Pvt colleges defend capitation fee

Written by Shreya Roy | Bangalore | Updated: Mar 23 2010, 05:28am hrs
Education sector experts have questioned the string of legislative proposals cleared by the government. Of the three Bills for the sector cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday, the strongest criticism is for the one prohibiting unfair practices in technical, medical educational institutions and universities. The Bill has made capitation fee a cognizable offence and recommended a maximum of three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50 lakh for charging a capitation fee (or money for admission, over and above the course fees) and putting out misleading advertisements or willfully giving wrong information in the prospectus.

V Raghunathan, former professor, IIM-Ahmedabad, says, For engineering colleges in most states, the permitted fee for unaided private colleges is in the vicinity of Rs 30,000 per student per annum.

Given that even most kindergarten schools charge a higher fee in the cities, one wonders exactly how the private institutions are expected to provide high quality technical education for this fee. Raghunathan adds that where government institutions like IIMs are allowed to charge upwards of Rs 5 lakh per student per annum, there is no case for private engineering institutions not being allowed to charge more realistic fees.

Many private institutions in the country also fear if the legislations are not drafted with a holistic approach, it could be susceptible to manipulation. The Bill promises to be beneficial. But it also runs the risk of curbing the autonomy and the freedom of institutions and challenge dynamic functioning. Again, it could be misused by students or anyone trying to settle scores, says J Philip, president, Xavier Institute of Management Education, Bangalore and former director, IIM - Bangalore.

S Kumar, principal and dean, MS Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore, says the Centres moves have made private colleges look like a bunch of dacoits. It is important that institutions, which do not indulge in any malpractices, are encouraged through a rating process. The ministry must not make all private institutes look like a bunch of dacoits. People should know who they can and can not trust.

Anand Sudarshan, chief executive officer of Manipal Education feels the Centres moves can bring about some degree of transparency into the system, Its an open secret that there are unfair practices in the education sector and regulatory opaqueness encourage such practices. Its very common across the country. The introduction of such bills would bring transparency to the education system, he adds.

The ministry has been concerned over some technical and medical institutes and universities resorting to unfair practices. These include charging capitation fee and demanding donations, not issuing receipts for payments made by or on behalf of students, admission to professional programmes of study through non-transparent and questionable processes, low-quality delivery of education services not in keeping with promises made, misleading advertisements in the media with an intention to cheat, unqualified or ineligible teaching faculty, and forcible withholding of certificates and other documents.

So while the need for such regulations is recognized, the sector has concerns over its flip side. With the proposed legislation aiming to curb capitation fee, private institutes have reservations over the practicality of the ministrys guidelines and whether they would be able to offer good standards of education with limited resources.