The HRD Ministry has held off the decision to increase the tuition fee for MTech programmes at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The development comes in the backdrop of the protests at JNU against a substantial hike in hostel fee.
The government finalised minutes of the IIT Council meeting, held on September 27, on Tuesday. The minutes state that the agenda item on reform of MTech programmes will be “further discussed in the next meeting of the IIT Council”. A press release from HRD Ministry on September 27 stated that the council had approved the recommendation for the IITs to charge MTech students the same fee as the BTech programme. In other words, IITs, over the next three years, would increase tuition fee for new MTech students from the current average of Rs 30,000 a year to Rs 2 lakh per annum.
“The JNU fee hike issue and the protests seem to have forced a rethink,” said an IIT director.
The ministry also deferred the decision on adopting the tenure track system. On September 27, the 23 IITs had agreed to grant tenure to assistant professors five years after their recruitment. This decision marked a significant shift from the current practice across most centrally funded institutions, where fresh faculty recruits are given permanent appointments as assistant professors after a year. They cannot be fired after that.
Ministry cites dropouts
Although the student community had opposed the decision at that time, the HRD Ministry had justified fee hike on the ground that it would discourage “non-serious students” who join an IIT only to leave the programme midway after finding a job. “This dropout in the middle of the programme leads to wastage of coveted seats on the one hand and denies the opportunity to other serious and meritorious students...” the government statement read.
Under the tenure track system, an assistant professor is hired on a five-year contract. Her performance is first reviewed internally three years from the date of joining and then an external committee after five-and-a-half years. Depending on the evaluation, the assistant professor will either be granted tenure (and associate professorship) or asked to leave.
According to ministry sources, this decision was deferred because of apprehensions expressed by the IIT faculty. “There are many challenges in our system that make it difficult for new teachers to perform to the best of their abilities. For starters, we expect them to get research grants from the Department of Science and Technology and other agencies which take time to release funds,” said the above quoted IIT director.