The University Grants Commission (UGC) is all set to introduce a centralised admission test for all the public universities. The move came in a bid to reduce the hassle of admission-seekers.
The decision is commendable, however, will this actually help in solving the problem?
Currently, admission-seekers have to be present on the university campus to appear for the test. This requires students to travel across the country and involves many problems including safety and expenses.
The centralised admission tests will be a solution to this problem, as there will be common questions for admission in all the public universities, and students will be selected based on their results of this one test.
It should not be forgotten that having a common set of question for all the universities is contradictory to the concept of a university.
That is because every university is unique in its own way. Even if they teach the same subject, they necessarily do not teach same courses or methods.
For example, the physics department of Dhaka University is not the same as the same department of Rajshahi University.
The diversification is necessary to create flow of knowledge. In other words, two universities can be in the same tier but cannot be the same. Therefore, if we try selecting students through a common admission test, it will not serve the purpose of the university and the admission seeker.
In addition, a common exam reduces the options for students. A single exam means that an admission seeker will get only one chance to try his luck. If he falls sick, or has any other unavoidable problems, it can cost him his opportunity to appear the examination.
Thus the question arises how can we maintain the quality of admission tests and also reduce the hassle of admission seekers?
A possible solution is GRE format admission test. These exams can be taken online without requiring students to travel across cities.
If this format is applied, students will appear for the exam through a portal that will open at a particular time. The exam will last between 60 and 90 minutes and questions will be set in multiple-choice format. If the authorities want, they can introduce some short questions.
Exam venues will be in set up in every district so that students need not travel around the country. There will be no option of question leak and problems such as transport, accommodation, and expense will be solved.
But will it be feasible? Do we have the capability and technical knowledge?
For holding any admission test, authorities will need a huge technological and logistic support, triggering rise in costs of holding examinations. For holding the exams online, authorities will need functional laptops. These devices may not be very costly, but has to be competent enough to function properly.
But, who will bear the costs?
There is a solution to this problem as well. All the universities can split the costs and avail the services.
In addition, this online exam will also require a software. UGC authorities can assign the task to the IT startups, and also involve the university teachers to design it.
With the government's agenda of turning the country digital, currently every district has been brought under the purview of internet connectivity.
But, who will conduct the exams and be responsible for maintenance of the devices?
All the public universities can take a back seat and let the UGC decide on these issues. However, it should not be forgotten that implementing the new system will require some extra efforts from all the universities.
At the end, it is imperative that we consider and respect the differences of the universities and remember that diversity is the key for the growth of a university.
Before implementing the proposed exam format, UGC must also keep in mind that all the universities are not equal and trying to make them all stand in the same forefront can be risky for the educational institutions, as this practice may drag down the good universities.
We need to consider all the universities separately and chalk out a plan to improve its performances.
Only this can improve the overall quality of education in universities and thus quality universities can lead us to be a developed country.
Rubaiyat Shaimom Chowdhury is Assistant Professor at Bangladesh University