on the structure of the test, and the goals with which it is designed.
  • National Education Policy had suggested Common Entrance Test that checks conceptual understanding and the ability to apply knowledge and shall aim to eliminate the need for taking coaching for these exams. However, there are apprehensions that CUCET can be gamed by coaching industry.
  • The unreasonable cut-off must not be replaced by another test score.
  • Also, 12 years of schooling should not be completely disregarded in the admission process. The government and the school boards must find a way to give weightage to a child’s schooling career.
  • Finally, a single piece of reform must not obscure the larger, structural reasons for the crisis i.e. addressing the challenge of equality and quality in higher education.

Connecting the dots:

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