Students at BITS Pilani Protest Against Fee Hike Amid Exams
Two BITS students write about the ongoing protests across three campuses of the engineering college.
The #BITSAgainstFeeHike movement came into light on the eve of 5 May, proceeding the announcement of the revised fee structure by BITS Pilani on the website for the academic year 2018-2019.
The students from the oldest campus in Pilani initiated a peaceful protest by gathering in its auditorium.
The protest was broadcast live on a Facebook group consisting of over 30,000 BITSians – current students and alumni – which further gained traction on various social media platforms.
The students, however, were not satisfied with the unreasonable answers and explanations from the management sitting in Pilani. The sister campuses, Goa and Hyderabad, joined in support of the protests at 4 pm and 6 pm respectively.
The Hyderabad campus witnessed participation of over 1,200 students as they marched from their hostels to the academic block, where they sat down to seek answers from the director, deans and several key faculty members.
The tuition fee has seen a per annum increase of 15 percent for the last few years.
A student entering in 2018-19 would now have to pay Rs 1,60,000 as tuition fee against Rs 89,000, as until four years back.
This is not inclusive of hostel, mess and other advances collected by the university. The inclusive figure would come over Rs 2 lakhs.
The annual increase has been a cause of concern for students for quite a few years now, but the recent release of the fee structure came out as the last straw leading to wide-scale protests across all campuses.
The institute claims that the fee hike is to make BITS a world-class institute with state-of-the-art infrastructure, new buildings, hostels, staff and other facilities. However, the students have not observed any betterment in facilities that could possibly justify the hike in the fee.
The incremental costs for the students are nowhere close to the corresponding benefits reaped by the existing ones.
As much as the students would like the university to grow, they definitely cannot afford to be cash-cows for these projects. Alternate sources of funding should instead be explored so that the students do not have to bear the financial burden.
Several important questions were raised during the discussion, but the director did not give a clear-cut response to any.
The students, tired of listening to empty assurances for over an hour, pushed a little harder and remained adamant about not leaving the academic block until a satisfactory response was given.
The decision, as students do understand, is a board decision and would not be implemented immediately. However, with no information about the time-frame in which this will be rolled out, they moved to the auditorium and waited indefinitely for the director – who eventually did show up, but with no answers.
Hundreds of students decided to spend the night in the auditorium with their books and laptops to continue their preparations for the ongoing semester-end exams.
The protest continues as the Vice Chancellor in Pilani gave minimal importance to the issue and casually told the students to not to expect to hear from them before Friday.
Students in the Hyderabad campus are peacefully sitting and protesting outside their classrooms, clad in black, holding placards with ribbons on their arms.
Not only do the students want the fee hike to be rolled back, but they also want the fee to be constant for a particular batch.
The amount of hike for subsequent batches should be capped to lower than 15 percent and should not be hiked for a set number of years (2-3) after one such hike. Simply put, such hikes are unaffordable and cannot be paid.
(The authors are students of BITS Pilani, Hyderabad campus, who do not wish to reveal their identity.)
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