Students of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, are protesting against the fee hike in the university, from Rs 1,80,000 to Rs 2,30,000 per year from the current academic year.
Talking to NewsClick, a student talked about their demands on the condition of anonymity. He said, “Our first demand is that the university rolls back the fee hike. Two, marks for attendance should be started again and there should be reforms in the examination department. Thirdly, we put forward expectations from the new Vice-Chancellor who will take charge soon.” The students are concerned about the effect of this fee hike on students from lower economic backgrounds, especially those who are on education loans and partial scholarships.
The student added, “There are several students belonging to families with an annual income of about 1 lakh, and they study here on partial scholarships. What will happen to these students? There are some students over the age of 25, who had worked previously to save up for their education. The fee hike notification was sent suddenly, 15 days prior to the beginning of the semester from July 1. Some of them are considering dropping out as they cannot afford the increased fee.”
The news of the fee hike was revealed to the students through a nondescript notice on the college website weeks ago. However, the Student Bar Association (SBA), a group representing the interests of the students, has claimed that the controversial decision dates back to 2017.
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SBA said in a Facebook post, “An internal noting of the Executive Council and the 53rd Finance Committee meeting held on the 7th of August, 2017, accessed by us presents a ‘justification’ for the 25% fee hike and states that “the income of NLS from all sources has reached a flat graph and further suggested to increase the students’ fee by Rs. 20000 /- per annum”. In addition Prof. Rahul Singh, Chairperson, UG Council has also submitted a note to the Vice-Chancellor and recommended for 25% increase in the existing fee structure due to proposed implementation of 7th Pay Commission.”
Another student of the university told NewsClick, “The executive council said this decision was taken two years ago and the order cannot be revoked. They only said that a high-level committee will be formed to look into the students’ loans and scholarships. The SBA has asked students not to pay any fees until any sign of retraction of fee hike is made by the executive council.”
A student also explained how the removal of marks for attendance affects the students. She said, “For example, 95% attendance fetches 5 marks, which go a long way in helping the students pass the courses which are hard to pass as it is. Each year, 15 to 30 people suffer a year’s loss. The examination department, too, needs major changes as they put students into considerable stress. For instance, if you give your paper for revaluation, it can be a whole year before they get the result. As per an internal student survey, 76% of NLS Bengaluru students suffer from some kind of mental health issues. Demands put forward for these few months ago have not been acted on at all.”
The students had previously put forward several measures for supporting the mental health of students, after the student’s suicide that took place in March this year. Their demands included mental health check-ups during admission and regular follow-ups and tie-up with National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) so they can train students to be gatekeepers, and a 24/7 helpline. While the university has counsellors, they are available only for a few hours a day, complained the students. No steps were taken to meet their demands.
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A third-year BA LLB student said she might be forced to drop out of college as the revised fee amount tallied to her parents’ annual income. “Even though this was decided by the EC last year, this came as a sudden shock to us when the notification was shared on the official website asking us to pay the fee under a month’s time,” the student said.
The SBA said in the statement, “Upon presenting our strong resentment at the issue, all they have agreed to is setting up a high-level committee to decide on what should be done for students who are being disproportionately affected by the hike.”
It added, “A lot of this is unsatisfactory considering the problems that the fee hike imposes. We are told informally that another meeting will happen in Delhi on July 23 in which the Registrar will submit finance reports of the college and the alternatives/reduction of fee hike will be considered.”