Marking the first struggle against fee hikes and unjust demand of fee by universities amid a pandemic, the students and university political leaders of all prevalent parties of the Panjab University came together staging a protest outside the Vice-Chancellors office.
The university has acted as a one stop centre especially for students hailing from Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab while also attracting students from across the country.
Its students hail from varied socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and have even found it difficult to access online classes, let alone pay the university fee by deadline.
The university with almost 200 affiliated colleges has had students from around its centres writing mail and requests to VC about the collection of fee.
A student of Panjab University at Hoshiarpur regional centre, in a mail written to the VC, said, “We are being charged an all inclusive fee along with charges including library, laboratory et al. The pandemic has been difficult for all of us and not everyone is privileged enough. Many of us are struggling to hold ourselves together. My and many more like me request you to understand our situation and withdraw these extra charges.We ask you to charge tuition fee only.”
In a joint protest staged by the students of Punjab University on Friday, it was demanded that extra charges not be charged along with the withdrawal of deadline to pay fee dues by August 10.
Reportedly, the authorities have decided to hold a syndicate meeting in this regard on Saturday to discuss the matter.
The final changes, if any on the fee charges will have wide implications since all affiliated colleges stand to get affected by the university’s decision.
Former University president for Students For Society (SFS) part of the protest, talking to the Indian Express, said, “It is not practical to charge fee from students who are already facing hardships back home. We have never been given justice without protests. No consideration of students whatsoever is being taken. It is the students who form the university and their appeals which are pouring in from parts of the country must be paid attention.”
Reportedly, even though the syndicate had categorically refused a fee hike this year, it may difficult for it to make desired changes in fee structure for the semester, says a senior professor at the university, wishing to remain anonymous.
“The demands may never be fulfilled since the University has to pay its employees and whatever little grant was coming from the Centre has been stalled this year. Even though the government should be supporting higher education and universities at such a time, the crux of the problem remains that it is not,” the professor said.
Providing another point of view for the protest, the professor added, “The fee has to be submitted as per the academic calendar where there is almost a month available to do so. Of course there are problems in certain cases and decision can be taken on the merits of the case whereby the payment of fee may be delayed in deserving cases. Students also have the liberty of taking a break and coming back to finish their degree. Masters can for instance be done in four years. Then there is financial aid available to EWS and SC/ST students. Students can seek that.”
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