A day after Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia announced the possibility of an increase in fees for higher education in the 11th Five Year Plan, academicians in the city agreed that a “a higher fee for higher education is the need of the hour”.
Naresh Chandra, president of the Bombay University Principals’ Associations, said the increase in fees had to be reasonable. “Costs are increasing and we are also competing with global challenges, so there has to be an increase in fees,” Chandra said. “But the fee hike must be used only for quality enhancement linked to teachers, students and infrastructure.”
Chandra said for the junior college the fee structure had not changed in 25 years. “While boys pay Rs 200 (annually), the fee stands at Rs 46 for girl students.” In fact, the University of Mumbai is currently reviewing the fee structure for degree colleges as well as unaided courses.
Along with the increase in fee, Ahluwalia also mentioned that there would be scholarships and student loans offered to those who are economically weaker.
But that has left educationists wondering what criteria will be used to decipher which students need scholarships and loans. Having tried to increase the fees for undergraduate courses, former university officials recall the oppositions that have come along with in the form of student protests.
“Finance is the lifeblood of an education institution,” said educationist Richard Heredia. He opined that better infrastructure, faculty, industry interface, better coaching and training and if the student profile has to be equated with the job profile, it calls for extra fee.
“Nonetheless, the quantum of fee increase should be proportionate to the existing fee structure and must be an affordable and viable fee,” he added.
Parents though do not think that a fee hike can assure better quality of education. “The present fee that we are paying is not giving my child an edge in any way. In fact, I have to send my child for additional coaching. The language of the teachers is bad, neither is there is there any reference or guidance provided. How can fee hike solve these problems,” questions Shilpa Nair, a banker.