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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Admissions in Delhi University

While I normally write about admissions to Engineering colleges, this summer, being in Delhi, and reading all the Delhi newspapers, I realize that an average person in Delhi cares much less about IITs or Engineering admissions in general, and the real excitement is about admissions to Delhi University. So I tried to read up and find out about the issues and it appears that there are some serious issues there too, and the debate is unfortunately, not based on facts.

There is a fear in Delhi that next year, good colleges affiliated to Delhi University would not admit students who have done their 12th class from Delhi. Some people feel this is an exaggerated fear, that the Delhi Chief Minister is unnecessarily creating a big issue out of nothing, purely for political reasons. So let us understand where is this fear coming from.

In a recent blog article "The incredible unconstitutional admissions process in Delhi University" the author has pointed out that the TN board has more than 20,000 students who have got more than 97% marks. The total number of seats in Elite colleges affiliated to DU are about 2,000. So assuming that many students in TN are interested in seeking admission to elite colleges in Delhi, there would be no seat left for Delhi students, since the number of students in Delhi with above 97% is tiny. And we have not yet looked at number of students from other "liberal" boards like AP and Telangana.

Why is this problem being raised this year. Well, the story is that there is this one school in Erode, whose principal has been encouraging his students to apply to elite colleges affiliated to DU, particularly SRCC in the recent past and many students from that school were actually studying in SRCC. This year, his secret of success was leaked out and students from many schools have applied to SRCC. Here is one news article from Economic Times which says 80% of the students in SRCC are from Tamilnadu and some more from other states, with hardly any admissions of Delhi students.

The fear is that now that the cat is out of the bag, next year we can expect a large number of students from all the southern states to apply to all the elite colleges affiliated to DU and perhaps even the next best colleges, removing any chance of Delhi students to get admission in these colleges. And this will happen not because suddenly the south Indian students are academically better prepared than Delhi students, but because their boards are totally messed up.

I certainly believe that the fears are not exaggerated, and what is suggested in the previous paragraph is almost certain to happen, unless the admission process is changed.

In another related development, the media has detected that CBSE has been raising the marks of 12th class students by large amount in a completely arbitrary fashion. Here is a report in Economic Times. And here is my blog on the topic. Because of enhanced media scrutiny of CBSE, and the arbitrary way in which these marks have been increased so far, there is possibility that CBSE may go on backfoot, and don't increase so many marks next year, which will only increase the gap between Delhi students' marks and students of South Indian boards. And that is a perfect recipe for disaster.

Of course, one can argue that there is poetic justice in all this. For so many years, students from UP board, and Bihar board, and Rajasthan board and most eastern boards were not getting admissions in these elite colleges because CBSE was more liberal than many of these boards, and certainly one couldn't argue that in the past only Delhi students were smarter and students from other boards were not smart enough. But still, the kind of dominance that students of South Indian boards can unleash is unprecedented.

But this is where the issue becomes political. Delhi Government has demanded that either there be an admission test, or normalization of marks, or a preference/quota for Delhi students at least in colleges funded by Delhi taxpayers. Let us look at these options one by one.

Let us first look at the demand for admission test. Delhi University admits students to all the program it runs through its constituent departments through an admission test. However, only a very tiny fraction of programs run in affiliated colleges are allowed to admit students through an entrance exam. This is strange. If an entrance exam is considered good way of admitting students for DU's own programs, why is it not a good way of admitting students for programs run in DU's affiliated colleges. You can't have something good for you but the definition of good changes when it is for others.

Normalization of marks is an extremely difficult process as we have seen during the process of normalization in engineering colleges. However, the difficulty in engineering admissions was also to somehow have normalization which not just normalizes the marks but also the boards. So the same performance in a better board should be considered higher than the same performance in weaker board. And that makes it impossible to come up with a good normalization scheme. If we forget about normalizing boards, and only try normalizing marks, there can be simpler methods that can be adopted very quickly, and would be difficult to game by different boards.

