Entrance goes online, South Asian University to save Rs 30 lakh

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Last year, SAU got 7,786 applications for 245 seats. (Representational Image)

Ditching the pen and paper, the South Asian University (SAU) has shifted to a completely online mode of examinations for admission to its masters and PhD programmes, scheduled to be held on April 27-28. Unlike the previous years, where some subjects had a descriptive component, SAU has shifted to a multiple choice question (MCQ) format for all disciplines.

SAU officials told The Indian Express that the change was made keeping in mind the rising number of applications being received by the university as well as the huge cost. “Being an international university that admits students from all SAARC countries, the university has to hold entrance tests in several countries. By shifting to an online mode, the university will save around Rs 30 lakh,” an official told The Indian Express.

Until last year, the university held entrances in 22 centres, which has now increased to over 70. “So far, our students used to register and pay the fee online, but we had a pen and paper mode of examinations. This time, they will be required to go to a computer centre and take the entrance test online. Earlier there were also longer, essay-type answers, but now all exams will be in MCQ format. For PhD level, students will also need to submit a research proposal and sit for an interview,” Dean Academics Promodini Varma told The Indian Express.

She said it was possible to check “language ability and analytical skills” even in social science subjects like International Relations and Sociology, which hitherto had a subjective format.

“The university has tied up with Ginger Web Technologies, chosen through a tender. The assessment will be done by the university — that has not been outsourced. They will look after registration, fee collection and conducting the examination. This includes security, monitoring of computers, etc. They will have live-feeds through which we will be able to see, sitting here, what is happening in every centre, which was not possible earlier,” she said.

Vice-President Santosh Panda said the test, which was earlier for three hours, was now being reduced to two hours. “While Sociology and IR will not have negative marking, other subjects will have 1/4th negative marking for every wrong answer,” he said.

The decision regarding going online was taken by the Central Examination Committee, comprising Deans of all departments, last year. “The numbers have become too large. Last time, there were 1,000 students in Afghanistan. Secondly, we don’t understand their language. So even if we send a supervisor from here, they don’t understand what’s happening. The cost will reduce by around Rs 30 lakh. Just getting the question papers printed would cost us Rs 3-4 lakh. We also had to think of security of question papers and answer sheets, which are transported to other countries,” added Varma.

Last year, SAU got 7,786 applications for 245 seats. “We have around 30 applications for every seat. This year, we are expecting that the applications will touch 8,500,” said Panda.

At the masters’ level, the university reserves 50% seats for Indian students, 10% each for Pakistan and Bangladesh, and 4% each for Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Remaining 10% is for non-SAARC countries.