Higher Education and Student Politics in Contemporary India: A Note

Saqib Khan

The recent
unrest in Jadavpur University and Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla has once
again brought student politics into the forefront. The unrest seemed to create
a ripple-effect across campuses in the country. This note is a modest attempt
to understand changes in university systems and higher education and
implications for student politics.

We begin with looking
at a few important features concerning higher education
and student politics in contemporary India. These features include an
increasing financial burden on students, caste discrimination and harassment
and violence against women, attempts to crush democratic protests and restrict political
and democratic spaces; and inaction against communal and conservative forces.
It argues that recognising these features will be crucial for student politics
and to launch struggles in the interests of student community.
financial burden on students: Fee hike and reduced funding
The first
feature that is becoming evident across colleges, universities and higher
educational institutions in the country is the increasing financial burden on
students. This has been mainly due to fee hike and reduced funding for higher
education. Students are increasingly being made to bear the burden of rising
costs of education and stagnant scholarships/fellowships.
In the last few
years universities across the country have increased fees. In 2012, Jamia Milia
Islamia (JMI) increased the fees of all its courses and hostel accommodation.
The increase was in the range from Rs. 500 to nearly Rs. 20,000 and met with a
protest from students. In 2013, several colleges of Delhi University (DU) hiked
their fees. In February 2014, Panjab University (PU) hiked fees for all regular
courses by 20 per cent from the academic session of 2014-15. Apart from the
tuition fee, the University also increased the hostel fee and the examination
fee by 10 per cent.[2] In
March 2014, Orissa government proposed about 20 per cent hike in the fee
structure for at least 128 technical and professional colleges in the State.[3]
A similar proposal by Mumbai University (MU) in April 2014 attempted to enable
its affiliated colleges to increase their fees by 25 per cent. The proposal,
however, was met with stiff opposition from teachers’ and students’
organisations and had to be put on hold.[4]
The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai has recently
increased the semester fee from Rs. 3500/ to Rs. 13000/ for MA students and
from Rs. 6000/ to Rs. 11500/ for MPhil/PhD students. A few weeks back Himachal
Pradesh University (HPU), Shimla saw a steep revision of fee that led to
massive protests by student organisations. Some universities have also
increased their mess charges over the years. The dining hall of the Tata
Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai has seen a hike almost every year:
from Rs. 6000/ per semester in 2009 the current dining hall fee of the institute
is Rs.14000/ per semester. 
The above
process is fallout of curtailment in government expenditure and linked to the
prevailing political economy that has unleashed a tendency towards
privatization of sectors like education.[5]
One of the important areas of this curtailment has been the reduction in
non-plan allocations to the University Grants Commission (UGC) and other higher
educational institutions (Tilak 2010). Also, looking at the proportion of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) spent on higher education in India between 1990-91 and
2011-12, Sarkar and Mitra (2014) show that resource allocation towards higher
education steadily decreased between 1990-91 and 1998-98 from 0.43 per cent to
0.37 per cent of GDP. There was some revival for two years in 1999-2000 and
2000-01, after which it again started declining. Though there has been an
increase from 2008 onwards, public spending on higher education remains below 1
per cent of GDP.
The above
doctrine of fee increase, curtailment in government expenditure and push
towards privatization has been reflected in government plan and policy after
the introduction of economic reforms in the 1990s. This could be found in
recommendations of a number of committees that were set up for reforming higher
education. One of the early committees that gave its report on this issue was
the Punnayya Committee (1992-93). Despite its concern for higher education, the
Punnayya Committee recommended that the universities should raise their own
resources and reduce their dependence on government (Tilak 2004; Sharma 2009).
