The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High fee hurdle for Saarc students

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The Centre’s proposal to introduce concessional fees for Saarc students has been gathering dust for more than two years while the number of students from Nepal and Bangladesh has steadily declined.

One of the main reasons for Saarc students to opt for academic destinations other than India is a steep hike in tuition fees in institutions of higher and technical education, particularly in the IITs, since the early 1990s.

With no likelihood of a policy reversal in sight, students from Nepal have started enrolling for medical and engineering courses in Pakistan.

About six years ago, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) had 500 Bangladeshi research students. After the university increased the fees for foreign students to $2,500 a year, most left for Jaipur and Jodhpur universities after completing their post-graduate courses.

“Only a third of Bangladeshi students are left in AMU now,” a former university student said.

In IIT, Delhi, foreign students, including those from Saarc, pay $12,000 a year. “This is an amount few students from Nepal or Bangladesh can afford to pay,” an official in the human resources development ministry said.

Two years ago, the ministry had proposed to the IITs and the University Grants Commission a slash in tuition fees for Saarc students. “We wanted them to make a distinction between students from the West and Saarc,” an official said.

The UGC and the IITs, however, failed to act on the proposal. They said the Centre had repeatedly urged them to increase fees, especially for foreign students.

“They (IITs and UGC) are not ready to make a special case for Saarc students, who cannot afford to pay such huge amounts in dollars,” a ministry officials aid.

The issue figured at the recent meeting of the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Commission. But nothing concrete came out of it.

Some universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and Jaipur University, however, are still sticking to the old fee structure for foreign students. In JNU, for example, a foreign student in the humanities stream pays $500 and in pure sciences $750.

For Pakistani students, the rules have been stringent. They are not allowed to research in India in affiliation with any Indian university. “Even Pakistanis settled in the US are not allowed (to do this),” a ministry official said.

Most foreign students in India are from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Oman in West Asia and Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya in East Africa. The US sends the largest contingent of pupils who study Indian languages.

Recently, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and HRD minister M.M. Joshi supported a move to simplify rules for foreign students. Joshi backed the UGC’s proposal for single-window clearance so that foreign students do not have to shuttle between ministries for admission.

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