DU’s absurd thresholds reflect systemic failure. Designing better admission methods

For several years now, admissions for undergraduate courses at the University of Delhi (DU) have seen remarkable cuts. For about 10 of the 94 courses at DU colleges, the first list threshold this year was 100% perfect.

Today, around 550 students from the Central Council for Secondary Education (CBSE) have achieved these high percentages. Assuming at least half of them are interested in studying engineering or medicine, or prefer an elite private university, or go to study abroad – and assuming all of those 94 courses have a minimum intake of 30 students each – an envelope calculation tells us that only 250 CBSE students would be eligible for admission to their preferred courses in the first list.

But the data also shows that over 700 Kerala Board of Higher Secondary Education students scored 100% on their class 12 exam. So it is no surprise that DU courses, especially with the 100% cut-offs, be filled with students of the Kerala board.

Let’s take an example. This year, for the Political Science (Honors) course at Hindu College, students had to achieve a perfect score of 100% on the jury exam. Of the 106 applications received on the first day, about 35 students from the general category, 63 students from other backward classes (OBC), four students from scheduled castes and four students from the economically weaker section (EWS) obtained a perfect score of 100%. This, while the department has about 45 sanctioned seats. Of these students, all but one were from the Kerala board.

There have been concerns about the absurdly high thresholds. However, these discussions often go in the direction of replacing the current admissions system with a pan-Indian competition. This, many believe, can create a level playing field for students from different boards.

What advocates of a national entrance examination fail to realize is the unequal nature and structure of secondary education in the country. Disparities in upper secondary curricula and variations in pedagogy at regional and local levels, coupled with widespread economic and social inequalities, suggest that the disadvantages of such a system would outweigh the supposed advantages.

It runs the risk of allowing entry only to students from elite schools and wealthy families. It also runs the risk of getting tangled up for free in federal disputes, as has been evident in the case of NEET exams for entry into medical schools. More importantly, a common entrance test also undermines the right of leading colleges to design innovative ways to assess potential students’ abilities against their inherent strengths.

Therefore, the only way forward is to design methods and policies that ensure a level playing field, reward merit and promote diversity. The current guidelines for admissions issued by DUs require colleges to admit all students who pass the limit within the allotted time. They also ask colleges to consider students in the reserved category as part of the general category in case they have the percentage stated for general students. This year, the Department of Political Science at Hindu College could have more than 150 students, as the department will need to exceed its authorized numbers to accommodate the mandatory numbers of reserved categories.

That is why admissions policies should involve experts in the formulation and execution of policies. Further examination of the applications received from Kerala Board students revealed that although their average score was 90-95% on their Class 11 exam, they all had a perfect score in Class 12. The DU’s admissions policy only takes into account the latter’s grades, notwithstanding the fact that many state councils report aggregate grades 11 and 12 as final results. If decision-makers had looked at past experiences, allowed some rational filters such as scaling or the need to obtain or arrive at equivalences between the results of different boards by designing algorithms for the same, some of them. its most prestigious colleges and courses might have succeeded in accommodating a diverse set of students.

Chandrachur Singh is Associate Professor of Political Science at Hindu College, University of Delhi

Opinions expressed are personal

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