One of the mechanisms of raising resources suggested by the Committee was, in
addition to starting short-term courses, raising the tuition fees and other
fees, to be paid by the students, keeping in view the rate of inflation (Sharma
2009). Following the recommendations of Punnayya Committee on central
universities and more specifically Swaminathan Committee (1994) on technical
education, higher education institutions were required to generate at least 20
per cent of their requirements on their own, particularly through fees (Tilak
In this regard,
the two reports prepared by the UGC committees in 1999- the Mahmud-ur-Rahman
Committee and the Anandakrishnan Committee- played a very important role. The
Anandakrishnan Committee reviewed the maintenance grant norms for colleges
affiliated to Delhi University and recommended an enhanced fee structure. The
Mahmud-ur-Rahman Committee examined the fee structure of all Central
universities and other universities and suggested measures for an upward
revision in the fee rate. Both reports put forward the idea that the government
alone could not bear the cost of higher education and “society had to bear the
cost of higher education, if not entirely, at least substantially”. Both
reports suggested a higher tuition fee rates, while the Anandakrishnan
Committee also suggested a substantial hike in development fees and left it
open to individual colleges to decide the fee amount for student facilities. A
reason given for such hike by both reports was that it would give “sobriety to
the system and to the institutions and is also helpful in maintaining law and
order”; the assumption being that if students pay more, they would be more
serious about their studies (Rajalakshmi 2000).
The Ambani-Birla
Report of 2000 went a step ahead and was more forthright in suggesting
privatization of higher education. Set up under the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) government, the Report titled ‘A Policy Framework for Reforms in
Education’ by Special Subject Group of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade
and Industry, also known as the Mukesh Ambani-Kumaramanglalam Birla Report,
recommended that the “government must focus strongly on primary and secondary
education and leave higher and professional education to the private sector”.[6]
bodies and officials have directly pushed forward the doctrine of curtailment
in government funding of higher education and its privatization over the years.
The National Knowledge Commission’s 
(NKC) ‘Report to the Nation 2006-09’ suggested that the universities see
that the revenue from fees account for at least 20 per cent of their total
expenditure and levy user-fee on the users of various facilities offered by
them. The report wanted the universities to revise their fees once in two years
through “price indexation” (Viswanathan 2007).[7]
The Hoda Committee, constituted by the Planning Commission as a High Level
Group on Services Sector, recommended more private and corporate participation
in the higher education sector in March 2008. In order to achieve so, it
suggested removal of current restrictions imposed by the regulatory bodies like
UGC and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) on affiliation of
private institutions.[8] In
2011, Planning Commission’s approach paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan made
it clear that there was no scope for a rise in public funding of higher
education and the government was looking at the private sector as the engine
growth in the higher education sector. The approach paper said:
“Resource constraints will make
it difficult to meet the need of expanding higher education entirely through
the public sector. Not all private educational institutions are of good quality
and some are quite inferior. Minimum standards will have to be ensured. But
free entry will, in the end, automatically weed out the poor quality
institutions. Private initiatives in higher education, including viable and
innovative PPP-models, will therefore, be actively promoted. The current
‘not-for-profit’ tag in the education sector should be re-examined in a
pragmatic manner…”[9]
In May 2012,
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia echoed the
Commission’s prescription where he argued for stopping the funding for
universities and raising tuition fees across the board. He also argued for an
increased role for private sector investment in higher education. In fact in
January 2012, the Planning Commission had constituted the Narayana Murthy
Committee whose report recognised the corporate participation in the higher
education as ‘vital’ and gave several recommendations to ‘encourage this
In 2013,
Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) advised the central universities
to increase tuition fees and other charges across all streams to cut down their
dependence on the government. This idea of hiking fees was supported by the
Planning Commission in the 12th plan document which also wanted
state governments to increase tuition fees in their public-funded institutions.[11]
The Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) were one of the first institutions to
follow this advisory by increasing annual tuition fees for BTech students from
Rs 50,000 to Rs 90,000- a hike of 80 per cent.[12]
The above
process of fee hike and cuts in government funding for higher education then
brings the whole question of access and equity. The enrolment in higher
education as a whole in the country remains low. According to NSS 64th Round
(2007-08), the total Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education was 17.2
per cent. The All India Survey on Higher Education 2010-11 puts this figure at
19.4 per cent. Both these surveys pointed out that the figures for SCs, STs,
OBCs, Muslims and women were even lower.[13]
Also, estimates from the NSS 64th Round (2007-08) and NSS 61st
Round (2004-05) bring out variation across the states and significant rural and
urban disparities in access to higher education in the country.[14] 
Cuts in funding
of higher education and frequent increase in fees coupled with stagnant
scholarship/fellowships severely affects academic aspirations of large sections
of students, especially those coming from historically disadvantaged sections.
