Students who navigated admission processes pre and post-CUET share experience

In this third year of CUET, students shed light on the efficacy of this unified testing system
Students have several points to share | (Pic: EdexLive)
Students have several points to share | (Pic: EdexLive)

The Common University Entrance Test for postgraduate programs (CUET PG) gears up for its third iteration this year, introducing novel alterations, streamlined processes, and enriched features. Initially conceived to streamline the admission process, CUET PG provides a singular platform for aspiring students to apply for multiple central universities, mitigating the need for individual applications to each institution.

As the test prepares for its latest rendition, the pertinent question arises: does CUET PG effectively serve as the coveted one-stop solution it aspires to be?

In an exclusive conversation with EdexLive, candidates who navigated admission processes both pre- and post-CUET share their insights, shedding light on the efficacy of this unified testing system. Delving into their experiences, the aim is to discern whether candidates would opt for CUET over traditional admission routes, while also elucidating the merits and demerits of each approach from the vantage point of students.

“CUET simplifies the application process by condensing multiple university assessments into a single examination. However, post-examination, procedural complexities persist,” opines Subhransu Dash, a final year student of English Honours at Ravenshaw University, Odisha who appeared for CUET UG in 2021 and now, is going to appear for CUET PG.

He further elucidates, “In my estimation, the CUET syllabus mirrors a generalised structure akin to a truncated version of the University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET).” 

Echoing Dash’s sentiment, Akshara KP, who embarked on a Master of Science (MSc) in Applied Psychology at Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), Tamil Nadu, before the advent of CUET, commends the test’s systematic and transparent admission procedure, contrasting it with the prior labyrinthine process.

Commenting on their experiences with CUET, Abdul Wahab, currently enrolled in a Master of Arts (MA) program in Political Science at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow, underscores the transformative impact of CUET on the admission process. He asserts, “CUET has ushered in a newfound transparency that was previously absent in the system.” 

This sentiment is echoed by D Shiva Kumar, pursuing an MSc in Statistics at the University of Hyderabad, who highlights CUET’s role in alleviating the logistical challenges associated with applying to multiple universities. “CUET has significantly reduced the burden of individual applications and payments, a task that posed considerable challenges for students,” Kumar observes. 

Spreading its wings
As CUET PG extends its reach beyond central universities to encompass state and private institutions, divergent perspectives emerge regarding its implications. 

Akshara emphasises the potential benefits of this expansion, asserting, “Standardising the admission process across various institutions could offer students a more uniform experience, thereby enhancing transparency.” Echoing this sentiment, Shiva Kumar contends, “The broadening scope of CUET could foster a more equitable environment by standardising admission procedures, thus levelling the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds.”

However, amidst these optimistic outlooks, concerns regarding the practicalities of implementation and potential drawbacks surface. Shiva Kumar notes the importance of vigilant oversight to address any unforeseen challenges, particularly voicing apprehension about the possibility of local students facing disadvantage due to variations in syllabi across institutions.

Conversely, Subhransu and Abdul Wahab advocate for the preservation of state universities’ autonomy in their selection processes. Subhransu underscores the incongruity between the syllabi of central and state universities, contending, “The syllabus for central and state universities is not the same, therefore, I think one common test for all may not be suitable.” Abdul Wahab echoes this sentiment, expressing concern over the proliferation of coaching businesses catering to CUET preparation, potentially exacerbating disparities between privileged and underprivileged candidates.

“Moreover, the CUET system inherently favours candidates with access to coaching, granting them an advantage in larger universities. This risks further marginalising individuals from underprivileged backgrounds,” he emphasised. 

Challenges and suggestions
Students highlighted some key challenges accompanying the expansion of CUET, notably citing a deficiency in infrastructure and a consequent decline in enrolment due to inadequate hostel facilities. 

“In Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), more than 1,300 seats remained unfilled during the 2023-24 admission cycle due to infrastructure inadequacies,” claimed Abdul Wahab, underscoring the hurdles posed by CUET's expansion.

Furthermore, he advocated for the abolishment of separate fees charged by universities. This sentiment was echoed by Akshara and Shiva Kumar, who raised concerns over escalating fees and recommended their reduction. Akshara particularly highlighted the disparity in fee structures based on candidate categories and the additional charges incurred after the publication of the rank list, identifying it as a significant drawback.

“An observation I’ve made is that, for the primary CUET exam, candidates are charged fees based on their category. Subsequently, upon publication of the rank list, additional fees are required for applying to different universities. This, in my opinion, is a notable drawback,” said Akshara.

Reflecting on his personal experience, Abdul Wahab recalled, “Throughout the CUET PG admissions, I found myself having to make two payments — one for Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) and another for the registration. Contrastingly, in the previous process, we only made a single payment,” emphasising the need for streamlining payment processes. Shiva Kumar proposed the implementation of reservations for local residents, urging the National Testing Agency (NTA) to consider this aspect in CUET examinations.

Subhransu applauded the National Testing Agency’s decision to eliminate Paper-1 from the CUET. However, he suggested a modification in the exam format, proposing a combination of 50 objective and 50 subjective questions instead of solely objective ones. “With CUET, narrowing down the syllabus and studying becomes challenging. Take the subject of Literature, for example, which encompasses numerous subjective and theoretical aspects,” he said, stressing on the importance of maintaining fairness in competition by adhering strictly to the prescribed syllabus for question selection.

CUET or separate admission process
When questioned about their preferences between the CUET admission process and the separate admission procedures administered by universities, students offered varied viewpoints:

Akshara and Shiva Kumar voiced their preference for CUET, citing its systematic and standardised nature. Conversely, Subhransu and Abdul Wahab leaned towards the separate admission processes managed by individual universities.

Subhransu justified his stance, stating, “I favour university-specific processes because the previous edition of CUET exhibited numerous errors in questions, with grace marks being allotted to candidates in certain shifts. This discrepancy is absent in the separate admission processes conducted by universities.”

Abdul Wahab echoed this sentiment, emphasising the financial burden on candidates from marginalised and rural backgrounds, who may struggle to afford the cost of the test twice, thus posing a significant obstacle.

Furthermore, Abdul highlighted the advantage of clarity in preparation and university selection offered by separate admission processes, contrasting it with the potential confusion engendered by CUET’s broad application scope. He remarked, “With a separate admission process, applicants can deliberate on their preparation strategies and university choices. In contrast, the proliferation of CUET applicants introduces ambiguity, as candidates have the option to apply to multiple universities.” 

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