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How Delhi University Can (Kind Of) Solve Its “High Cut-Offs” Problem

As the Delhi University cut-offs get higher each year, the internet is flooded with memes at the ridiculous minimum percentages, cries of pass-outs and increasing blood pressure of high school students unsure if they’ll crack the DU admissions in the upcoming years.

A Tale of Numbers:

In 2010, 5,000 seats were added taking the total number of seats in DU from 49,000 to 54,000. This year, there are over 3.2 lakh applicants, while the seats remain at the same number. This means, roughly 1 in 6 students will get a seat in the country’s prestigious Central University.

A look at the first cut-off lists for Commerce Stream in B.Com (Hons.) course of top colleges shows an increase of 2-3 percent over the last five years.

A comparison of cut-offs for B.Com(Hons.) from 2010 to 2015

A comparison of cut-offs for B.Com(Hons.) from 2010 to 2015

The first cut-off lists for Humanities Stream in B.A. (Hons.) in Economics shows up to a staggering 5% increase in cut-offs as colleges are becoming increasingly “cautious” to prevent over-crowding.

A comparison of cut-offs for B.A(Hons.) Economics from 2010 to 2015

A comparison of cut-offs for B.A(Hons.) Economics from 2010 to 2015

These cut-offs are putting great pressure on the current Board batch as even a 95% does not guarantee an admission in their dream course. What can be done in such a situation?

A Look at Other Universities:

Aligarh Muslim University is a Central University in Uttar Pradesh. Each department in the university conducts their own admission test. For its B.Com (H) course, test syllabus includes all Commerce subjects along with Reasoning Ability and General Awareness. Admission test to the B.A. (H) Arts /Social Science course includes the following: English, General Awareness, Reasoning and Intelligence, Indo-Islamic Culture, Theology, Aligarh Movement.

On the east side in West Bengal, the Jadavpur University uses Department Tests as well for admissions. It has a cut-off at a mere 75%, for its English and Comparative English Courses. Selection is done on the basis of a two and a half hour written test. Whereas for Political Science and Philosophy courses, 50% weightage is on merit while 50% weightage is given to the written test.


West Bengal’s Jadavpur University was ranked 76th among Asian universities according to a study by the Times Higher Education Asia University Ranking 2014.

Department Tests – Why this makes sense:

Even though the above Universities offer a tiny fraction of the total DU seats for each course, and hence conducting such a test (unlike St Stephens conducting their personal aptitude tests) for the whole University will be far more challenging, the added complexity brings with it a whole range of advantages:

  1. Only those students who want to pursue a particular field will apply and give the Department Test. This will prevent the Students from applying to ALL courses and hence give a clearer picture of the cut-offs required.
  2. Equal or near-equal weightage to the Department Test will put some pressure off students to perform in the Board Exams, and those who haven’t performed well can make up in these tests.
  3. Students from different streams will have the freedom to change streams without having to pay for it in terms of percent points chopped, while students continuing their streams will have the subject advantage in the “critical thinking based” Department Papers.
  4. This will also help ensure the competence level of students getting an admission which will help the University Professors go into greater depth in the Subjects and ensure greater quality of Graduates.

While having a different Department Test for each college would end up being chaotic, a common test conducted by the Delhi University in consultation with all colleges that offer the course can work.

It is important to note that DU has tried this Common Admission Tests before with CATE for English and CJET for Journalism in 2009. However, these got mixed reactions from the crowd before being chopped off the block for the masses.

Other Possibilities:

  1. Differentiation of Faculty:

Each college has a unique faculty and while the same subjects may be taught, the specializations and research interests of the faculties in different colleges vary greatly. This is evident in professors suggesting different reference books for the same course and having fundamentally different teaching style.
This can be highlighted during the admissions. A greater focus on the faculty gives the applicants an opportunity to select the college with the Professors that share the same research interests in field specializations as the applicants. It also ensures that students do not simply take an admission based on the college which has the highest cut-off they can get into.


Unlike Miranda House’s Sociology Department, a lot of DU colleges have insufficient details about its Faculty probably as they lack sufficient permanent teachers

While the qualifications of faculty might not reflect on the final degree awarded on graduation, it can have a huge impact on the Dissertation Projects completed as partial fulfillment of their degree and also in development of interests in the subject.

It is noteworthy, that the names and research interests of faculty are mentioned on the Department Websites, few choose to interact with the faculty over email or in open houses before the admissions. This trend can be changed by a bit of clever advertising by the Delhi University.

  1. Online Learning Resources:

Making Lecture videos available online for major courses offered by the Delhi University will give those students who have failed to grab a seat in DU, a chance to study there.