The push towards privatisation of higher education and cuts in funding means
absence of safeguards like reservation policy and dilution or removal of other
safeguards meant for such students.
discrimination, and harassment and violence against women
The second
feature relates to the issue of discrimination on the lines of caste/tribe and
harassment and violence against women in campuses. Such incidents are coming
out in the open from campuses across the country.
It has been
argued that caste discrimination continues to afflict India’s institutions of
higher learning.[15]
In recent times, groups and reports have highlighted discrimination and
harassment of SC/ST students in higher educational institutions, even leading
to suicides in some cases. Insight Foundation, a group striving to end
caste-based discrimination in campuses, has compiled a list of and case studies
of eighteen suicides by SC/ST students studying in reputed institutions of
higher education across India in the past four years, including All India
Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and IITs. The UGC took a note of the
issue and brought out a notice in July 2011 wherein it directed the
institutions to take action against those indulging in caste discrimination and
to see that their officials/faculty members were more sensitive while dealing
with incidents of caste discrimination. 
The Sukhdeo
Thorat Committee Report of 2007 was probably the first effort in independent
India to probe into the kind of caste discrimination suffered by SC/ST students
in any institution of higher learning. Following allegations from students and
news reports of blatant caste discrimination practised against SC and ST
students in AIIMS, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry had instituted
a three-member committee headed by the then UGC Chairperson, S K Thorat, to
enquire into the conditions prevalent in the institution. The Thorat
Committee  came out with its report in
May 2007 and exposed the various forms of caste discrimination practised
against SC/ST students both by other students and faculty members there and
accused AIIMS authorities of ‘encouraging hostile caste discrimination’. It
said that these students faced discrimination at all level right from
consultation with teachers, in the classroom, during examination and even in
hostel. However, AIIMS and the Indian government chose to completely ignore its
findings and recommendations. 
In 2012, the
Balachandra Mungekar Committee, appointed by the National Commission for
Scheduled Castes, looked into allegations of caste discrimination faced by SC
students at Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, Delhi. It indicted the institute
administration for caste discrimination where 35 SC students were failed
repeatedly in one particular subject and held that: “Caste discrimination takes
on insidious forms in higher education institutions across the country”.[16]
Thus, it is a two-way struggle for the SC/ST students: first to enter premier
institutions of higher learning and another to survive in these institutions
(EPW 2007).
Incidents of
sexual harassment and violence abound in Indian higher educational
institutions. A 1996 report on sexual harassment in Delhi University by the
Gender Studies Group revealed that 92 per cent of the women interviewed
reported being sexually harassed at some time or the other during their campus
life (Chakravarti 2004). The report said that 48 per cent of women students had
faced sexual harassment by teaching and non- teaching staff. In addition, more
than 91 per cent of women living in hostels on the university campus, 88 per
cent of women living off-campus in the university neighbourhood, and 85 per
cent of women living in staff quarters on campus faced sexual harassment on
campus roads. Such street harassment was so common and regular, the report
stated, that victims had come to see it as “an everyday reality” and “a normal
part of women’s lives” (The Hindu 2000). A study by the Department of Women’s
Studies, Lucknow University in 2000 uncovered the startling fact that every
female student of the university experiences sexual harassment at least thrice
a day, and that approximately 90 per cent of women teachers also experience
daily harassment and humiliation (The Hindu 2000). In a survey conducted by
Parivartan, the gender forum of Kirori Mal College, Delhi University in 2013,
around 70 per cent of the women between the ages of 19 and 25 admitted to
feeling unsafe even with heavy police presence in DU’s North Campus, while an
overwhelming 93 per cent said they avoid hanging around the campus during
evenings for fear of being harassed. 56 per cent reported that they experienced
some form of harassment very often.[17] 
It was only
after the landmark judgment passed by the Supreme Court in the Vishakha case in
1997 that laid down guidelines to be followed by establishments in dealing with
complaints about sexual harassment. The Vishakha guidelines categorically
stated that it was the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in the
workplace or institution to prevent sexual harassment and provide mechanisms
for the resolution of complaints. The guidelines aimed to provide for the
effective enforcement of the basic human right of gender equality and guarantee
against sexual harassment and abuse, more particularly against sexual
harassment at work places (Patel 2005).
