Published: 30th April 2020
UoH to follow UGC advisory on online teaching but to be empathetic to students' needs as well
UoH recently led a survey and found that most students on their campus had infrequent access to the internet, 18 percent of the students had no electricity access
The UGC has issued guidelines regarding semester examinations, academic calendar, entrance exams and the modes of teaching-learning and while not mandating it, has suggested that universities and colleges go online. However, the UGC has mentioned that they understand that many students don't have access to internet and that many campuses are not equipped with adequate IT infrastructure to handle effective e-learning.
Now, with the UGC's recommendations, the University of Hyderabad has said that their plan is to stagger the return of students and complete the semester in phases in a manner than is empathetic to the current situation of the students while also not compromising on the "high academic standards of the University'.
The University of Hyderabad (UOH) recently held a survey and found that most students on their campus had infrequent access to the internet and 18 percent of the students had also mentioned that they didn't have proper access to electricity either. Taking these constraints into consideration, the University had decided that they would not make any rushed decisions and would drop the idea of holding online exams for now but would come up with other contingency plans.
"Earlier, considering uneven access to the internet and other problems raised by the students, the university had taken a decision not to insist on online classes and only provide online academic support where possible. The University had also advanced the annual summer vacation for faculty members, which will now last until May 21," the administration said.
With regard to the UGC guidelines, the university said, "Taking note of the UGC Guidelines released yesterday on Examinations and Academic Calendar in Universities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the University's own internal committees appointed for the purpose have prepared contingency plans that give priority to research students working in experimental laboratories and the graduating batch of Masters students."
Research deadline dates extended
But as a central university, the administration has also taken into consideration that they have students from all over the country and most have gone back home, "The University is conscious of the fact that any resumption of the academic schedule must be preceded by lifting of the lockdown across the country so that students can travel back to Hyderabad."
The administration added in their statement that they had already decided to extend deadline for MPhil and PhD students as the UGC had recommended, "The last date for submission of applications for new admissions to all programmes has been extended to May 22. A technical sub-group of the university is also studying possibilities of conducting its nation-wide entrance examinations online this year.”
The university said that they would align their contingency plans with the spirit of the UGC guidelines, "The university has clarified that its attempt will be to align its contingency plans with the spirit of the UGC Guidelines that are, as the Commission has underlined, advisory in nature. A final decision will be taken keeping in mind the national as well as local contexts and the best interests of the students."
What next for students with no access to internet?
Many education activists, teachers and students' bodies have raised objection to online classes and examinations claiming that they are discriminatory to students from underprivileged backgrounds. Some activists have pointed out that even though the UGC has left it up to the institutes to decide whether or not the mode of examinations and classes will be online, there would still be discrimination, "The big, private institutes will immediately switch to online learning since they have the money. But government college students will be lagging behind and will have to wait to write their offline exams, while private college students would have already moved ahead. In employment, high education and any other prospects, the poor will be at a disadvantaged position," Prince Gajendra Babu, TN-based education activist said.
The University has said that they would finalise a modified academic calendar, including pending end-semester examinations and entrance exams for admitting new students to various programmes, after May 7 when the extended lockdown announced by the Telangana government ends.