An initiative, similar to MIT’s OCW (Open Course Ware) can spell wonders for the popularity of the University overseas. Online Certification Tests can be conducted to certify virtual learners.

Unbeknownst to most, this initiative is actually under work, called the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as part of the Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi, the coverage of these resources isn’t at par with MIT OCW yet. “Conceived in 2012, DU-VLE hosts quality resources that addresses emerging needs of a diverse teaching and learning community, not only of Delhi University but other universities as well” (From Delhi University’s official website)


A complete list of lecture notes and video resources available under VLE can be checked out here

A Deeper Issue:

Looking at its past performance, DU has implemented various changes in haste. Working hard to gather the support of the teachers and the administration, a smooth sailing overhaul can be made with clear communication to all students, months before the next Board Exams. But a major challenge to the success of any overhaul is the lack of a workforce to drive such a change. Almost 45 percent of teachers in DU are ad-hoc since no permanent teacher appointments have been made in the recent years.This is in clear violation to the UGC regulations, which state that teachers should be appointed on contract basis only when it is absolutely necessary and their number should not exceed 10% of the total number of faculty positions in a college or university.

Lack of funds and proper infrastructure has led the UGC to advised DU to wait before putting the soon-to-be-implemented Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) in place after finding DU officials “ill prepared”. Before talks of changes in the admission process can be made, the structure of the colleges which are its teachers must be empowered. Without them, future proposed changes will share a similar fate as FYUP, which was released in haste and was largely ill-implemented in its one year run.

Only time will tell, how the tale of high DU cut-offs will end. All we can do is wait and hope for the best.

2 thoughts on “How Delhi University Can (Kind Of) Solve Its “High Cut-Offs” Problem

  1. 1)Well written Sarthak, but don’t you think that conducting of entrance tests for DU as well and not giving importance to boards result will reduce the value of boards.The situation will be the same in commerce stream like science where MAJORITY of students study for entrance(IIT in sc) and pay less attention to boards.

    2)As it is that in the science stream, most people prefer B.Tech and prepare for enterance tests for 2-3 years by going to coaching institutes which are really expensive. So by conducting seperate exams for DU also will lead to opening of more XYZ coaching institutes and lead to a big hole in the pockets of the customers.

    3)And as you said that the by introducing entrance tests, the pressure on students will reduce, I highly doubt that. I feel the pressure will not reduce but will shift from boards to entrance.

    4)On a different note, if the authorities really want to conduct entrance tests then boards should not be conducted in class 12th.(Although i don’t want this to happen).

  2. Hi Arush!
    I’ll try answering one by one
    1) JEE Main exam has 60% weightage and CBSE exams have 40% weightage.The same idea can work for Commerce and Humanities Stream. If you’d look at colleges in Pune/Mumbai/Kolkata/Bangalore, a lot of them have admission tests, GDs and PI rounds.

    2) See, there is a way to conduct BAD department tests by simply having a objective MCQ structure like JEE Mains. They are easier to check, but they do not really test the knowledge of the student. Boards pehle se hi hai uss purpose ke liye. A department exam will evaluates the critical thinking of the students. I do not know of a coaching institute that teaches critical thinking.

    3) The pressure will shift initially yes, but a Department test on critical thinking will in turn weed out the disinterested looking for only a DU degree.
    Look at this conversation that a friend (Nandita) posted:

    Me: Why did you choose Philosophy?
    She (DU Aspirant): That’s the only subject I am able to clear the cut off for in a ‘good college’.
    Me: What about your interest in the subject?
    She: *blank face*

    So, if you ever go for Masters, you’ll go through the same process. Colleges do not simply take you in based on how well you performed in Graduation and what your aggregate for. Because College is supposed to be for kids who are INTERESTED in the subject.

    By simply awarding a seat based on Board percentage, there is no quality check and hence teachers get students half of whom are not interested, which is highly motivating. The level of teaching goes down.

    4) Arush, the ideal is actually to put the pressure off Boards completely. It will become like your 10th exams. Standardized tests that you need to only pass. Anyone with a Class 12th degree can get a job. And those who want to study further go for a College degree.

    The Education System has a complex problem that requires a complex solution. Simply having department tests for all colleges does not solve the problem.
    Companies who need low-level skilled labor can simply get 12th passouts. As most of these companies offer them training and they don’t really use a lot of what they’ve learned in College.

    The idea is that in a few decades, people actually do ask themselves if they really wish to pursue a field before going to College for it. If they don’t, they can earn enough to sustain their lifestyle 🙂

    I hope this answer was helpful

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