Since 1998 the
UGC has also issued circulars to universities advising them to establish a
permanent cell and a committee and to develop guidelines to combat sexual
harassment, and violence against women at the universities and colleges. It was
after such directives from judiciary and government bodies that universities
and colleges came up with Committee Against Sexual Harassment (CASH) to prevent
discrimination and sexual harassment against women and to deal with cases of
discrimination and sexual harassment in a time-bound manner. In response to the
violent attack against three women students in three different places within a
week in Delhi University campuses in 2002, the National Commission for Women
(NCW) gave several recommendations to prevent the occurrence of rape and sexual
harassment in and around campuses (Patel 2005).
Though it will
be difficult to analyse the reduction in the scale of violence and harassment
against women in campuses due to the above measures, it can be held that women
students are confronting and contesting sexual harassment on the campus and
forcing the authorities to take action. The Jadavpur University case is the
latest example. It is increasingly becoming part of official and university
discourse that violence and harassment of women, in any form, would not be
democratic protests and curbing political and democratic spaces
The third
feature relates to the increasing use of state and university machinery against
democratic student protests and curbs on political and democratic spaces in
higher educational institutions. Violence and criminalisation of student
politics in some places has opened spaces for university administration in
other places to ask for police violence to deal with democratic opposition from
students, as happened in the case of recent HPU, Shimla and Jadavpur University
(EPW 2014).
increasing use of state and university machinery is being witnessed across
universities against students even when they raise their concerns in a democratic
In March 2014,
police lathi-charged students peacefully protesting against the fee hike in
Panjab University outside Vice Chancellor’s (VC) office and also slapped false
cases against some of them. In July 2014, several college students were injured
in Gangtok when Sikkim police lathicharged them for their protest against hike
in college fees. The students were demanding a roll back in the four fold
increase in semester fees of state run colleges in the state. The year-long
agitation over four-year undergraduate programme of DU in 2013 saw active
hostility of university administration towards demands of students and faculty
(EPW 2014). In February 2013, students protesting against the visit of Narendra
Modi to Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), DU were lathi-charged and subjected
to water cannon by the police. 
Recently in
September, Jadavpur University students demanding a fresh probe into an alleged
molestation case on campus and staging a dharna
were lathicharged by police in middle of the night. Many were injured and
arrested. Its ripples were felt across the country where several student groups
came out in solidarity with the Jadavpur students. It should also be noted that
the University had a history of not bringing in police inside the campus by the
teachers and VCs. In the early 1970s, VC Gopal Chandra Sen had refused to allow
police inside the campus despite specific threat perception to his life (Basu
A similar ripple
was created by the death of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activist
Sudipto Gupta in April 2013 when he died of injuries in police custody while
being transported in a bus to prison. Sudipto was participating in a protest
against a series of moves by the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-led state government
in West Bengal which sought to curb campus democracy, mainly the plans to limit
the students’ union elections to once every two years.
In September
2014, HPU, Shimla saw brutal assault by the police against students and many
were injured and also arrested. The students were protesting against hike in
fees, in some cases more than 100 per cent, and restoration of direct elections
for Student Central Association by holding demonstrations inside the campus as
well as boycotting classes. At first, the university administration refused to
reconsider this sudden and sharp fee hike and as the protests intensified, it
took the help of the police to disperse the protesting students (EPW 2014).
Later, a three-member committee was constituted to review this hike.
