Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is unique in its own model of being the most affordable and inclusive university in the country.
In the year 2018, a new school was introduced – University School of Engineering, which currently offers a five-year dual degree programme in Computer Science and Engineering and in Electronics and Communications Engineering.
The two programmes were started during the 2018-19 academic session with an intake of 50 students each which during the current academic year has been increased to 63 students each. Despite so many students enrolled there are no proper infrastructural facilities.
Due to this, students are made to shift frequently between the Convention Centre, School of Computer and System Sciences and School of Physical Sciences for their classes. They don’t even have a half decent library.
Disproportionate fee structure
Despite the patent lack of infrastructure available, students are currently forced to pay “tuition fee” amounting to Rs 62,500 in addition to Rs 4,000 which they are already paying as institution fee. As per the e-prospectus 2019-20 (amounts are in INR):
Furthermore, the administration is charging Rs 11,000 as hostel fee (per semester) from B.Tech students as opposed to students in other disciplines who are only paying Rs 1,350 (on average) with the same facility.
Despite such a massive fee, the hostels are not equipped with good infrastructure and lack other basic facilities.
- The rooms are forcefully accommodating three to four students each.
- The hostel blocks either don’t have common rooms, and where they exist, they are unfir for use.
- The hostels are located very far from the academic block and there are no buses or rickshaws for the rest of the campus.
- There are no parking facilities
- During heavy rainfall, the water gets accumulated due to poor drainage – especially in front of block-A.
- We pay Rs 5,000 annually as student activity fee but there is no infrastructure for sports or other recreational activities.
This fee structure is nothing but a means to commercialise the Indian education system. Instead of balancing between quantity, quality and equity, this structure is only promoting a more elitist and pro-corporatist thrust.
JNU is a publicly funded central university. It was established with the idea to cater to all section of students in the country. But the current fee structure – especially for the B.Tech course – is only a way to commercialise education and make it a privilege which a few can afford.
The case of B.Tech students in JNU is not in isolation.
We can see a clear push at the policy level to privatise education. Take the case of the Draft National Education Policy – while gives importance to higher education and research than has hitherto been given, it builds castles in the air without assessing the long-term impact of commercialisation in education.
It sets up an ambitious gross enrolment ratio target of 50% by the year 2035 but hopes that the target will be achieved without binding the union government to funding commitments. The ratio is a statistical measure to determine the number of students enrolled in school at different grade levels.
Furthermore, its policy recommendations are based on a one-sided diagnoses derived entirely from NITI Ayog’s Action Agenda. It merely replicates the already identified evils by advocating increased private investment, uniform regulatory and assessment parameters for public-funded and private higher educational institutions, private-funding of institutional infrastructure through corporate philanthropy and capital markets, greater contingency in teaching appointments and career progression leading to more professional insecurity and iniquity, and the shutting-down of large affiliating-type universities – thus negating the potential to pool resources and improve the standards of affiliated colleges.
Clearly, the JNU administration seeks to isolate the students from the School of Engineering from the rest of the university and thus alienate them from JNU’s culture built over decades of students’ struggle.
By cocooning these students in a space that lacks basic necessities such as canteens, laundry and stationery and not providing them with any engineering-specific placement facilities, the administration thus seeks to inculcate in them a feeling that they don’t have any right over this public university.
I believe this exercise in exploitation and repression of student rights need to be condemned and resisted by JNU’s entire student community in the strongest possible manner.
Qasim Masumi is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University Delhi.
All views expressed belong to the author.
Featured image credit: PTI