IITs Becoming Self-Financing Institutes: Protest against Privatization of Higher Education

[Ed note: One of hallmarks of these neoliberal times has been the commoditization of our shared commons, whether it be in education, culture, environment or health. This is a press release that we have obtained from the students at IIT Madras who are protesting the fee-hikes and privatization. We are publishing the piece as-is in solidarity with the students right to education. ]

We the students of IIT Madras are highly distressed about the current fee-hike of over 80 to 100%. Steep hike on tuition fees, hostel seat rent, gymkhana fees, exam fees and other establishment charges has left us in a hopeless situation. Even after we expressed our concern over the hike, fees for the coming semester (July-Nov 2013) has been deducted from the stipend of the post-graduate students even before the prescribed date. Unfortunately, we will be burdened by further hikes in the upcoming semesters.

Contrary to the opinions expressed by our officials, fee-hike is not due to inflation. It is a deliberate implementation of the Government of India directives in line with the Kakodkar committee report titled 'Taking IITs to Excellence and Greater Relevance' which recommends 'radical privatization' of the IITs. It directs to manage the operational expenses of the institutes on their own by increasing the students' fees. They recommend raising the fees for all students to Rs 2.5 lakhs per annum per student, to meet the expenses of IITs. This practice consequently dismantles the public education in IITs and forces them to become self-financed institutes. The government not only relieved themselves of the responsibility of providing higher education, but also formed a task force that extracts roughly Rs. 12 lakhs from each student for an undergraduate degree.

It will be extremely difficult for the students from any but the affluent class, to pursue higher education in IITs. The committee and the Government propose the concept of 'soft loans', 'super loans' and 'need cash now loans' as a solution to meet the fee structure. However, we opine that the loans will exploit the student forever. Instead of promoting higher education, it seems to promote being in debt. The beneficiaries here are not the students but the banking sector.

The goal of an institute of 'national importance' should be progress and not profit. Nevertheless, fee hike has been justified by many officials in the following ways:

  • Pointing to inflation theory - Over a decade, fee has not been raised; So, fee-hike is unavoidable - We observed that the Government had given a tax exemption of Rs. 5,28,163 crores to the corporates in the year 2012-2013 (Ref. Budget 2012-2013). Shouldn't education be the last place to recover this exempted money?

  • Comparing the fee-structure of private engineering colleges - Since it is very high, present fee hike in IITs is justifiable - We stand solidly by the fact that education is not a commodity, institute is not a market and students are not consumers.

  • Modeling the IIT System - IIT is a market; Risk vs. Reward will make it a world class institution - Academic research and fundamental research are not meant to maximize immediate profit. This will lead to short-sighted profitmaking research which is not fruitful for the growth of our country.

The current fee-hike based on Kakodkar committee report is a step towards privatizing higher education in IITs. Cutting subsidies and increasing fees for the sake offinancial autonomy will make higher education infeasible for the broader section of the people. In fact, Kakodkar committee is one among many in the last four years, set up by the Government to facilitate trade in higher education. Over a decade, public resources like water, electricity, land, agriculture and minerals are privatized through anti-people policies (cutting public expenditure for social services; privatization; eliminating the concept of public welfare). Now, education is also on this line and students are the latest victims of these policies.

It is shameful that IIT has become a market and knowledge is perceived as a commodity. We, the students, are against the current fee-hike and privatization of higher education in IITs. To ensure our right to get education, we unanimously raise our voice for the following:

  • Roll back the fee-hike
  • Don't implement Kakodkar committee report
  • Don't privatize higher education
  • Abolish anti-people policies and ensure access to education for all