Secondly, we are
seeing curbs on political and democratic spaces in higher educational
This has mainly taken the undemocratic form of ban on student union elections
across colleges and universities till very recently. Over the last two decades
or so, violence in some campuses has been given as a pretext to do this.
violence and murder of a student in 1992, Maharashtra government enacted
Maharashtra Universities Act 1994 which prohibited student elections in the
state, though off late there has been an increasing demand to bring it back.
Universities like that of Mumbai have a Students’ Council whereby candidates
are selected by the University on the basis of ‘academic merit’. In Haryana ban
on student union body elections was imposed in 1996 during late chief minister
Bansi Lal’s regime, while in Punjab it was done much earlier in the 1980s. The
Banaras Hindu University (BHU) students’ union had been dissolved in 1997 after
violence on campus during the election process, which had left two students
dead. It was only in October 2007 that the BHU Students’ Council came into
existence. In Allahabad University, one of the oldest Central Universities in
India, students’ union elections were banned when a trail of violence,
including a candidate’s murder, marred the 2005 elections. In September 2007,
the Uttar Pradesh government imposed a blanket ban on the election of students
unions in all universities and degree colleges. This was done to improve
“academic atmosphere”.[19]
The Aligarh
Muslim University (AMU) students’ union was revived in 2011 after a gap of four
years after prolonged student agitations. The union had been dissolved on
account of student violence. Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) dissolved a duly
elected students’ union in 2006 and no new elected body took over the charge
after that. In 2012, Jamia VC Najeeb Jung ruled out the possibility of holding
students’ union election on the campus. Not only elections, it has been
reported that in recent years, Jamia administration had made it impossible for
students to organise academic and political programmes on the campus. Posters
and leaflets cannot be distributed and even seminars or meetings by students on
any issue are prohibited in Jamia. Close circuit cameras have been installed
throughout the campus and security guards are allowed to use intimidating
directives from the Supreme Court and the Lyngdoh Committee Report, governments
and universities have continued to defy them. In fact of the 40 plus Central
Universities, only a handful have student unions in the first place. In 2006,
the Supreme Court directed that student elections be held in universities and
colleges across the country within five years. In the same year, the Lyngdoh
Committee Report had also given its recommendation that “Universities and
colleges across the country must ordinarily conduct elections for the
appointment of students to student representative bodies”.[21]
The above
attempts to scuttle democratic student protests and curb political and
democratic spaces in higher educational institutions are not an isolated
phenomenon and are a continuity of a systematic attack against all forms of
organized collective politics over the last two decades in India (Shubhanil
2013). There is a link between authoritarianism of the university
administration and the push towards privatisation of higher education.[22]
The above attempts can be seen in recommendations of several committees and
reports. One of the important imports of the Anandakrishnan Committee and
Mahmud-ur-Rahman Committee reports of 1999 was that increase in fees would help
in maintaining law and order in institutions. The idea that organized student
politics is problematic and needs to be done away with was best put forward by
the Birla-Ambani report of 2000. The report while arguing for privatization of
higher education recommended to “ban any form of political activity on campuses
of universities and educational institutions”. The suggestion of the National
Knowledge Commission’s ‘Report to the Nation 2006-09’ that the Vice-Chancellors
of the universities should function as a Chief Executive Officers shows an
attempt to “convert universities into highly authoritarian institutions, run
rather like factories sans trade union rights” (NUEPA 2007: 13).[23]
Despite its
important recommendation in 2006 that universities and colleges across the
country must ordinarily conduct elections, the Lyngdoh Committee Report argued
for a ‘restricted activism’- where students could democratically elect
students’ union but would be allowed to take collective stands on a handful of
issues pertaining to their campus alone. This meant that students would not
have the right to protest the political policies that determine educational
reforms or take a stand for social justice in any mass movement.[24]
against communal and conservative forces
The fourth
feature relates to the regularity of communal and conservative intervention,
often violent, in university and higher educational spaces and the relative
failure of state and university machinery to prevent or take concrete action
against these. While we are witnessing an increasing onslaught of state and
university machinery on democratic and secular protests of students, we see the
impunity with which communal and conservative forces have acted upon in
universities in recent times.
