Students in St Joseph's Bengaluru, Manipal institute raise concerns about offline exams

The exams at St. Joseph’s are scheduled to start from November 17 while the laboratory examinations in Manipal are from November 30.
Students, exams rep image
Students, exams rep image

Colleges in Karnataka are set to open from November 17 but issues have cropped up between students and institutions- especially in those colleges that have a considerable number of outstation students-  over whether online exams will be held or whether students will have to mandatorily attend examinations at the college campus.

A decision by the St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Sciences in Bengaluru and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in Manipal to not hold online exams during the pandemic has prompted thousands of students to travel to Karnataka for the examinations. This comes at a time other premier institutions like Indian Institute of Management - Bengaluru (IIM-B) and National Law School of India University (NLSIU) are holding online examinations.

The examinations at St. Joseph’s are scheduled to start from November 17 while the laboratory examinations in Manipal are from November 30 and the end semester examinations are from December 21. While St Joseph’s has plans to start its classes only by January, Manipal has said that students can take classes offline or online, this means students have to come back from their native place just for writing exams.

Students in Manipal have a number of options to return to the campus including one option which asks them to return by November 21.

Students from St. Joseph’s in Bengaluru say that their options are limited with just a week to go for their examinations. Several students who went back home in March during the lockdown  have written to the college about their difficulties of travelling to Bengaluru to take their exams. Those who cannot make it have been told that they could write the exam at a later date, but they may have to pay additional exam fees.

“The problem with the ‘later date option’ was that the notice did not mention when this test would take place. A later date could mean post vaccine, post one-month etc. It could also mean taking these exams along with our next semester exams, which would become too much of a burden on the students,” Harini*, a B.Sc second year student told TNM. 

A Letter of Undertaking which parents have been asked to sign before they send their students for the exam says that “additional fees (if needed) is to defray the extra cost incurred by the institution.”

The letter also says that the college gets to decide when they will hold the alternate exam, and that students “cannot make any demands to the college authorities to schedule these examinations/ practical sessions at a particular period during the year.”

Several out-station students from St. Joseph’s reside in the college hostel or in private PGs in the city. “The students, especially from northern and north eastern states will have to hunt for PGs or hotels to stay in, after reaching the city. It is not pocket friendly and is also risky, as several other people would be living in PG accommodations,” Harini adds. 

Students are also concerned about going to testing centres and getting their covid tests done as mandated by the Karnataka government.

St. Joseph defends decision to hold offline exams

The institute, in a response to TNM, defended its decision to hold offline examinations. “Currently we are holding exams for the third and fifth semester students. Following this we will be conducting exams for the first semester students. We are going to follow the blended system of classes as per the Karnataka government rules. We expect to start by January, but the date has not been set yet,” St Joseph’s public relations officer said.

According to the college management, they decided to hold offline exams as they did not “want to take the risk of the validity of the students degree being questioned by conducting online exams.” The college stated that the Bengaluru University and the Bengaluru City University are conducting offline tests “for over a month now”. 

Manipal students urge institute to hold online exams

Various institutes under the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) have written to students giving them options about the way they want to restart their classes. At the Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), an engineering institute, one option states that students can arrive at the institute on November 20, attend online theory classes and offline laboratory exams before writing the end semester exams at the institute from December 21. A second option allows students to arrive at the institute directly for the end semester exams from December 21 while a third option states students can write make-up exams later.

“The theory classes will be both offline and online. However, physical presence of the student is required for the University exams...Incase if a student wishes to continue attending the classes online from home, then, your laboratory/practical classes /clinical postings will be conducted on a later date. End semester exam/university exam will be conducted along with the makeup exam schedule,” reads an email sent to students in college affiliated to MAHE.

However, a section of students and parents have written to the institute to consider conducting online examinations next month. Even though the current set of options allow students to skip the examinations and clear it at a later stage, some students say that this would put them in a disadvantageous situation. 

MP Tejasvi Surya asks Manipal to consider online exams

A written request was also sent by  Bengaluru South MP and the National President of BJP Yuva Morcha President Tejasvi Surya.  “In light of the pandemic the country is going through, I request you to provide the option of offline and online examination at Manipal Academy of Higher Education,” read a letter from Tejasvi Surya addressed to Lt. Gen MD Venkatesh, Vice Chancellor of MAHE. In the letter, Tejasvi Surya asked the institute to explore the option of having online examinations similar to the one proposed at Christ University in Bengaluru. 

Concerns were raised about the large number of students arriving in Manipal over the next month. “The institute is asking a large number of students to arrive at the campus at around the same time even though there are different phases mentioned. We want the option of having an online examination since it would mean that the students do not have to come to the institute for another couple of months till the start of the next semester,” a student from MIT told TNM.  

“Even though there is an option to take up the examinations next year in July,  the problem with this is that it would affect our prospects of securing jobs and admissions in colleges since these deadlines will not be extended,” a seventh semester student in MIT said. 

Another student pointed out that students arrive in Manipal from all over the country and from abroad unlike other institutes nearby. “Students will be sharing hostel rooms and there is still the risk of the virus spreading. We have been asked to report to a fever clinic and screen for COVID-19 symptoms. We have to get tested if there are symptoms,” a student from MIT added. 

The students added that UGC guidelines of having only 50% of students on campus at a time should be followed.

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