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DU: Exponential Increase in Fees of English Dept; Teachers and Students Slam Move

The Department of English, DU, has increased the fees for its PhD programme from Rs 1,932 (last year) to an unprecedented Rs 23,968.
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It was a rude shock for Geeta (name changed) when she opened the portal of Delhi University only to find that the fee for her PhD English admissions had increased from Rs 1,932 to Rs 23,968/annum. 

Talking to NewsClick, she said that the e-mail from the Department of English gave them merely 30 hours to arrange the money, with many students literally begging friends and relatives to pay the fee. 

"The students were eagerly waiting for the portal to open to submit the fee. On October 30, we received an e-mail from Department head Anil Kumar Aneja that the students may submit the fee by midnight of October 31. However, there was no information about the fee. It was very difficult for me to arrange the money in such a short span of time. When we met the department officials, we were told that the university had taken the decision." 

The e-mail, accessed by NewsClick, read, "With reference to your provisional admission to the PhD programme at the Department of English, University of Delhi, this is to inform you that your admission fee link has been activated on the Admission Portal. Kindly pay your fee online within the stipulated time period. Please note that the last date for payment of the fee is October 31, 2023, 11.59 pm."

The move has seen a scathing response among students who termed it an attack on public education. 

Aditi Tyagi, Convenor, Students Federation of India Delhi University unit, said that the students were asked to pay the amount through a single-day deadline. The move limits opportunities and exacerbates financial stress on students and their families.

"We see this as a step towards commercialisation of education in a central university. This growing trend of fee hikes can be seen in various campuses in India. Student movement against fee hikes has seen the face of success in JNU and elsewhere through the 'Fee Must Fall' movement over the years. The students of Delhi University will unite against this injustice. Education should be a right, not a privilege, and we urge for fair and affordable education for all."

Neha, Secretary, All India Students Association Delhi Unit, expressed anguish over the development. She said that the fee hikes are a shamefaced loot which a public university has undertaken from its students and represent a new low in the path of exclusion and privatisation that Delhi University has embarked upon. 

"The NEP model of self-financed courses and autonomous education is at open display in all the campuses around India. Earlier implementation of NEP led to a 400% fee hike at Allahabad University and 100% at 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." 

She said that 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. Delhi University has already procured loans worth Rs 1800 crore, which will be extracted along with interest from student's pockets. 

"We reject the expensive model of education that is being introduced under the NEP."

The move has enraged teachers' organisations, who term the hike "unacceptable". 

Abha Dev Habib, Former Executive Council Member, Delhi University, told NewsClick that the steep fee hike should be seen in the backdrop of a recent loan by Delhi University to the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA). The university recently secured a loan of Rs 930 crore from HEFA, a joint venture between the Ministry of Education and Canara Bank. 

"It is linked with HEFA. We saw that there was a fee hike in some departments at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), but what is surprising is that the teachers were unaware of it. The university officials should clarify if it is testing the viability of departments to increase the fee." 

She added, "The Department of English, DU, has increased the fees for its PhD programme from Rs 1,932 (last year) to an unprecedented Rs 23,968. The fees for all other streams for their PhD this year are close to Rs 4,400. For other departments also, the fees have been doubled - which is also rather steep. However, the fee hike of the PhD programme, Dept of English, involves a more than tenfold rise."

She went on to add that a hike of over 1200% is unacceptable and unfortunate. 

"Nothing can explain this kind of inflation. It is unacademic as this fee hike will reduce diversity and adversely impact students. Scholarships and concessions cannot be a substitute for affordable fees for all. This astronomical fee hike needs to be rolled back immediately. Such an attack on access to education and 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."

Rajesh Jha, spokesperson, Academics for Action and Development Teachers Association, told NewsClick that the university administration has employed contradictory actions if the goals of the new education policy are plainly taken. 

"NEP talks about accessible education whereas the university officials are on a spree to increase the fee. It imposed a development fee of Rs 2,300 on every student of the university without approval from statutory bodies like the Executive Council. We have a new five-year integrated course in law where the fee has been fixed at Rs 1.90 lakh/annum. I received a call from a student from my village that the fee is even higher in comparison with National Law Universities. So, the inaccessibility will be the new norm." 

DU Registrar Vikas Gupta told NewsClick that he was not aware of the development. 

NewsClick did not receive any comment on the questions sent to department head Anil Kumar Aneja. The story will be updated once it is received.

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