Fee futility

DQW Bureau
06 Feb 2004


The government’s proposal to reduce the fees at the IITs and IIMs would

make these international institutions weaker

A reasonable part of the growth of the infotech industry in India can be

attributed to IIT and IIM graduates. From the seventies onwards, many of them

left for the US and then got absorbed in the corporate mainstream there. With

their hard work and intellect, they were able to build a positive image for

India. Later, when they reached levels of influence and an age where they wanted

to give back to the country of origin-they became our technology ambassadors.

Many of them came back and started companies in India. To that extent, the

investments that the country put into their education became–with hind-sight

one may add–marketing investments.

Today, a brand has been cre-ated and the system is working well and in the

manner of chil-dren who cannot keep their hands of attractive toys–the HRD

ministry is tinkering with the whole system in an exercise of complete futility.

The fee reduction futility actually started with the government removing

subsidies for educa-tion. At the time when this writer studied at the IIT and

IIM, which were lot cheaper. The tuition fee for the IITs in the seventies was

something like fifty rupees a month. Then it started becoming more expensive

because part of the support was withdrawn. Now we want to reduce the fee once

again. Why?


The fee reduction exercise assumes that there are a whole lot of students,

who have the merit but not the means do join these institutes. Is that a correct

assumption? And where is the data to support that?

First and foremost, the selection process gives a better chance to those who

have had the benefit of a very good school education. That, by far, is better in

the public schools of the country and not the government-run institutions. The

economically backward students go to government institutions. So the first step

to have more people from the economically weaker sections come up in life, lies

at the school level and not at the college level. The foundation has to be right

and money is needed there. I cannot work out how reducing the fee for higher

education will put money into primary education. It can only have a reverse

imp-act since the limited amount of resources will get split. In a country where

primary educa-tion is not available to many, trying to make a dozen odd

institutes accessible to many, does not make sense.

The reduction in fee would make these international

insti-tutions weaker. Taking away the economic freedom would, for starters, make

these institu-tions more dependant on the government hand that feeds them.


It will also impact their ability to attract good faculty. A

serious problem facing these institutes is the shortage of excellent teachers,

given the fact that the attractiveness of the corporate sector and other career

options are far higher and growing by the day.

So, whom would the propo-sed fee reductions at the IITs and

IIMs really benefit? Presu-mably the few hundred stu-dents who have the merit,

but cannot join these institutes because of lack of money. Is that really true?

If that is the case, why can’t there be more scholarships and loans provi-ded?

Considering that there are a dozen institutes of this type in the country, how

many can be the number of students who have the merit and do not get loans or


The real issue is the creation of more facilities for a

billion-strong nation, not weakening the existing ones. A dozen centers of

international educa-tion are too few. Education is not a shop where the highest

bidder should win. But that problem in India is not being caused by the IITs and

IIMs. That is being caused by capita-tion fee-based institutions. Let government

improve admis-sion methodologies and let it influence running of educatio-nal

institutions in a better manner.


For starters, it could ensure that teachers who are paid

salaries in government run institutions actually come and teach. Let it ensure

the availa-bility of funds for the truly deserving. And there are many means of

doing so–including using part of the fee charged from the other students if

req-uired. But how does fee reduction help?

Let us not bolt the wrong stable.

Shyam Malhotra is the

Editor-in-Chief of Cyber Media publications.