Education
A fee committee will ascertain how reasonable the fee levied by institutes are, but deemed universities worry that they will lose their autonomy with the new regulations.

The fees of private deemed universities will soon be regulated, according to draft regulations released by the University Grants Commission, and is open for comments till December 12. 

The new regulations state that the UGC will form fee committees, which will regulate the fees charged by private aided or unaided deemed universities. Aided institutes receive funds from the government, whereas unaided ones do not.

These fee committees will be looking at how reasonable the fee levied by the institute is by looking into social aspects such as share of minorities and the educational needs of the location, the average cost per seat, how much aid they received (in the case of aided institutions), along with a “reasonable surplus” in revenue. 

Education in India cannot be a for-profit venture, which is also one of the things the committee is looking at. The fee committee will “verify” if the fee does not amount to profiteering or charging of capitation fees. 

According to the regulations, the committee will also look “to evolve the mechanism for verification of infrastructure facilities and amenities, and to undertake verification thereof”, and will undertake research to determine course-wise expenses that each student will make. The research will be separate for aided and unaided institutions. 

‘No capitation fee in any form’

The regulations state that to ascertain the fee charged per semester or per year, the things that will also be taken into account are salaries and other expenses to teaching and non-teaching staff, administrative expenses; maintenance of labs, buildings and other infrastructure; the cost of acquisition of books and journals for libraries, among others. It will also account for a reasonable surplus which is 10-15% of the average cost. 

“No Institution shall charge capitation fee in any form or manner, whatsoever,” the regulations state. Capitation fees were deemed illegal by the Supreme Court in 2016. “Profiteering and commercialization are not permitted and no capitation fee can be charged. The admission of students has to be on merit and not at the whims and fancies of the educational institutions,” the court had then said. 

The draft regulations also add that apart from this decided fee, institutions cannot charge any other fee.

If the institute offers lodging, boarding, transport, books etc. — it needs to be optional, and not compulsory. Only the actual cost of these may be recovered. 

Fee revision once in three years

Students should not be asked to pay fees for more than a semester at the time of admission. In case the program is a professional one, then only for one year. 

Any returns that institutions receive on their investments or receive any surplus revenue can only be used for developing and expanding the institute itself. 

“The fee approved by the Fee Committee at any point in time shall be valid for a period of three years next; and subsequent change in fees, if any, shall be applicable only in respect of new admissions,” the regulations state. 

The fee committee that makes these decisions will be headed by an educationist (who has been a Vice-Chancellor or the head of a statutory national regulatory authority), and will comprise of an educationist who has been a professor of the program in question, a nominee of the statutory national regulatory authority concerned, an expert in the field of cost accountancy or institutional finance, and a UGC commission member not below the rank of Joint Secretary. 

Institutes are allowed to appeal and make their case, but the fee committee does have the right to impose a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh per violation “in addition to the refund or excess fee charged from the students”. This committee can also impose punishments. 

As of November 1, there were 126 deemed universities in the country. Of this, Tamil Nadu has the highest concentration of deemed universities in India at 28. Karnataka has 14, Kerala has 3, Telangana has 2 and Andhra Pradesh has 5. 

There have been arguments on both sides of the coin regarding this move. Deemed universities are reportedly worried that if this is regulations are put into effect, they will lose their autonomy.

Former UGC chairman Sukhadeo Thorat told the Telegraph that this rule will enforce a reduction in fees charged by deemed universities. “Since one committee will determine the fee of an individual institution, the fee structure will be different among deemed universities based on their infrastructure and quality,” he said.

Ishari K Ganesh, the Chancellor of Vels Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies told the Times of India that it is not acceptable that deemed universities, which are autonomous, be brought under regulations. 

Meanwhile, Christ Chancellor Fr Abraham VM questioned how the government can interfere in administrative matters, especially when the government doesn’t provide these institutes with any funds. 

He further refers to the accounting method outlined in the regulations for universities. 

“The rule says we must manage two accounts — one for maintenance and the other for development. They are purely administrative matters. A university is a professional institution and we have our ways of doing it. The government has no business in it,” he said.

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