Uncertainty over Final year college exams in Maharashtra – who is the final decision maker?

On May 31, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, in a webcast announced scrapping of all final-year exams and that final-year results would be announced on the basis of aggregate marks scored by the student in the past semesters. Those students who feel they can perform better can do so by appearing for exams that will be held in the winter exam session (October-November 2020). However his announcement was met with several objections.The


Governor of Maharashtra is the chancellor of all state universities, including agricultural, non-agricultural, technical and medical, and is authorised to make decisions for the universities in consultation with the vice-chancellors and elected members of universities’ academic and management councils. All state universities are autonomous institutions and are not governed by the government. While the state government can ask queries or make suggestions, it cannot decide on behalf of universities. This is also why many stakeholders have criticised the government’s move of making decisions on behalf of universities and interfering in academic matters.


Currently, the state law and judiciary department is exploring the possibility of cancelling all final-year exams across all stream. No final decision has still been made as different colleges are governed by different councils at the central level. Medical colleges are liable to instructions by Medical Council of India (MCI), pharmacy colleges by Pharmacy Council of India, architecture colleges by Council of Architecture, engineering colleges by All India Council of Technical Education and law colleges by Bar Council of India.


Till date, MCI and Council of Architecture and Bar Council of India have advised colleges in favour of conducting online exams. Some councils have pointed out that not conducting examinations could violate respective Acts that they adhere to. This could mean that all final-year students, who are cleared without exams, may not be recognised by these councils, and these councils may decline to register them as architects, doctors or lawyers under them. Sources said that the state, in this case, may invoke Disaster Management Act, 2005 to supersede decisions made by the councils.


Medical students are liable to follow the guidelines set by Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, which in turn is governed by MCI. As per recent guidelines, MCI has asked all universities to conduct final-year examinations for medical students of graduate and postgraduate courses. MUHS will conduct the final year exams between July 16 to July 17, 2020. The time table for written and practical exams is uploaded on the official site of MUHS at muhs.ac.in. Along with the time table, the varsity has also uploaded the guidelines to be followed during exams.


In the first week of April, Minister of Higher and Technical Education Uday Samant had set up a state-level committee under Mumbai University Vice-Chancellor. The committee recommended that the final-year exams should be conducted between July 1 and July 31. Later the Yuva Sena demanded cancellation of final exams and the minister wrote to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to  request for cancellation of final-year university exams. After this, another meeting was convened between Uddhav Thackeray and V-Cs of all universities. The government decided otherwise, and announced scrapping all final-year exams. The CM was criticised by the Governor for not consulting him. Minister of Medical Education Amit Deshmukh, meanwhile, met the Governor and got approved a plan for holding exams for medical students.


Arguments against of holding final-year exams
* The state of their mental health due to the pandemic
* Lack of resources such as Internet and laptops
* Lack of access to libraries and mentorship
* Personal financial problems due to the pandemic
* The glaring digital divide in society will further cause distress to underprivileged students


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