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Commercialisation of Higher Education

IN response to M Shatrugna's article (September 25), I would like to offer some clarifications. (a) The Supreme Court's judgment on the tuition fee structure in professional colleges, while one may agree or disagree with it is legally binding on the government of India and all state governments and a tuition fee structure conforming to it has necessarily to be evolved, (b) I am not aware of the constitution of a one- man committee by the previous chief minister, but the latest tuition fee structure was evolved by a three-man officers' committee constituted according to the Supreme Court's direction comprising the education secretary, the commissioner for technical education and the vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. The report of the committee was accepted in toto by the state government and there were no political inputs either in the composition of the committee or the contents of its report, (c) The AICTE has published in 1990 a booklet Norms and Standards for Engineering Colleges according to which a normative per student recurring expenditure per year is Rs 11,196 or nearly Rs 12,000 if a college has to meet AICTE standards. At that time, the AP government had fixed the fee at Rs 10,500 only, by slightly diluting the AICTE standards (e g, by making the teacher-student ratio 1:14 instead of 1:10 as recommended by AICTE) in order to reduce the burden on students. This fee of Rs 10,500 was due for a revision after three years. A calculation, taking into account escalation in recurring costs, shows that, irrespective of the Supreme Court's judgment, the fee today, based on the same criteria as earlier, would have been about Rs 15,000. this is precisely what has now been fixed as per Supreme Court ruling where the total fee for two students, one for the free seat and one for the payment seat, comes to Rs 30,000. (d) It is only in the allocation of this Rs 30,000 between the payment and the free seats that there is some discretion to the government. The fee for free seats has to be the same as in university/ government colleges, as per Supreme Court judgment. If the prevailing tuition fee of about Rs 300 per year in most university engineering colleges had been retained for the free seats, the tuition fee for the payment seats would have been Rs 29,700. (e) It was felt that the prevailing tuition fee in University colleges (which in any case had no rationale) was long overdue for revision and that, with the Supreme Court judgment supporting self-sustainability as a principle, this was the right the to do so. It was, therefore, fixed at Rs 3,750 which by no means is an unreasonable fee for an engineering degree course, (In fact, even in a CPM- mled state like West Bengal, the Ashok Mitra Commission on Education has suggested Rs 3,000. (f) If an engineering college really adheres to the norms inherent in the tuition fee structure, they will have no 'surplus' at all, except for occasional savings arising out of the vacant posts. It is the responsibility of the government to use its statutory powers to see that the norms assumed in arriving at the tuition fee are adhered to. (g) The comments of the Koteswara Rao Cornmittee have to be understood fn the following context:

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