Following strong opposition from teachers’ and students’ organisations, a proposal by Mumbai University for a 25 per cent fee hike in its affiliated colleges has been strongly opposed by a section of the state Cabinet.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is learnt to have asked the Higher and Technical Education Minister Rajesh Tope to step in and study the issue before allowing any increase in fees.
The issue was discussed in the weekly Cabinet meeting, in which ministers Arif Naseem Khan, who heads the Minority Affairs Department, and Varsha Gaikwad, who heads the Women and Child Development Department, opposed the move.
“The CM was forced to step in and has now asked Tope to look into the issue,” a minister who attended the meeting said.
Last week, the fee revision committee of the varsity recommended a 25 per cent hike in its affiliated colleges. The committee met on April 25 and discussed the issue, but is yet to submit its report to the vice-chancellor or the management council. Some members of the management council, which met on April 28, also raised the issue following media reports although the proposed fee hike was not on its agenda.
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According to sources in the varsity, the vice-chancellor has asked two committees to take into account the representations made by students’ and teachers’ organisations before submitting its recommendations. In a press statement on Monday, the university said the proposal would come up for discussion only after the committee hears all stakeholders’ views.
If the proposal is passed by the management council, unaided colleges will be able to hike fees by 25 per cent. The last fee hike approved by the varsity was in 2008. Following this, the MU had formed a committee in 2012 under the chairmanship of its former pro-vice-chancellor Ashok Pradhan to review the fee structure of affiliated colleges. The committee’s report was tabled at the management council meeting held in June 2013 for discussion. The Pradhan committee recommended that basic infrastructure and teaching facilities, human resources and financial transactions and even performance of institutions would be considered before they were allowed to hike fees.
Soon after the Pradhan committee’s recommendations, MU formed two new fee regulatory committees, which comprise a representative of principals, teachers, office-bearers of electoral constituency, a representative of college management, a chartered accountant and a representative from the university. While one of the two committees was headed by pro-vice-chancellor of MU, the other one was chaired by the director of Board of College and University Development (BCUD). To be able to hike fees, every college was required to submit a proposal to the two committees.
Dr Naresh Chandra, pro-vice chancellor of MU, said they were not imposing the fee hike. “The idea was to allow it only in cases where there was a genuine need. Earlier, all the colleges were allowed to increase fees. However, many members of management council in the past one year suggested that only colleges which are performing well, have NAAC accreditation, the required infrastructure facilities and fulfill all the norms under Maharashtra University’s Act 1994, should be allowed to increase fees. Colleges also have to cover up all the expenditures and have to pay their teaching and non-teaching staff, hence we have to take wise decisions,” he said.
“There is a misunderstanding that the committee’s recommendations will give arbitrary powers to the colleges to increase fees. The rules will be stringent and will not be compromised,” he told Newsline. The opposition by the ministers has come as a setback to the varsity, which is scheduled to consider the proposal soon.