For the past five months, 16-year-old Zoya Merchant is biding her time at home while her friends attend college. They meet her in the evenings, brimming with stories of ‘college life’ and their newfound ‘freedom’ to dress in casuals (finally free from the shackles of the sombre uniform) and bunk lectures. But the teenager can only nod and wonder when she will have stories of her own to narrate.
Owing to an error in the online admission process for first-year junior college (FYJC), Zoya, who scored 399 out of 500 (79.8%) in Class 10, was allotted Elphinstone College, Fort, whose cut-off in the second list was 400. “My preference was KPB Hinduja in Charni Road, which is closer to her home and offers more opportunities for extra-curricular activities,” said Zoya.
Surprisingly, the Hinduja cut-off was lower than her score and she could have easily received admission there had it not been for this mistake. “We reported this to the authorities, but they turned us away saying she already received a better opportunity and so will not be allotted any more colleges in the regular rounds,” said Afzhal, her father.
She has pinned her hopes on the special rounds that will be conducted from August 8 to August 30 for thousands of students like her — more than 70,000, who did not claim their seats and a few more from the 1.53 lakh admitted.
A majority of the students were allotted seats in their least-preferred colleges, despite scoring high marks, while students scoring lower marks secured better colleges. Principals questioned the logic behind the allotment of seats.
“The entire tier of students with high percentages is missing from our college this year, even though they had applied. Hundreds of students, who have scored higher than our cut-offs wait outside my office every day for offline admission but we are helpless,” said Kavita Rege, principal, Sathaye College, Vile Parle.
According to BB Chavan, deputy director of education, this is a result of the system allowing only one betterment round and applicants not listing out colleges in their order of preference in the option form, which is part of the online application. “This means if a student gets his 7th preference in the first list, then the system will try to get him sixth or above college in the next list,” said Chavan.
After betterment, the applicant exits the process automatically and not considered for further rounds. This year, the problem occurred as the students didn’t list out colleges in the correct order. “So if a child has listed a college that they do not really want on top, they will be allotted that college because the system doesn’t understand whether a child really wants that college or how far it is from his residence, it only understands the number,” said Chavan. Despite knowing this, the department did not hold any orientation sessions for students and parents.
So how is it that such mistakes were made seven years after the online process began in 2009? Were they unnoticed for so many years? Officials said the government’s decision to conduct all the admissions online this year is to be blamed. Until 0last year, offline admissions were allowed after the online process ended. But this year, the department stated an interim order passed by the Bombay high court asked them to hold all admissions in Mumbai region ‘strictly through online.’
However, a senior official on the condition of anonymity said, “The court sought transparency in the admission process. There are better ways of ensuring transparency than online admissions. The department is compromising the future of the students.”