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Students pay, literally, for MU errors

Monday, May 05, 2014

The spurt in re-evaluations in MU could warrant a case of deficiency in service in a Consumer Court if not a plea for outright contempt of Bombay High Court’s 2010 directions, writes Gajanan Khergamker

Mumbai University has been facing flak for mismanagement among other things for quite some time now. This time around, it’s for correction of exam papers across different streams.

An RTI application filed by activist Vihar Durve exposed Mumbai University’s apathy when it comes to correcting examination papers. According to data revealed by Mumbai University, one in four students who applied for re-evaluation in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 went on to clear exams. It was revealed, in 2012, 14,586 of the total 68,653 candidates who applied for re-evaluation were declared passed after re-evaluation of their papers. In a similar vein, in the first half of 2013, of the 43,256 students who applied for re-evaluation, 10,509 were cleared.

Much on the lines of re-evaluation, while in 2012, of the 912 who applied for re-totalling, 546 (almost up to 60 per cent) were declared passed. And, in 2013, of the 525 who applied for their marks to be counted again, 286 cleared the exam. 

A candidate gives his/her paper for re-evaluation when s/he feels that the marks awarded to him/her are not up to his/her expectations. So, the candidates applying for re-evaluations include those who have failed in the initial assessment of their papers i.e., those hoping to clear the exam after the re-evaluation and those who, despite passing, feel they deserve better marks than were awarded in the initial assessment.

And, even though separate data for both kinds of candidates is not available, it is believed that over 75 per cent of those who apply for re-evaluation do so to clear the examination.

The Mumbai University has been providing different reasons for this careless evaluation of students’ examination papers, year after year and there has been no improvement. But, fact remains that students have to pay for this, year after year. And, considering the number of students that clear the examination after the re-evaluation of their papers, the callous manner in which these papers are evaluated is evident.

Another problem that the students have had to deal with every time is the delay in declaration of re-evaluation results. Every year, a large number of students who fail in examinations apply for re-evaluation of their papers and almost every year, before the results of re-evaluation are declared, the re-examination for those who have failed, after the first attempt are scheduled.

Because of this, even those students who clear the exams after the re-evaluations are forced to give exams twice.  If the re-evaluation results are declared on time, the students who pass won’t have to give the exams twice. And, concurrently pay for the examinations twice either.

There have been times when the re-evaluation results have been declared just a couple of days before the re-examination or while the exams are in progress. 

Students have, over the past few years, expressed their dissent with the way the things are conducted at the university. Many also feel it is the fault of the examiners who don’t correct the papers properly and that, students shouldn’t have to suffer because of the examiners’ fault.

The university, on its part, maintains there is no provision to compensate students who pass their examinations after re-evaluation and retotaling of marks except for a refund of their examination fees. Students who apply for re-evaluation are charged Rs. 500 per paper and there is a separate fees of Rs 500 for re-examination.

One fails to understand the logic behind charging the student for the fault of the examiners erring while correcting the papers. If the examiner makes an error in awarding marks, instead of being compensated for the distress caused for having to go through the entire ordeal, the students are made to pay to get the proper evaluation of their exam papers. Shouldn’t correct evaluation be a rule and not the exception? Also, how can the Mumbai University charge the student for its own errors? The university has no provision of taking action against those erring professors or examiners who correct exam papers carelessly either. Now, that has to change.

Reportedly, Mumbai University registrar M.A. Khan said that, as an academician, he feels it is unfair to students to suffer for no fault of theirs. As a university official, however, he has to follow the rules.

“In my personal view, students suffer for no fault of theirs and if these students approach us with genuine cases, I will take personal interest in helping them. As of now, there is no provision to penalise erring professors or paper checkers. However, in cases of mass failure in paper checked by a particular teacher, we do initiate an inquiry and take appropriate action. However no such cases have come to light so far,” he reportedly said.

As per a university ordinance, the marks obtained after re-evaluation are to be included in the mark-sheet of the candidate, but the re-evaluation results are declared so late that the students are forced to attempt re-examinations.

In April last, over 6,500 law students who had appeared for their examination and had applied for re-evaluation of their papers were forced to sit for supplementary exams because the results of re-evaluations were not declared until the last moment. Results of the law exam conducted in November 2012 were declared in February 2013. The same month, 6,500 students applied for re-evaluation.

In November 2010, the Bombay High Court directed Mumbai University to declare re-evaluation results within 15 days of submission of applications. But, almost every year, in a clear contempt of the High Court’s order, the Mumbai University keeps delaying the declaration of results way after the 15-day deadline is over. Even the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994, states that the results must be declared within 30-45 days from the concluding date of the examinations. However, MU has repeatedly failed to declare results on time.

The Mumbai University, as a rule, still takes around two to three months to declare re-evaluation results, leaving the students in a quandary till the last minute as to whether they will have to appear for the supplementary exams or not. Students claim re-evaluation results are often declared after supplementary exams begin, resulting in loss of a year. For final year students who cannot apply for jobs without the final results, nor apply for further studies because of the pending results, this is a huge predicament.

Reportedly, this time around, many students sought help from MNS students’ wing and a delegation led by MNS members met the controller of examination to discuss the matter. Following this, the varsity declared results of 799 students just two days before the supplementary exam begun.

And, even though a delay in the declaration of exam results have been a consistent problem with Mumbai University, a Senate meeting held at the end of March revealed the University has no plan in place to deal with the problem. During the meeting, reportedly, the varsity administration attributed the delay to teachers going on long leaves immediately after examinations and not reporting for evaluation duty.

Reportedly, MU registrar Dr. M.A. Khan, however, assured the Senate members that measures were being taken for declaring results on time.

In 2008, Bombay High Court had asked the universities to fill all vacancies. A year later, the state had issued a GR asking colleges to do so by March 31, 2009. But the college managements appealed to the Supreme Court and got an extension until May 31, 2010.

After the extended deadline lapsed, the Supreme Court gave another six-month extension to all colleges in June 2010. However, as per the figures issued by MU in an RTI reply to in 2012, a total of 359 colleges affiliated to MU were functioning without full-time principals, with unsubstantiated reports of the figure notching 393 today.

There has been an increase in the number of students applying for re-evaluation. The number of applications submitted for re-evaluation for exams conducted in the first half of 2011 was 31,591, the number for same period in 2012 shot up to 41,498, and reached a yet-higher 43,256 for the corresponding period in 2013.

This increase in the number of students applying for re-evaluation indicates that students are not satisfied with results of paper correction by the University. And, more often than not, there is a significant change in the marks of maximum number of students who apply for re-evaluation. To make things worse, students applying for re-evaluation are charged Rs. 500 per paper. And, if there is found a significant change in the marks after the re-evaluation, which most of the times leads to students clearing the exams they were failed in, what is the rationale behind students being charged for it?

Shouldn’t the university be compensating the students for failing to correct the papers properly the first time, causing them additional stress? The students already pay a fee for the academic year which includes examination fees which implies that the exam papers will be corrected ‘properly,’ without any discrepancies from the examiners’ side.

Had it been a stray case, it could have been passed off as human error, but the increasing number of application for re-evaluation suggests that it is sheer carelessness on the part of examiners. And, the students shouldn’t have to pay a price for that, in every sense of the word. Probably a case of deficiency in service could hold good in a consumer court if not a plea for outright contempt of the Bombay High Court’s directions made in 2010.

With inputs from Prerna Pandey

University of uncertainty
Dilemma over results

University of Mumbai

Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured on this page

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