Some of these
incidents in recent years which evoked a somewhat national outcry include the
attack on Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune and destruction
of rare manuscripts by a group owing allegiance to Sambhaji Brigade in protest
against the ‘disparaging’ remarks on Shivaji in James Laine’s book in January
2004, the assault on Professor Sabharwal by ABVP leaders in Ujjain and
subsequently his death in August 2006, the attack on faculty of fine arts at
the M S University, Baroda by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists in May
2007, the vandalism and attack on Head of history Department, DU by ABVP in
February 2008 against inclusion of A. K. Ramanujan’s essay on Ramayana in DU
syllabus and the subsequent dropping of the essay in October 2011 by DU’s
Academic Council under pressure from ABVP, the chopping of the hand of
Professor T J Joseph of Newman College, Idukki district in Kerala in July 2010
by religious fundamentalists and the withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry’s Such a
Long Journey
from Mumbai
University syllabus in September 2010 after protests from Bharatiya
Vidyarthi Sena (student wing of Shiv Sena). Similarly, in West Bengal, colleges
and universities have become the worst victims of violence and anarchy after
the Trinamool Congress government came into power. There have been several
incidents of ruling party’s attack on students and teachers in higher
educational institutions in the state- from Presidency College to Kolkata
University, Rabindra Bharati University, Gourbanga University, etc.
Also, the result
of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections seems to have given a fillip to sections of
communal and conservative groups in campuses. The September 2014 attack on the
VC of Vikram University in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh is a good example. The VC was
attacked by VHP and Bajrang Dal goons for appealing for financial support for
the flood hit victims of Jammu and Kashmir.
for Student Politics
The above
features will have crucial implications for student struggles in higher
educational institutions across the country in coming days. Fee hike is not a
matter only of one college or university now and realizing this
political-economic reality is critical for student struggles. Fee hike and cuts
in government spending are now, at a larger level, core ingredients of
neoliberal assault on higher education. It then becomes all the more pertinent
for student politics to fight this assault and push the agenda of a
publicly-funded higher education with more vigour. There is an urgent need to
highlight what Kothari Commission (1964-66) had put forward:
“It is undesirable to
regard fees as a source of revenue. They are the most regressive form of
taxation, fall more heavily on the poorer classes of society and act as an
anti-egalitarian force. Suggestions have been made to make them progressive by
relating them, on a graduated scale, to the income of the parent and the size
of the family. But this would not be administratively feasible and, in a
country where sixty per cent of the population has an income of less than Rs.
20 per head per month, their yield would be almost negligible. It would, on the
whole, be much better to raise the required revenue in some other and more
equitable form than to depend on fees. We recommend, therefore, that the
country should gradually work towards a stage when all education would be
tuition-free” (p. 186).
End to caste
discrimination, making the campuses safer for women and exposing the agenda of
communal and conservative forces will also have to be on the agenda of student
struggles. Increasing attacks on democratic protests of students and curbs on
political and democratic spaces will demand a rethink of strategies. It remains
a long and arduous struggle ahead for student politics, but it will be through
struggles on concrete issues like the above that the balance of forces can be
tilted in favour of the student community.
This note
attempted to highlight some key features of higher education and student
politics in contemporary India. Firstly, it can be seen that there is an
increasing financial burden on students across colleges and universities mainly
due to fee hike and reduced funding for higher education. Fee hike and
curtailment in government expenditure are not isolated phenomena and are linked
to the push towards the privatization of education, reflected in
recommendations of several committees and government policy prescriptions since
the 1990s. Such measures, together with stagnant scholarship/fellowships, will
severely affect academic aspirations of large sections of students, especially
when the higher education enrolment of the country is low and more so for SCs,
STs, OBCs, Muslims and women.
incidents of caste discrimination have been reported from several institutions
in recent times; in some cases it has even led to deaths. Incidents of
harassment and violence against women are also coming to light from
universities across the country and at times these have led to framing of
guidelines, etc. It is a hopeful sign that caste discrimination and harassment
and violence against women are being challenged and authorities are being
forced take these seriously and act upon.
