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Joshi targets IIM fees

New Delhi, Nov. 17: Murli Manohar Joshi has had another brush with the Indian Institutes of Management when last week he indicated yet again the Centre’s unwillingness to withdraw from the education sector.

He cited the IIMs’ annual charge of Rs 1.5 lakh as one instance that supported his argument the government should “not imitate” self-financing institutes that extract big fees from students.

“If the institutes running with the help of public money charge such hefty fees, it is only natural that other self-financing institutes will imitate them. It is now for the government organisations to set an example so that they are not clubbed in the category of self-financing institutes,” Joshi said.

Speaking at a conference of state technical education secretaries in Delhi on Saturday, the Union human resources development minister said the IIMs should provide more assistance to underprivileged students.

Joshi had earlier drawn the displeasure of the IIMs at Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Bangalore by asking them to sign an MoU that the institutes alleged would hamper their decision-making and financial independence.

Recently, he sought to introduce a single national management entrance test, which the institutes said would compromise their standards.

Joshi is not in favour of the Centre withdrawing from primary or higher education, in contrast to a strong opinion within some sections of the government that higher education institutions should depend less on subsidy and be more self-sufficient.

Colleges affiliated to Delhi University took a step in this direction when they substantially raised fees, like the Indian Institutes of Technology.

The University Grants Commission, in its reform proposals, had even recommended measures to help ease the government out of the higher education sector. Amendments to the UGC Act for the purpose are pending before the government.

Joshi’s emphasis on the need for institutes to help poor students was clearly a reference to the IIM fee structure that has proved exorbitant to many. Of the three top IIMs in, the Calcutta unit charges the minimum at Rs 240,000 for the course.

The Ahmedabad institute charges Rs 3 lakh and Bangalore Rs 135,000. IIM-Indore charges Rs 120,000.

The 400-odd private business institutes across the country charge big amounts from students though the quality of education in as many as 300 is believed to be far from satisfactory.

Financial support in the form of waived tuition-fee and maintenance allowance is available, but the amount is inadequate. Educational loans, too, are available from banks such as Citi Bank, Allahabad Bank, Punjab National Bank and Industrial Development Bank of India.

But Joshi’s emphasis was on the need to impart inexpensive but quality technical training to “technically alert” people. Only 4 per cent of the country’s workforce are trained.

“Ninety-three per cent of our workers are in unorganised sector and we will have to make sincere efforts for their education and training. Only then will we be able to compete with developed countries,” the minister said.

As a first step, the Centre has implemented a policy to upgrade the quality of regional technical institutes to bring them on a par with the IITs.

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