The technical glitches encountered in the initial phases of the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) will not affect expansion plans for the crucial exam, which includes a proposal to merge it with JEE and NEET, according to UGC Chairman Jagadesh Kumar.

Kumar said the issues faced in the conduct of the test will be ironed out soon and the exam will be conducted twice a year.

"The technical glitches in the initial phases of CUET-UG are not setbacks but lessons. They will be ironed out in the near future and will in no way deter scaling up or expansion plans for the crucial exam," he told PTI in an interview.

Kumar had earlier said the engineering entrance exam JEE and medical entrance exam NEET will also be merged with CUET in future.

"As per the NEP, the plan is to have a common entrance exam to reduce the burden on students of appearing in multiple entrances. However, we won't hurry up to introduce it as we need to plan well. It is a massive exercise and our focus is on planning and taking forward the lessons we have learnt while conducting CUET," he said.

Asked when the merger is expected, Kumar said the modalities are yet to be worked out.

"An expert committee will be set up by the month-end. It will study all the important entrance exams being conducted in the country as well as abroad. If we have to introduce the exam next year, preparation has to start now, considering the massive exercise and the different disciplines involved.

"There also has to be a consensus among stakeholders and the two main issues we need to address is the syllabus as well as the difficulty level, as each discipline has its own peculiarities," he said.

The debut edition of CUET-UG began in July and has been marred by glitches, prompting the National Testing Agency (NTA) to cancel exams at multiple centres. While several students were informed about the cancellation a night before the exam, many were turned away from centres citing cancellations.

Kumar had said the exam at certain centres was cancelled following reports of "sabotage". The fourth phase of the CUET-UG is set to begin on Wednesday.

Second biggest entrance exam after NEET

With 14.9 lakh registrations, the CUET, the common gateway for undergraduate admissions in all central universities, is now the second biggest entrance exam in the country, surpassing JEE-Main’s average registration of nine lakh.

NEET-UG is the biggest entrance test in India with an average of 18 lakh registrations.

While JEE-Mains is a Computer Based Test (CBT) conducted twice a year, NEET is conducted in the pen and paper mode.

"CBT is the future. Conducting an exam of this scale in the pen and paper mode will be a logistical nightmare. The ultimate plan is to conduct a single exam, twice a year and in the computer-based mode," he said.

Asked about concerns over use of unfair means, which often cloud NEET, Kumar said, "CUET had glitches because it stopped right where there were reports or possibilities of sabotage and hence we haven't found any case of the use of unfair means so far in CUET".

Explaining how the exam will address the issues of overlapping subjects or disciplines, Kumar said, tentatively each phase of the exam will have certain days on which the tests in subjects such as physics, chemistry, maths and biology (subjects in JEE and NEET) will be conducted and the rest of the days will be for other subjects like history and political science, among others.

"The scale of CUET is already huge. The diversity of subjects is less in JEE and NEET than CUET. We need to consider two areas while planning --- academics and logistics. Some concerns have been raised about the difficulty level and syllabi. We will address all concerns before going ahead," he said.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) had in March announced that undergraduate admissions will be conducted in all central universities through a common entrance test and not on the basis of class 12 marks.

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