New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Teachers and students of various universities on Wednesday held a march here to protest against the government decision to accord ‘autonomy’ to institutions of higer education, calling it a “ruse to privatise government-funded higher education”.
The protesters from Delhi University, Jamia Milia, Aligarh Muslim University, and Jawaharlal Nehru University and other educational institutes, apart from politicians, marched from Mandi House to the Jantar Mantar in central Delhi.
The protesters were led by leaders of DU Teachers’ Association and Federation of central Universities’ Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA), who were joined by teachers from JNU.
Present at the protest was Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia, who accused the central government of bringing privatisation through the back door.
“This fight is our fight… this is not just a battle to save the universities and colleges. With the safety of universities and colleges lies the safety of the nation. Who will you invest in if no universities and colleges are left in the country?” Sisodia said.
“You are fond of organising investors’ summits. If you cannot run collges and universities then shut down this business of investors’ summit,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader said.
The decision to grant autonomy to 62 higher education institutions was the main grievance of protesters who feared it will make higher education off-limits for the poor.
“A majority of students were, anyway, not able to take admission in the Delhi University with 54,000 seats. Now, with the decision that 30 per cent of non-teaching staff expenses will be borne by the university, it will be forced to raise fees. How will the poor be able to afford such fees?,” DU graduate Bheem told IANS.
Autonomy means educational institutions are free to start new courses, departments, centres, and schools without seeking permission from the University Grants Commission — the principal funding body for higher learning.
The government note regarding the decision, however, didn’t mention from where the funding will come for the new infrastructure, if any institute desires to create it.
These apprehensions led to protests by stakeholders, who fear universities will shift the financial burden of creating new infrastructure to students through increased fees.
Other issues raised by protesters were absorption of ad-hoc teachers as permanent. There are about 4,000 Delhi University ad-hoc teachers.