Controlling costs: Here’s a lesson JNU can learn from FTII | Opinion
If the students’ strike of 139 days at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune resulted in anything better, it led to an overhaul of the course structure, introduction of short-term courses at competitive rates, offsetting the cost of scholarships and higher pay to the staff under the Seventh pay commission.
This model of charging higher fees for short-term courses to cross-subsidise the merit-driven flagship academic programme is not new and is followed in many foreign universities.
The government could, perhaps, take a look at the FTII model in a bid to solve the current students unrest and imbroglio at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.
It’s been more than four weeks since students at the JNU have been agitating against the hike in hostel fees, forcing the university to set up a committee to resolve the conflict.
In any institution, an upward revision of fees and other charges is usually resisted by the students and, therefore, what is happening at JNU is not an incident taking place in isolation.
At the FTII, short term courses ranging in duration from a week to a fortnight, and in a range of disciplines such as cinematography, music appreciation, screenplay writing and acting were introduced on a large scale during May in 2017. Most of these courses come at a higher fees as compared to the long-term courses at the FTII. Thus, for example, a 15-day film appreciation course costs around Rs 18,000 and a 20-day foundation course in screen acting costs about Rs 30,000. These fees do not include accommodation and other facilities. In spite of the higher fee structure, these courses have attracted a good response and the FTII has been holding them in other cities besides Pune.
Thanks to the support of government grants, the FTII has controlled the annual cost of its three-year diploma in film direction course at Rs. 1.15 lakh, including hostel fees. A similar course in a private institute would cost around Rs 25 lakh.
Authorities at the FTII say that the revenue generated from the short-term courses is utilised to fund the enhanced pay structure of the staff under the seventh pay commission. The institute also plans to introduce scholarships for students coming from the economically weaker strata from the additional revenue it is generating.
The self-financed short-term courses were introduced on the recommendation of a 2010 Hewitt Association report which said that the purpose was to offset the costs of the subsidised long-term courses, allow the institute to become self-reliant and upgrade its facilities.
Although the Information and Broadcasting (I and B) ministry did not accept the report then because of protracted students’ protests – something that the campus had been witnessing time and again – the essence of the recommendations was not lost and they are being implemented now.