THE central executive committee of the Students’ Federation of India, in a statement issued on May 16, has strongly opposed the exorbitant increase in fees imposed on the students of Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS). The annual tuition fee in the Pilani campus of the institute has been increased this year to Rs 1,59,500. It needs to be underlined here that in the last decade the institute has seen consistent average fee increase of 17 per cent every year.
However, BITS is certainly not an isolated phenomenon. Hefty fee hikes have become a routine affair in the educational institutions over the last decade and half. The recent fee hikes in IIT, TISS, Punjab University, Ravenshaw University and Srinagar Cluster University are all part of the policy design where rapid commercialisation is being unleashed.
The root of fee hikes lies in the attempts of the successive governments to provide level playing field to the private educational institutions, which is being done through massive budgetary cuts and directing public educational institutions to mobilise their own financial resources. Fee hikes are the first step in any such resource mobilisation. The decision to grant graded autonomy based on ranking of institutions or the provisions of RUSA (that allow government fund to be diverted to even the private institutions) are all part of the policy design where education is sought to privatised more and more.
As far as the private educational institutions like BITS are concerned, SFI has consistently maintained that all such institutions should be brought under public control by bringing legislation. The central government should take steps to ensure legislative measures and for the time being immediate steps should be taken to roll back the hefty fee hikes in all institutions. If the government fails to pay heed to these demands, SFI will launch a nation-wide agitation on these demands.