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regular-article-logo Friday, 24 May 2024

Regulator fee signal for tech schools

Move by AICTE meant to ensure schools maintain their academic standards

Basant Kumar Mohanty New Delhi Published 30.09.22, 01:28 AM
These recommendations come at a time many private colleges have been complaining that the fees imposed by their state governments are too low to maintain academic standards and pay faculty and staff.

These recommendations come at a time many private colleges have been complaining that the fees imposed by their state governments are too low to maintain academic standards and pay faculty and staff. File picture

Technical education regulator AICTE has recommended minimum and maximum fees for technology institutes, depending on their varying facilities and faculty strength, that it feels they should charge from students to be able to maintain academic standards.

These recommendations come at a time many private colleges have been complaining that the fees imposed by their state governments are too low to maintain academic standards and pay faculty and staff.

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The AICTE recommendations, based on the report of a committee chaired by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, a former Supreme Court judge, are not binding on the institutes or state governments.

The AICTE grants approval every year to technical institutes based on their facilities, the qualifications of their faculty, and teacher-student ratio. But these colleges, most of which are in the private sector, are affiliated to state universities. They charge the fees that the state governments notify for each individual college on the basis of recommendations from state-level fee regulatory committees.

The AICTE has asked the states to place the Srikrishna committee report before their fee regulatory panels to help them decide the fee structures for programmes such as BTech, MTech, MCA, MBA and hotel management.

There are complaints that some private deemed universities and private universities charge exorbitantly. However, these institutions are not required to follow the state regulatory committees’ recommended fees, and the latest AICTE recommendations are not expected to have any impact on them.

Central tech schools decide their fees themselves.

The AICTE had set up the Srikrishna committee in 2015. The committee had then suggested an upper limit on fees that the private colleges can charge. The highest fees notified by most states were less than half of what the Srikrishna committee suggested in 2015.

The AICTE had circulated the recommendations among the states, but any expectations that private colleges may have harboured about fee increases were largely dashed. Most state governments have schemes to reimburse the fees of students from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and below-poverty-line families, and want to keep the fees low.

Several private colleges had moved their state high courts seeking a directive to their state governments to allow them to increase their fees, and preferably to charge up to the upper limit suggested by the Srikrishna Committee.

In 2020, Delhi High Court directed the AICTE to come up with a lower limit — as a sort of guideline for the state regulatory panels — and the regulator asked the Srikrishna committee for recommendations.

The committee considered the kinds of expenses the institutes incur, including faculty salary, facilities and maintenance. Since the facilities vary and faculty posts often remain vacant, it suggested both minimum and maximum fees.

C.V. Krishna, a management teacher at a private college in Andhra Pradesh, said the state government had fixed “the annual fee for MBA at Rs 60,000 (for his college) while the AICTE has recommended Rs 85,000 (for all colleges)”.

“Because the colleges are forced to charge less, they resort to unfair practices like charging capitation fees under the ‘management quota’. The colleges don’t pay proper salaries to faculty and staff,” he said.

An AICTE official said: “The AICTE takes action if the standard is compromised. To maintain standards, the institutes need to generate resources to meet their expenditures. In this context, the Srikrishna committee suggested maximum and minimum fees. If the fee is fixed below the (suggested) lower limit, the institutions will suffer.”

The AICTE, which shared the recommendations with the states in May, is yet to receive feedback.

Onkar Singh, former vice-chancellor of the state-run Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur, supported the AICTE move to recommend a minimum fee structure.

“The private colleges manage their expenses only through the fees they charge students. The quality of education has a direct correlation with the fees received,” he said.

“The states don’t only keep the fee structure low, they also delay payment (reimbursement) for years. How can the colleges function?”

Singh said some kind of fee-rationality needed to be brought between both types of private institutes — the AICTE-approved colleges and the deemed and private universities.

Binod Dash, secretary of the Odisha Private Engineering College Association, said the highest fees notified by the state government were close to the minimum recommended by the AICTE.

“There is no reason to exempt the private universities and deemed universities from the state-level fee structure system. There should be a level playing field,” he added.

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