Hyderabad: Students of Osmania University (OU) are up in arms against the varsity’s administration ever since it increased the fee for PhD courses by ten times on March 16. Many students have been protesting against this move and submitted representations requesting the Dean Faculties to reduce the fee.
In a notification issued by the Dean Faculties of various departments, the fee particulars for students who were allotted seats under Category – 2 PhD courses for the academic year 2022, in Social Sciences, Arts, Education, Commerce, Management, and Oriental Languages was set at Rs 20,000 and for Engineering, Science, Technology, and Pharmacy departments it present at Rs 25,000.
The last date to pay the fee and complete the admission process was on March 21. Upon requests from students, it was extended to March 25, said the OU administration.
A press release by Osmania University (OU) student union members on Tuesday said that the fee for PhD courses in Social Sciences and other departments was Rs 2000 until last year and for Engineering and other courses it was Rs 2500.
Swapna, who got PhD admission in Political Science said that she has not yet paid the admission fee. “I am waiting to see if the university will decrease the fee. My seniors had told me that the fee was about Rs 2000 and I was utterly shocked to see that it has been increased to Rs 20,000,” she added.
She informed that many students who got admission under Category – 2 for the year 2022 are waiting to hear if there will be a change in the decision taken by the university before paying the fee.
Another PhD student from the Telugu department, Yadagiri, has said, “I was scared that I would lose my admission. I tried so hard to get here and even though I felt that the revised fee was too high for me I paid it. I did not tell my parents because they cannot afford to send me Rs 20,000 in less than a week. I took a loan from my friends to pay the fee”.
He said that many students hailing from poor and rural backgrounds prefer to study at OU and this was because of lower fee structures as OU is a government university. Yadagiri said that students who were given admission in Category-1 have paid a fee of Rs 2000 and that the fee hike announced will be effective starting with candidates who were admitted through Category-2.
Speaking to Siasat.com regarding the fee hike, Registrar of OU Prof Laxminarayana said, “Entrance exams were not conducted for the last 6 years in the university and the previous fees were in place since 2003. The university also did not have a vice-chancellor for about two years, along with this the entrance exams were delayed because of the pandemic situation. All of these factors have led to the decision being brought into effect now”.
“A standing committee consisting of Dean Faculties has recommended the hike in fee. The departments in the university are suffering due to lack of funds and we are hoping to bridge this gap at least a little with this fee hike,” added the OU registrar.
The Osmania University Registrar also informed that about 75 percent of the students have already paid the fee and that the Category–1 students who joined in 2022 when the previous fee structure was in effect will also be brought under the revised fee structure. “Category-1 students have been informed of this and they will be notified to pay the remaining fee soon. A time period of one month will be given to complete the payment,” he added.
Prof D Ravinder, OU vice-chancellor told Siasat.com, “The PhD course will be conducted as per the guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC). This means that there are various costs involved. To provide quality education at PhD level we need to be able to provide research facilities to the students. This is not something new, recently there was a hike in Post Graduate fee and it has now been set at Rs 14,000 per annum and now the fee for PhD course has been increased to Rs 20,000”.
The OU VC said that the steep hike was due to the fact that there had not been one in over a decade. He expressed that dissent over the fee increase will die down soon.
OU Registrar Laxminarayana also said that this is not an arbitrary decision as the students can avail fee reimbursement from the government. “Eligible students can apply for scholarships which provide them a tuition fee of about Rs 30,000. All of the details are available to the students and the present fee is not more than Rs 25,000,” he added.
A dean faculty, who was a member of the standing committee, said that this was a collective decision and that a comparative analysis of fee structures of other universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad (JNTU) was done before taking the decision.
Lack of hostel facilities, dwindling numbers of Professors, and the absence of Research Methodology classes are some issues besides the fee hike, that students of OU believe are obstacles to the completion of their PhD theses.
Mahesh, who got admission into the PhD course in Public Administration said, “I don’t understand this sudden and steep hike in the fee. A majority of the professors will be retiring very soon and there have been no new recruitments for some time now. Who will supervise the new research scholars?”
Across Telangana universities, 75 percent of teaching facilities are reportedly vacant. Earlier on February 7, Prof Kaseem of the Telugu department held a protest urging the Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) and Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundarajan to fill vacant teaching positions in the university.
He said that 2000 teaching posts and 4000 non-teaching posts are vacant as per recent surveys in Telangana.
A research scholar from OU in Social Sciences said that Research Methodology classes, which are a part of PhD coursework program, are not being held at OU. The scholar said that for the PhD candidates of the year 2022 who were admitted under Category-1, Research Methodology coursework has not been conducted in semester one and that there is no word from the university regarding it in semester 2 either.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) under its ‘Minimum Standards and Procedures for Award of PhD Degree Regulations, 2022’ stipulates in section 7.5 that, “All candidates admitted to the PhD programmes shall be required to complete the course work prescribed by the Department during the initial one or two semesters”.
Section 7.9 of the regulations implies that without obtaining the pass marks in coursework, a PhD candidate is ineligible to continue in the programme. Many students from OU expressed concerns over a clause in the notification issued by the university which said that admission will not be granted unless the student produces an undertaking that they will not ask for the hostel facilities.
The registrar of OU said that as soon as the construction of two new hostels on the campus is completed, the PhD students will be given an opportunity to avail the facilities.
Speaking about the clause the vice-chancellor said, “Owing to Covid-19 Pandemic, thesis work has been delayed and many students have not vacated their hostel rooms yet. For this reason, we had to put the clause in the notification. We are unable to provide regular PhD students hostel facilities as there are no vacancies”.