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Deconstructing high cutoffs at University of Delhi (2020)

Delighted by their achievement of gravity-defying scores in Class XII board examinations 2019-2020, students probing admissions to UG courses at the University of Delhi (DU) received a rude shock after colleges declared their first cutoffs. The first cutoff list for admission to undergraduate programs was announced on 10th October 2020 and it hit the 100% ceiling for the third time since 2011. While some people think that these cutoffs reflect sheer arrogance of colleges and that these are just a gimmick to hype up the reputation, others justify this through basic laws of economics.

Delhi University attracts students from all the nooks and corners of India and even countries abroad due to its physical infrastructure, extracurricular activities to hone skills, learning environment, illustrious faculty, opportunities to interact with a diverse student population, placements, and most importantly, the vibe! Delhi University has produced some of the stalwarts in various fields like media, entertainment, literature, politics, journalism, sports, academia et al – Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Amitav Ghosh, Aung San Suu Kyi, Kiran Bedi, Imtiaz Ali, Lt. Arun Jaitley, Gautam Gambhir to name a few.

Coming back to admissions, let’s see what drives these high cutoffs? Here’s why:

More applications than available seats

Scarcity principle, duh! In 2020, around 5.63 lakh students filled the registration form for undergraduate courses at DU even though only around 70,000 seats are available. Afterall, DU, being a public university, is every student’s dream!

Inflation in marks

 Looking at how the Evaluation of CBSE has changed over the years, in 2019, around 17,690 students scored above 95%, and this figure jumped to 38,686 with an increase of approximately 118.6% this year. As all high scorers apply to the most prestigious colleges in the country (which come under DU), this naturally pushes the cut off upwards.

Means to avoid overcrowding

“If a particular college has a sanctioned seat strength of X and the number of students registered becomes a multiple of X or X+Y, we don’t have the capacity. We are all working with a physical infrastructure which is remaining fixed because by definition your physical infrastructure doesn’t change overnight.”, said Prof. Simrit Kaur, Principal, SRRC in an interview with The Quint. Thus it gets difficult to accommodate all the students and to maintain the teacher-student ratio for maximum efficiency (Basic laws of Demand and Supply, we geddit!).

Lack of course-wise data for applications

Course wise data is an essential metric while setting cutoffs. As the complete process was held online this year, the applicants had to fill forms in which they didn’t have to specify courses. As University didn’t seek course wise information this year, colleges were shooting in the dark while setting cutoffs. In previous years, unlike this year, the number of high scorers was low and course-wise applicants’ data was available. “So even if 1% of students apply for a course with less than 25 seats, there will be over admissions.”, said an official from the South Campus.

The 2020 saga – COVID-19

Many students who earlier had plans to explore foreign colleges for undergrad education may now have to opt for Indian campuses and DU is definitely one of the first choices. As of now, all overseas universities will be delivering their programs online.

Dearth of affordable alternatives

Being a public university, DU’s fee structure is affordable for many, which again attracts many students aspiring for higher studies. Pursuing BA Hons. (Economics) at DU costs INR 10,015 per year on average, while pursuing the same course at Amity University, one of the best private universities, costs INR 92,500 per year (90 times the cost in DU). 

But what about the undue emphasis on marks?

The phenomenon of high cutoffs is not just an academic-administrative problem. It is representative of more critical issues that ail the education system like the lack of democratization. The cutoffs being decided based on high marks scored by few students of reputed private schools acts as a gatekeeper for the students belonging to marginalized sections of unreserved category.

The burden these cutoffs put on board marks is unjustified. Millions of students run the unrealistic and mindless rat race of scores in this country. The mind-numbing competition and rote learning crush the creativity and curiosity and these cutoffs add another reason to keep holistic learning out of the priority list.

Due to these soaring cut off, students opt for private universities aka expensive education. This further leads to their parents borrowing money, adding to their previous loans, and a possibility of finding oneself in a debt trap a few years down the line as degrees don’t guarantee employment.


Centre and states must invest more in public education and boost academic infrastructure across the country, Class XII evaluation process must be made more holistic, evaluation of students should not be centred around just their marks in exams rather a grading system based on classroom participation, project work, communication, leadership skills, and extracurricular performance should be adopted and employable skill development should be given priority. A World Economic Forum report states that half of India’s workforce will have to be reskilled by 2022 to keep up with future skill demands.

We have to diversify the career pyramid and eventually, personalize and customize learning in our education system. One size does not fit all. Period!

Prerna Mishra

Delhi North '22

An average eighteen year old from Delhi pursuing Economics Hons with millennial choices and issues. Like dancing to misogynistic Ed Sheeran songs. Makes nincompoop doodles and listen to Halsey when not testing people's attributes.
Bhavya Arora

Delhi North '20

I am Bhavya Arora, a final year student of B.Com.(Hons.) at Hansraj College, University of Delhi. At this stage in life, I am trying to acquire the right skills and exposure to have a fulfilling career in finance wherein I get to implement my knowledge while expanding it. But, at the same time, I know what I want to do for the society. I wish to familiarise more and more women with the idea of feeling empowered and equal and for that, I write for various online publishers, challenging the age-old notions of patriarchy.
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