The Delhi University has decided to increase the annual university development fee charged from students. This decision has been taken in view of the reduction in capital grants by the UGC. Accordingly, this will lead to a steep hike in the fees of students. The university development fee (UDF) is a component of the annual fees charged from students.

The varsity had constituted a university development fund committee to consider the allocation of funds. This fund is used for various activities like construction of new buildings and procurement of laboratory equipment. “At present, the university is receiving only Rs 600 per student per year as UDF contribution which was implemented from the academic year 2012-13,” the panel said.

“Keeping in view the fund requirement, as well as government mandate for self-sufficiency and reduction of capital grants by UGC (University Grants Commission) as well as for the creation of ICT (information and communications), enabled infrastructure, the UDF amount should be revised to Rs 900 per student per year,” it said.

The committee’s recommendations were accepted in the varsity’s Executive Council meeting held on December 17 despite dissent by a few members. The committee also comprised former pro-vice-chancellor PC Joshi and registrar Vikas Gupta. They said that the UGC is not releasing sufficient capital grants to the university for laboratory equipment and other equipment for the last three to four years. Moreover, in the current financial year allocated Rs 1.25 crore.

“With this very small amount, the university is not able to purchase even a piece of single laboratory equipment for departments. The departments are regularly pursuing providing funds for replacement/purchase of laboratory equipment for academic and other research activities,” the panel noted.

“The committee after extensive deliberations approved for allocation of an amount of Rs 52 crore for purchase/replacement of laboratory equipment of different departments, after exhausting all available resources. The vice chancellor may be requested to constitute a committee for allocation of funds,” it said.

Executive Council member Seema Das said, “Earlier this development fund as collected by students, was treated by the university as emergency fund. As in every household, some amount of money is never touched and kept for difficult times, this UDF has been like this.” Now, “forcing” the university to draw from UDF for infrastructure and development will make the things difficult for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, economically weaker section students, Das said.

“This will force steep hike in students fees,” executive council member said. Rajesh Jha, a political science professor, and former Executive Council member, said this move is like the university is “testing waters” for implementing a fee hike. “The fee hike is for a small amount but the university is seeing how this will impact students. The committee has noted that there is a shortage of grants from the UGC,” he added.

Abha Dev Habib, secretary of the Democratic Teachers’ Front, concurred with Jha. “At this point, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, no institution is increasing fees but increasing fees, even if it’s minimal, is not the right thing. The university is planning to start new courses and new departments. From where will the funds be generated for this?” she said.

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