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A new confusion over arrear examinations

AICTE chief said in an email that the council may be “constrained” to withdraw the university’s approval if exams are not conducted

Published: 09th September 2020 05:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2020 05:08 AM   |  A+A-

EXPRESS ILLUSTRATION

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Will arrear exams be held for engineering students or not? Tuesday’s developments have left students and parents confused. While the State government, in the High Court, defended its decision to cancel the arrear examinations, the head of AICTE has threatened to withdraw the approval of varsities that do not hold the said examinations.

In an informal but strongly-worded communication sent to the Anna University on August 30, Anil Sahasrabuddhe, chairman of AICTE, had said the council may be “constrained to withdraw approval if exams are not conducted.” In the court, meanwhile, former vice-chancellor of Anna University, E Balaguruswamy, had filed a petition challenging the State’s decision to cancel the exam.

The chronology
Earlier, the government announced the cancellation of all semester exams for April-May 2020 except for the end-semester students. However, it did not mention the status of arrear examinations in any of its orders. On August 26, Higher Education Minister KP Anbalagan broached the topic. “The government wants to give a chance to all students by declaring all those who have applied to write as passed,” he said. “If they paid fees, it means they were prepared to write it but were stopped by circumstances.”

Anna univ risks losing approval with no-arrear idea

THE decision was welcomed by students, and soon gained political attention. While the cancellation of semester examinations sailed through smoothly, the decision to clear students with arrears received flak from educationists.  “The Government Order has been passed under the Disaster Management Act exercising the powers vested with the State Disaster Management Authority under the legislation,” argued Advocate-General Vijay Narayanan, representing the State government in court on Tuesday. 

“Even the apex court has upheld such rights and powers of the State authority under the Act if it does not conflict UGC guidelines.” On the other hand, advocate E Vijay Anand, representing the former V-C, said only universities have such powers. “The State government cannot interfere in these matters. The Supreme Court has held that the UGC is the ultimate authority in such issues. The UGC has advised the States only to promote the students while retaining their backlogs.

Arrears, as a result, cannot be cleared.”  Universities do not conduct exams and give results based on the ‘whims and fancies’ of students and politicians. “Universities are highly autonomous bodies and their syndicates, senates and academic councils have all powers and authority, and only they can decide about the conduct of exams and passing of results,” Balagurusamy had recently said in a statement. Vijay Anand argued further that if the decision of the Tamil Nadu government is not quashed, students across the country would claim cancelation of arrears as a right. Recording the submissions, a division bench of Justice M M Sundresh  and Justice R Hemalatha directed the State to file a detailed counter and adjourned the plea to September 30.

AICTE stance
The AICTE is the national-level apex advisory body to conduct a survey  on the facilities available for technical education and its approval is required by universities to run technical courses. Sahasrabuddhe, in his email, remarked that he found it surprising that final year students, who had failed in various courses in the earlier semesters, are being passed without conducting examinations. “This is not acceptable to award marks without conducting any examination and graduating the students. Such students will not be recognised by industry or by other universities for higher education,” he said.

While the State has defended its position in the court on Tuesday, in a telephonic conversation with Express on Tuesday morning, Sahasrabuddhe claimed to be informed otherwise. He said he had discussed the issue with the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu.  “He (Chief Secretary) also said that there is some misunderstanding...we are not waiving off exams for the failed students.

It is somehow a wrong interpretation by people based on the circular which was issued which was very clear that (said) all AICTE, UGC guidelines shall be followed,” he elaborated adding, “which means the exams will be undertaken.”  He further said that council will not be withdrawing the varsity’s approval if arrear exams are held. “How can someone with backlogs be  passed?” he wondered. Sahasrabuddhe further said that the remarks in the email will be meaningless if the State had not waived off the arrear exams.

No official letter yet
AICTE has not issued any official letter, it was an email, MK Surappa clarified to Express. When asked if Anna University issued any notification that waived off any arrear exam, Surappa said, “We have not issued any circular like that to students.” He did not want to comment further on the issue. Principal Secretary to the Higher Education Department S Apoorva was unavailable for comments through repeated calls. “We will follow whatever direction the court gives,” Higher Education Mminister KP Anbalagan told Express on telephone. Vice Chancellors of some varsities too have expressed the same position on the matter. 



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