Delhi University's English Department hiked PhD fees by 1200 per cent? Faculty, students react

Student bodies opine that such hikes are detrimental to students' interests and demand an immediate rollback
Delhi University | (Picture: PTI)
Delhi University | (Picture: PTI)

Students who had applied for PhD in English at Delhi University (DU) were all of a sudden informed about the course fee being hiked to Rs 23,968 from Rs 1,932. According to students, when they opened the link to make the online payment, the fee was hiked, though the varsity did not release any official notice in this regard. A few faculty members and students of DU have taken a stand against this fee hike, which they call exorbitant and arbitrary.

In a Facebook post, Abha Dev Habib, an associate professor and a member of the Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF), shared, “This astronomical fee hike needs to be rolled back immediately. Such an attack on access to education and on diversity is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India and cannot be allowed to succeed. The students, teachers and non-teaching employees along with parents will unitedly fight to roll back the fee hike."

In a conversation with EdexLive, Prof Habib mentioned that the teachers' body is currently drafting a letter against the hike, which will be sent to the DU administration, including Vice-Chancellor (VC) Yogesh Singh, the Executive Council, and the Academic Council. "We have noted our stance on it," she added.

Meanwhile, student bodies have also issued statements against the fee hike. This is how each organisation is reacting:

Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS)
This organisation submitted a memorandum to VC Singh today, November 2. KYS DU President Bhim Kumar said that the students were not informed about the hike beforehand, and only yesterday (November 1), which was the penultimate day to pay the PhD admission fee, the payment link was activated with the hiked fee.

"On July 25, the Executive Council (EC) granted approval to hike the PhD admission fees for all departments up to Rs 4,400 for this academic year, as decided in another EC meeting on July 7. This decision was officially notified. But even if Rs 4,400 is collected for five years, it does not total Rs 23,968. On what basis the English Department is asking for such high fees is unclear," he added.

"Further, the email to secure provisional admission to the PhD programme at the department by payment of the aforementioned fees was sent only a day before the last date of fee payment. This action of the department only exposes the fact that the department wishes to pre-empt any action of the students in this regard by not even allowing them the customary time-frame of some weeks aimed at putting pressure on them to pay the grossly extortionate sum as fees," a statement by KYS alleges.

Students' Federation of India (SFI)
This was the first organisation to issue a statement against the hike. SFI Delhi Secretary Mayank Gupta said that they are trying to meet the VC and submit a memorandum in the next couple of days in this regard.

He alleged that the fee hike problem has emerged due to the institution of the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA), which was set up to provide loans to educational institutes. "DU has taken a loan of Rs 980 crore. Even the National Education Policy (NEP) advocates for the financial autonomy of educational institutes. Thus, in order to repay the loan, we feel that fees are being hiked, and institutes are encouraged to decrease their expenditure on infrastructure," Mayank remarked.

“Rising education costs burden students and hinder accessibility to quality higher education. We strongly oppose the fee hike at Delhi University, for it is a blatant attack on public funded education...Education should be a right, not a privilege, and we urge for fair and affordable education for all," the student body said in a statement.

All India Students' Association (AISA)
This organisation released a statement against the hike today, and according to DU AISA Secretary Anjali, the members are now engaged in collecting information about hikes in the PhD fees of other departments. Once they have the data, they will plan a course of action, she informed.

"So far, we have found that the Hindi Department has doubled its PhD fees. But what the English Department has done amounts to a 1200 per cent hike. Such fee hike issues have been increasing since HEFA took over the University Grants Commission (UGC). Policies like financial autonomy and self-fiancing only lead to privatisation. Many educational institutes have hiked their course and hostel fees recently," Anjali added.

"Earlier implementation of NEP led to a 400 per cent fee hike in Allahabad University and 100 per cent in Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Under this model, the public education system is being converted into a loan-based one, in which the current regime is compelling universities to raise the cost of running the institutes and has pushed the burden upon students to raise the cost for their education. The role of HEFA must also be examined, in which the government grants for universities are being replaced by loans which also have the component of interest," AISA claimed in its statement.

The student bodies have demanded that the fee hike be rolled back immediately. They opine that such hikes are detrimental to the students' interests, especially those from marginalised backgrounds, and also make public-funded institutions wrongfully accessible to only a few sections.

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