From 100% Cutoff to CUET Score, DU’s ‘Unrealistic’ Merit Lists Over a Decade

This year, Delhi University received applications from nearly 2.17 lakh candidates for its degree programs following the introduction of the Common College Entrance Test (CUET). Over the years, the increased demand for DU degree seats has led to an increase in the cut-off marks issued by the universities, according to experts.

Until last year, all DU colleges admitted students on the basis of cut-offs, which were decided by how the board results had been in a particular year. Many top colleges admitted students with cutoff marks as high as 99%, and even 100%.

But have DU cutoffs always been this high?

How it all started

In 2009, Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), one of the top commerce colleges, made headlines when it released cut-off marks in the range of 95.25-98.75 percent for its program B.Com (Hons) and 93.75- 96.75 per cent for BA (Hons) Economics. In 2010, Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College set 95% as the cutoff for the most sought after B.Com (Hons) course. For BA (Hons) Economics, LSR had a cutoff of 95.50% and SRCC came close with a range of 93.5-96.5. The lowest cutoff that year, in the second list, was 76% for Satyawati (Evening) College.

Cutoffs have skyrocketed since then, jumping to an unimaginable 99 and 100 percent. In 2016, Ramjas College reported a requirement of 99.25 per cent for admission to B Com (Hons), closely followed by SGTB Khalsa, with a cut-off of 99 per cent for BSc (Hons) in electronics

“Rising cuts simply reduce confidence in the system. It’s not that you think students are getting smarter, it’s just that inflation is becoming meaningless,” said Pratibha Jolly, former principal of Miranda House.

Simrit Kaur, the director of SRCC since 2017, echoed a similar view. “Two decades ago, first division score was considered respectable, and in 70 per cent that too, (students) got admission in the best of DU colleges; the first cut off would be in the 70s,” he said. remember Kaur.

Akriti Sehgal, a student of the 2009-12 batch, said that when St Stephens College posted a cutoff of 94 per cent for History and LSR had posted the same at around 89 per cent, there was a lot of buzz. “I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I had to get admission now,” Sehgal said.

Even 90% is not enough

B.Com (Hons), BA (Hons) Political Science and BA (Hons) English have traditionally been some of the most popular undergraduate courses at Delhi University, show high applications and cut-offs. The seats of many top universities were filled in the first list. Even a decade ago, a score between 80 and 90 percent could not guarantee admission to your preferred course or college. In 2012, the lowest cutoff for B Com (Hons) admission was 81% in Aditi Mahavidyalaya in the second cutoff.

“The percentage has been crazy now. Earlier 80-85% used to be the highest cut-off, and then around 2010-2012 the cut-off went up to 90-95%, and then in 2014 or thereabouts the cut-off shot higher and since then it has been increasing rapidly. Social sciences, about 12 years ago, were not very popular, but the trend is changing and there is a lot of rush in every course. Students now care about getting into one of the popular colleges and after that they don’t care about the course combinations they should do,” said Anju Srivastava, principal, Hindu College.

Srivastava also recalled how BA (Hons) got more attention after DU changed its name from BA (Pass). “Since then, these courses also became popular among students. The students also understood that specializing in two subjects gives them better opportunities, especially in the civil service”, he added.

Ashish Mishra said the cut-off when he passed the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (DCAC) in 2009 was 79 per cent. He pursued a BA (Hons) in History from DCAC in the 2009-2012 batch and then an MA in History from Hindu College in the 2012-2014 batch.

Mismatch of numbers

When asked about the rising cutoffs in the last decade, DU student Sehgal said, “One problem is the number of colleges. I think there is a great need to increase the number of colleges because there is a discrepancy in the relationship between students and universities.”

In line with this, Hindu College’s Anju Srivastava added that this could be “due to online and centralized admission. So the process of applying for admission to DU is more accessible now.” As a result, colleges are “over-admitted through no fault of our own, even with such high cut-offs,” he added.

Recalling the time when the student-teacher ratio was better, Srivastava said, “We used to remember each student’s name and where they would be sitting. Teachers used to connect better and could even address and discuss their personal problems. In at this point in their lives, students are at this vulnerable stage as they are getting used to the freedom they get in college. But now, we take them like a herd and don’t treat them the way they want and have of being treated. That’s why the role of counselors is increasing in academia. Otherwise, the numbers are failing us.”

Talking about the Hindu College cut-offs approaching 99% and 100% in the last decade, he said that this notion seems unrealistic but it is very real. “We don’t have a single moment to breathe in the first few days of admissions, because there are so many coming from all over the country, especially because of online admissions. Last year, or earlier, we had 90 students with perfect scores,” he said, trying to explain that this is the new normal where students are scoring so much.

Merit of students, cut off not related

DU graduates and teachers also said that the increase in the cut-off cannot be justified by the universities saying that it is designed to increase quality among students. “It would be unfair to say that these cut offs or CUET scores can decide the quality of students because some candidates may be better in interviews and have exam phobia, while others may be better in written exams. I never felt that the quality of students was a problem or was directly proportional to the cuts,” Sehgal argued.

Pratibha Jolly of MH also said that it would be a wrong precedent and the cuts could end up ignoring the holistic development of students. “The data analysis points to this, but the quality of the students is different and is not the main deciding factor. This depends a lot on the holistic development of a student,” he added.

Sehgal suggested that it might be a better idea if colleges conduct interviews or a spoken round to judge a student’s ability instead of relying only on their board results or CUET score. “Before, the writing tests carried out by universities used to distinguish between the ability to write in a school and in different situations. It used to check a student’s creativity, writing skills, cognitive skills and things like that. Interviews work well in smaller, stand-alone institutions, but will not work in DU,” argued Jolly.

“In these situations, you can look at teacher recommendations, the micro-details of internal assessments, the components of final exam scores, the statement of purpose, and more. Many private institutes and universities abroad do this. However, if we centralize everything and expand it, it would be difficult.”

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