Explained: The Delhi University, St Stephen’s College fight over admission norms

The Delhi University and St Stephen’s College are currently at loggerheads with each other over the college’s refusal to do away with interviews for admissions to its general seats. Insisting that admissions to these seats be done only on the basis of CUET scores, the university communicated to the college Tuesday that any admission done “in violation” of DU’s rules will be considered null and void.

What is the admission process at St Stephen’s College?

St Stephen’s College is insisting on maintaining a 15% weightage to interviews for admission of applicants of all categories. It is among the minority colleges of the Delhi University which have 50% of their seats reserved for the minority students. The university administration has directed these colleges to conduct admissions in their general seats only on the basis of CUET.

St Stephen’s is the only college in Delhi University which has historically been supplementing the filter of cut-offs with an interview to screen and select its students from among applicants.

In the prospectus released by the college for the 2022-2023 admissions, it states that the CUET will function as eligibility criteria with 85% weightage to it and 15% weightage to interviews conducted for shortlisted candidates on the basis of CUET.

The college requires applicants to register on its own portal as well as Delhi University’s common portal. With the adoption of the CUET, instead of a DU portal, applicants will have to register on the NTA portal and select DU as one of their choices, and apply to St Stephen’s College on their website.

According to the prospectus, the ratio in which general students will be called for the interview will approximately be that of six applicants to every seat for Humanities subjects and eight applicants to every seat for Science subjects. This has varied over the years.

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The 2018-2019 prospectus had stated that the ratio would approximately be 1:4 for Humanities and 1:6 for Science subjects.

St Stephen’s interview has three components – academic to assess “suitability for the subject chosen beyond what is indicated by marks alone”; co-curricular to assess “the potential to participate in the co-curricular activities of the college and to contribute to its total life”; general awareness and sense of values ​​to assess “a candidate’s personal outlook, sense of values, level of awareness and motivation”.

Once the interviews are concluded, the college puts up a list of selected candidates and a waiting list.

What is the college’s rationale behind interviews?

In 1980, questions on the minority status of the college, its interviews and whether the college is allowed to set aside seats for Christians came under deliberation in the Supreme Court and a judgment had been issued by the court in 1991 on this matter.

During the course of the hearings, the college submitted that it had been interviews since its inception.

“The provision for the interview, which has been the procedure followed by the college since its inception, is an integral part of administration of the college. It is a part of its managerial function and it cannot be taken away by the university. The selection on the basis of only marks obtained by the candidates on the face of it would be unreasonable and violative of the fundamental right of the college guaranteed under Article 30 of the Constitution (on the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions), ” the court had recorded as part of the college’s submissions in its judgment.

In its judgment, the court had observed that it saw “neither any arbitrariness nor any vice or lack of scientific basis in the interview or in the selection” and “that the college seems to have compelling reasons to follow its own admission programme”.

Interestingly, this “compelling reason” recorded in the judgment is in line with the reason for the implementation of the CUET across Central Universities and that the DU administration had voiced in support of it:

“The college receives applications from students all over the country. The applications ranging from 12,000 to 20,000 are received every year as against a limited number of 400 seats available for admission. The applicants come from different institutions with diverse standards. The merit judging by percentage of secured marks by applicants in different qualifying examinations with different standards may not lead to proper and fair selection. It may not also have any relevance to maintain the standards of excellence of education…In the premises, the admission is determined by the marks obtained by students, cannot be the best available objective guide to future academic performance. The College Admissionme on the other hand, based on the test of promise and achievement of candidates, seems to be better than the blind method of selection based on the secured marks in the qualifying examinations.”

What is the opposition to St Stephen’s interviews?

The 1991 judgment was issued a 4:1 majority, but the minority view of Justice Kasliwal had the practice criqued of interviews.

“The method of selection by an alleged interview to be in vogue for a long period in St Stephen’s College cannot be considered as so sacrosanct that the same cannot be annulled or changed even when such method does not find approval of the Delhi University…The students who Eligibility for seeking admission in the degree course are generally of young age of 15 to 17 years and the personality of such students still remains to be developed and as such the only consideration for their admission to degree courses should be their academic performance in the qualification examination ,” he had recorded in the judgment.

In the case of interviews of Christian applicants, three teachers of the college had gone to the Delhi High Court in 2019 to challenge the appointment of a member nominated by the college’s Supreme Council to be a part of the interview panel for Christian students. However, the HC had refused to intervene in the matter and grant a stay.

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