Many suggestions have come in. Some have said that we can use percentiles instead of raw marks in percent terms currently used. Another suggestion that has come from both sides of the political divide is to give an additional 5 percent weight to Delhi students. (5 percent is roughly the difference between average marks in CBSE and average marks in Tamilnadu board. We could actually have a more elaborate system where we try to match the averages of all boards or some other percentile of all boards.). I am not a statistician and wouldn't know which is the best way to normalize but at least as a layman, it appears that any such system would be better than no normalization.

The most controversial suggestion has been to reserve seats on domicile basis. Please note that the reservation for Delhi students is being demanded in only those colleges which are funded by Delhi taxpayers.

Of course, since the issue is politicized, many are quick to point out that such a thing is unheard of, not possible, never happened before, and calling Chief Minister all sorts of names for even suggesting this.

However, the detractors of this demand are completely wrong. Quota for host state is actually very common in central universities. Not only that, quota for host state (that is, Delhi) exists even in Delhi University in at least one affiliated college that I know of (and I am not including minority institutions who have more autonomy in their admissions).

So, a large number of central universities have a quota for host state even in the programs run by them (and not in affiliated colleges), and where the state government does not give a paisa of support. If that is considered alright, then a demand that there be a quota for host state not in the programs run by Delhi University, but only in programs run by affiliated colleges seems pretty reasonable. If a quota for host state is alright when the state government does not pay a single paisa, it appears that the demand for quota for host state is pretty reasonable when it is for only those colleges which are actually receiving support from the state government. And let us remember that Delhi Government has traditionally had the most liberal definition of domicile of all states. Anyone doing 12th class from a school located in Delhi is considered local, while in many states, one has to spend several years in that state, should have residence in that state, etc., for local domicile.

So what is being demanded is that we should have an admission test with no favor to Delhi students. If admission test can not be organized within a year, then some sort of normalization of marks across different boards. If experts can not agree on this also, then at least a quota for host state in a very limited way. So no quota in programs conducted by Delhi University through its constituent departments. No quota in majority of affiliated colleges which include most of the elite colleges. Only quota in those colleges which receive support from Delhi taxpayers.

I think this is a very reasonable demand particularly considering that host state quota exists in a large number of central universities even where the state governments do not support it at all.

I would go a step further and suggest that if Delhi University does not agree with this, Delhi Government should close down some colleges and convert them into campuses of Ambedkar University.


Aman Pratap Singh said...

We should have only a single education board all over the country. Only this step can prevent these things. giving reservation for delhi locals will not be a solution in long term.

Prashant Bhattacharji said...

these are the 2015 admits to SRCC. Even ISC is inflating, similar to CBSE.
They just have 20k students in Commerce and maybe 40k in Science.
Though in absolute numbers they are still generally within the top 5 boards sending students to IITs, so it's not clear how much more than their fare share they bagged here. Most CBSE roll numbers begin with 9xx (indicating Delhi). They seem to moderate more liberally for Delhi, in general, in any case.
Here's the list
In a way I blame DU for this marks inflation, by using absolute, raw scores to begin with.

Baivawa Narayan Singh Narayan Singh said...

Now, first of all, if the colleges receiving state funds are affiliated to Delhi University ,then there cannot be differential treatment of these colleges mere on the basis that they enjoy state funds.The question is of law and not of propriety. It violates equality of opportunity as enshrined in the constitution. Someday, a sikh organisation funding a college affiliated to Delhi University may ask for reservation to sikhs. Funds can be given as a contribution to corpus or otherwise by anybody. Suppose if Ambani generously gives a lot of funds to SRCC. Does that mean that his son's seat should be reserved in that college. If state govt. is so concerned then why does it not open colleges/universities for the delhiites like IIITD ,NSIT ,DTU for arts. The assumption that Delhi University(Central University) owes something to delhiites just because it is located in delhi is misplaced. The only solution to this problem(the problem of difference in evaluation metrics across state boards) is to have an entrance examination. If normalisation option is ever explored ,an even better solution is to standardise the system of evaluation throughout India so that the marks that are given across boards conform to this standard. Also way forward would be to transfer answer sheets across boards for the sake of evaluation.

