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Fee furore

As public universities like IIT raise their fee exponentially, by as much as 900% for MTech, students express concern

It’s becoming more common for government universities to hike their tuition fees, and this time, it’s the turn of the IITs. The M Tech programme, once setting back a student by Rs 20,000-50,000 per annum, will now cost almost Rs 2 lakh for a year. According to the administration, the fees have been hiked to discourage students from dropping out of their courses before completion.

This isn’t the only change. While there was no uniformity in fees across IITs before — IIT Delhi would charge Rs 10,000 before and IIT Bombay Rs 5,000 — now, a three-member internal committee has recommended keeping fees uniform across all branches. In another change, students who gained admission through the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering will no longer receive a monthly stipend of Rs12,400.

The new structure will apply to the next batch of M Tech students; existing students will see no change in the fees.

According to the committee, another reason for the fee hike is to bring the M Tech fees closer to B Tech fees over the next three years. The B Tech fee structure itself was hiked by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2016, fromRs 90,000 to Rs 2 lakh.

The director of IIT Delhi, V Ramgopal Rao, praised the fee hike. In a statement on Facebook, he wrote: “Today we have uninterested students studying in outdated programmes which are disconnected with market demands…how can we spend taxpayers money to offer free education to them, when they themselves see no value in such education?”

However, not everyone is happy. A statement released by the All India Students Association called the hike “another assault of commercialisation and exclusion” by the government. The statement said: “While there was an urgent need for reform to ensure caste, class and gender inclusivity, the opposite is being attempted by the Modi government. The tuition fee for M Tech courses was Rs 10,000 per semester for unreserved category. This fee structure is being raised by 900% for M Tech students bringing the earlier fee structure at par with B Tech fees, that costs roughly around  2 lakh annually.”

A first-year M Tech student from IIT Roorkee told Newslaundry: “Quality education should be the topmost priority of the government. Increasing fees will add burden on the students and will create extra pressure.” The student added: “Many students are worried about their finances and will have to turn to loans due to steps like these.”

IIT is not the only public university to increase its fees. Over the last few years, many colleges of Delhi University also significantly increased theirs. As a result, some colleges are reportedly moving towards autonomy and privatisation. Meanwhile, the government plans to do away with the University Grants Commission, and there are talks of replacing the current UGC with a Higher Education Commission of India, thereby creating a single regulatory body for higher education.

A second-year journalism student in DU says the government’s move is an abdication of its responsibility. “The motive of public universities should be imparting education and training youngsters with professional skills. By privatising public educational institutions, the government gives up its responsibilities and leaves a major chunk of students, who cannot afford exuberant private universities, in despair.”

Importantly, over the last few years, some IITs and Delhi University were granted the status of “Institute of Eminence” — granted by the government to colleges it believes will deliver high-quality education. This is intended to increase the college’s international rating.

However, this tag also gives institutions greater autonomy to decide their own fees and governance structures — leading to greater fears that students will have to face higher fees.