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Heriot-Watt University Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: International universities in Dubai said they are considering special provisions for admitting students whose board exams have been delayed or cancelled. At least one university — Heriot-Watt University Dubai — has confirmed it will be accepting students for the September 2021 intake on the basis of their “school assessed grades and not the final board results that could be published as late as September”.

The Indian CBSE Class 12 board exams have been delayed twice this year because of rising COVID-19 cases in India. An update on the new exam dates — if they are not cancelled — is expected on June 1. Meanwhile board exams for IB, IGCSE, and A Levels have been cancelled, with students to receive board grades based on school assessed or predicted grades.

‘Unprecedented times, unprecedented step’

Michael Lawson, Regional Director — Recruitment, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said the university took the decision to use school-based grades for admissions in September “to make the transition to higher education smoother and less stressful for prospective students and their families”.

Michael Lawson

He added: “We recognise that this is an unprecedented step. However, these are unprecedented times that call for change … School-assessed grades include grades during mock exams or pre-boards, as well as predicted scores and we believe these are a good indicator of student performance, based on which we are able to make an informed decision.”

What if school grades are lower than boards?

In the final results awarded by the board, if for some reason a student is unable to maintain the school assessed grades, Heriot-Watt will neither downgrade nor retract their study offer, Lawson said.

‘Largest disruption in history’

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history. Across the world, governments, education boards, schools, parents and children are grappling with when and how to approach the next phase in their education. Given that these challenges are far from over, the majority of education boards have either cancelled or delayed their final exams. This will likely result in a delay as far as September in final scores awarded.”

Final year review

Dr Kavita Shukla

Amity University Dubai is going beyond solely relying on board exam results, although those will be considered. Dr Kavita Shukla, Vice President — Student Recruitment, Amity University Dubai, said: “We are well-aware of the restrictions and disruptions that students have faced. To make the admissions process easier for students from all educational backgrounds, we are reviewing every students’ academic performance in their final year, to assess their eligibility. Every applicant’s academic history, extra-circulars and achievements will also be taken into consideration. Adapting to change has become an essential part of providing the best education to students. The future is full of possibilities; and we are there for them.”

Provisional admission

Meanwhile, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus has made the admission process completely online to make it more convenient for students. Though final admission will be based on final results by boards, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus has however opened provisional admissions. Nahid Afshan, Senior Manager-Admissions, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus, said: “This is an unprecedented time and we have adapted to this situation by making the admission process completely online and student friendly. Admissions to all the undergraduate engineering programmes at BITS Pilani, Dubai will be based on the final results declared by the various high school boards as per the mode of assessment and evaluation criteria they decide to follow this year.”

Nahid Afshan

Afshan added: “However, as there is an expected delay in the announcement of results, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus has started to offer provisional admissions to the aspiring eligible applicants, which will be confirmed upon the declaration of the final results and the student meeting the minimum eligibility requirement of admission to the programme as specified by the institute.”

Students in suspense

CBSE Class 12 students in Dubai said the uncertainty over the exams is their biggest concern right now. Ashwin Rejikumar wants to study engineering at a university in India but he is unsure what will eventually happen. “This situation is very uncertain. We don’t know when we can go to India. Even if we sit for the university entrance exams, we still need the CBSE Class 12 grades as they provide the cut-off for admissions.”

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Considering Plan B

Isaac Vinu also plans to study engineering in India but his “Plan-B” might be attending university in Dubai. Speaking about the idea of school assessed grades for admissions, Isaac said: “We don’t know what weightage will come from which particular exam … Even provisional acceptance letters would require CBSE scores eventually.”

Isaac added that were universities to offer final admission without official CBSE Class 12 scores — which is unlikely, a university source said — “that actually opens a lot of doors for students that are uncertain about what they’re going to do. So, it’s almost like they can then have their Plan-B assured here in the UAE”.