The students have been demanding withdrawal of a massive hike in extension fees for research scholars from Rs 600 to Rs 1,70,000.

Suspended for confronting VC on fee hike Kerala Uni research scholars on indefinite strike
news Student Issues Monday, October 10, 2016 - 18:56

For the last twelve days, six research scholars of Kerala University have been on an indefinite strike outside the university gates in Thiruvananthapuram, protesting what they call the Vice Chancellor’s autocratic rule.


On September 6, Vice-Chancellor PK Radhakrishnan suspended 6 research scholars, of whom four are Dalit, for allegedly gheraoing him in his chamber.


According to the research scholars, they had approached the VC to address student issues including the university’s hike in the extension fee from Rs 600 (for two years) to Rs 1,70,000, which the students say is unjust.


A second-year research scholar at the Malayalam department and research students union chairman, Manesh told The News Minute that the VC refused to meet them and consider their complaints when the student representatives tried to meet him.


“He plainly refused to meet us and was furious that we were allowed to even enter his chamber. We were later taken away by the police and let out on bail,” Manesh said.


A day after this, all the six students including Manesh were given a show cause notice, after which they were indefinitely suspended. Since then, access to the university campus, their hostel rooms and the library have been denied to them.


As the students’ indefinite protest against the VC entered the twelfth day on Monday, they are yet to hear from the VC. According to reports, Kerala Education Minister Ravindranath has given an assurance that the matter would be looked into.


The protesting students are demanding that the university’s massive hike in extension fee be withdrawn. This has been a demand since the order was issued in February this year, Manesh said.


“Most of the research students are unable to complete their PhD in the regular five years’ time, and therefore pay Rs 600 to get it extended for a period of two years. This hike is unjustified, as it puts immense burden on the students. Other universities charge a maximum of Rs 15,000 as extension fee,” Manesh said.


He points out that for the research scholars whose fellowships cover expenses for the first three-and-a-half years, the financial burden of the remaining duration of the course is already immense.


Manesh said that the VC had earlier justified the fee hike saying that it would force research scholars to utilise the 5-year period of the PhD and submit their thesis within that time.


Other demands include constituting an ethical committee to provide clearance certificates for students to carry out their research activities, and improving the infrastructure facilities at the university. 


“Since the last two years, the university has not issued ethical committee clearance, which in turn has delayed the issuance of registration order, making us eligible for fellowship. Many students have been meeting their academic expenses from their own pockets,” Manesh alleged.


Manesh claimed that the Vice-Chancellor has categorically refused to hear out student's issues and suspects that there may be other reasons at work.


"There could be caste issues influencing his decision. All the representatives of the academic council are Dalits," Manesh points out.


The revocation of their suspension has been added at the top of the list of student's demands.


"Ever since we were suspended, all our academic activities have been stalled," Manesh said.


A faculty member and head of a department at the university, on condition of anonymity, told The News Minute that the VC's approach to the students as well as the staff members has not been pleasant. 


"His stubborn nature has worsened many issues that could otherwise have been solved. Amicably solving an issue does not seem to figure in his agenda at all," the faculty member said. 


TNM was unable to obtain a response from the VC despite repeated attempts. According to the Personal Secretary to the VC, the latter is currently out of station. 




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