Prashant said...

For those interested - here is how SRCC seats were allotted in 2015, on a board-wise basis.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Baivawa, As I have mentioned in my blog, a large number of central universities provide for host state quota, including Delhi University in a college. There is no law against it. And minority institutions can and do give preference to those minorities.

Baivawa Narayan Singh Narayan Singh said...

I am not saying that a central university cannot have quota for states at all. Nor am i saying that minorities cannot have quota in the colleges affiliated to central universities. All that i am saying is that funding does not qualify as a valid reason for reservation of seats. This will set a wrong precedent. Please read my answer fully and not in parts. As i have mentioned in my comment that Ambani cannot claim any reservation for his son to any seat of any college of DU mere on the basis that he gives generous donations to it. It is only in the pursuance of Directive Principles of State Policy or the objectives of Welfare state can the govt. "positively" discriminate among the citizens. Otherwise it clearly violates the provisions of the constitution that there cannot be any discrimination based on caste ,color creed ,sex ,religion ,wealth ,birth or domicile.Had the central University been located in a remote and alienated area (North East) or a backward region it could have invoked the principles of positive discrimination. Delhi being the epitome of development of India cannot claim such a discrimination.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Baivawa, this is what you say, "The question is of law and not of propriety. It violates equality of opportunity as enshrined in the constitution." if something is a question of law and constitution, does it not mean that we can't violate it. And if you care to read the blog, I am clearly stating that the first option is to have an entrance exam, the second option is to have some sort of normalization, and only if there is no other way to protect fair competition, then you consider a very limited quota option. If home state quota is legal, and all other options of providing a fair competition can somehow not be implemented, then why shouldn't this be used as a last resort.

Baivawa Narayan Singh Narayan Singh said...

But i do not think that a limited quota will solve the problems of delhiites. It seems to me that they want to study at DU in large nos. The problem is that delhiites are used to getting the best of the pie in the country and when they cannot claim the same for higher education they start crying foul. The entire premise of your blog is that Delhiites are not getting their dues because an X board or A Y board has a so and so evaluation criteria. Since you seem to be concerned so much about Delhiites, who are mostly migrants from other places of India, i take it that you have a Delhi connection. Hence,I do not blame you. But, you are getting into an unnecessary endless argument. The point is that Delhiites enjoy the best of the country all the time. So they do not have the locus standi to ask for any favor of Central Government especially in matters of higher education when they already have the benefit of the best of schools and education infrastructure. You as an activist are doing a fine job (given your affection for delhiites) by writing blogs. But the central govt. is not for Delhi nor is Delhi synonymous with India. This fact must be properly understood by Delhiites. "I am clearly stating that the first option is to have an entrance exam, the second option is to have some sort of normalization, and only if there is no other way to protect fair competition, then you consider a very limited quota option"- you have made an assumption here that it is an unfair competition. Maybe if we confine ourselves to a very narrow horizon of boards exams, it may turn out to be unfair. But it is also unfair for a Bihari or a Marathi etc. As i have said,the assumption that Delhi University(Central University) owes something to delhiites just because it is located in delhi is misplaced. Also if we widen our horizon to include the state of primary and high school education in other parts of the country esp. in backward areas vis-a-vis Delhi, does this seem to be an unfair competition? So, in my considered opinion you are right that there should be an entrance exam but not because this should allow delhiites to get their purported due but to allow students ,who have not had the benefit of quality schooling and who are otherwise talented, a level playing field to get an admit to a "Central University". I hope I have made myself clear. Also, "law begets propriety and vice-versa".