The University Grants Commission, in a gazette notification issued on Thursday, said that deemed universities, including those offering medical and engineering courses, can’t charge fees higher than the amount prescribed by UGC’s expert committee.
The notification may not bring immediate relief, as the order can’t be implemented with a Supreme Court (SC) hearing on a public interest litigation (PIL) from Tamil Nadu on the issue pending. However, parents of medical students from Maharashtra’s deemed institutes have used the notification to file a petition in the SC to demand cap on fee hikes.
UGC gives deemed status to high-performing institutes and departments of various universities in India, allowing them to set guidelines for admissions, fees, course work, syllabus and setting up of research centres. Parents have been demanding a blanket ban on the “exorbitant” annual fee hikes in deemed medical institutes.
In June 2018, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Madras high court, to fix the tuition fee structure for all medical courses offered by deemed universities in Tamil Nadu, taking into consideration their financial statements and annual returns. Prima facie, the court asked the universities in the state to not charge more than ₹13 lakh an annum, much lower than their fees of ₹25-30 lakh. “A Delhi-based institute challenged in the SC the Madras high court’s order. Consequently, there is status quo on the Madras high court’s decision. Our petition [in the SC] seeks that it be lifted,” said a parent from the state who is one of the petitioners.
“Deemed medical institutes in Maharashtra charge anywhere from ₹8-25 lakh an annum and can hike fees every year. The amount is impossible to pay for many of us,” said a parent of a medical student from the state.
The UGC regulations make it mandatory for all state governments to set up a fee-fixation committee to look into fees charged in deemed institutes.
The new rules mandate 20 years of existence, impeccable National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grade points for minimum three consecutive cycles and making it to the top 50 or 100 ranks of the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) to get deemed status.
“The new UGC rules are clear and will check the ongoing trend of fee hikes in deemed universities. Our petition stands a better chance, now with the regulation in place,” said another parent.