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 Centre’s 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 Centre’s moves can bring about some degree of transparency into the system, “It’s an open secret that there are unfair practices in the education sector and regulatory opaqueness encourage such practices. It’s very common across the country.” The introduction of such bills would bring transparency to the education system, he adds.
The ministry has been concerned