Thirdly, we see
an increasing use of state and university machinery against democratic student
protests and curbs on political and democratic spaces in higher educational
institutions, mainly ban on student union elections. Violence in some campuses
has often been used as a pretext for taking these steps. Such steps, especially
curbs on political and democratic spaces, are in turn linked to the push
towards privatization of higher education and have been part of official
reports and government policy.
Lastly, we see
inaction on the part of state and university machinery when it comes to
preventing or dealing strictly with communal and conservative interventions,
often violent, in campuses. Instead such interventions have often been used by
state and university machinery to scuttle democratic and secular protests of
students as well as curb political and democratic spaces of students.
Abraham, Priya.
2014. ‘Govt to hike tech college fee’, The
, June 14, Kolkata (available at
accessed on September 25, 2014) 
Basu, Nilotpal.
2014. ‘#Hokkolorob (“Keep Up the Din”)’, People’s
, XXXVIII (40), October 5 (available at
accessed on October 7, 2014)
Uma. 2004. ‘No Safe Campus’, Boloji.com,
October 31 (available at
accessed on September 30, 2014)
Dahal, Chewan
Krishna. 2014. ‘Sikkim: Police lathicharge students protesting fee hike’, IBN Live, July 16 (available at
accessed on October 5, 2014)
Dhar, Aarti.
2013. ‘Steep hike in IIT tuition fee’, The
, January 7 (available at
accessed on September 25, 2014)
Economic and
Political Weekly (EPW). 2007. ‘Thorat Committee Report: Caste    
     Discrimination in AIIMS (editorial)’, XLII
(22): 2032
Economic and
Political Weekly (EPW). 2013. ‘Crime by Another Name’ (editorial), XLVIII  
     (48): 07
Economic and
Political Weekly (EPW). 2014. ‘Democratise the University!’ (editorial),   
     XLIX (40): 08, October 4
2007. ‘SC/ST students at AIIMS face discrimination’, May 06 (available at
accessed on September 28, 2014)
Government of
India. 2013. All India Survey on Higher
Education 2010-11
. New Delhi: Ministry of Human Resources Development
(available at
accessed on September 26, 2014)
Iqbal, Naveed.
2012. ‘No students’ union election on our campus: Jamia V-C’, The Indian Express, July 19, New Delhi (available at
accessed on October 05, 2014)
Iqbal, Naveed.
2012. ‘Jamia Millia Islamia students hold protest against fee hike’, The Indian
Express, October 19, New Delhi
(available at
accessed on October 05, 2014)
Saqib, Rupesh Kumar, Ranjini Basu and Karan Raut. 2012. ‘A letter to Dr Montek
Singh Ahluwalia on his visit to TISS’, Pragoti,
May 21 (available at
accessed on September 28, 2014)
R. 2010. ‘Yet another blow’, Frontline,
27 (20): September 25- October 08 (available at
accessed on October 08, 2014)
of Education. 1966. Report of the
Education Commission, 1964-66
. New Delhi:   
    Government of India   
Basant Kumar. 2013. ‘Fee hike advice for varsities’, The Telegraph, August 9, Kolkata (available at
accessed on September 25, 2014)
Knowledge Commission. 2009. Report to the
Nation 2006-2009
. New Delhi:  
     Government of India
University Educational Planning and Administration. 2007. ‘Alternatives  
     Perspectives on Higher Education in the
Context of Globalization’, Lecture delivered by  
     Prabhat Patnaik on the occasion of the
First Foundation Day of the National University  
     Educational Planning and Administration at
IICC, New Delhi, August 11
Vibhuti. 2005. ‘A brief history of the battle against sexual harassment at the
workplace’, Infochange, November
(available at
accessed on September 30, 2014)
Prabhat. 2005. ‘Education and Globalization’, Social Scientist, 33 (9/10): 100-111
Commission. 2008. Report of the High
Level Group on Services Sector
. New Delhi: Government of India (available
accessed on September 28, 2014)
Commission. 2011. ‘Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth: An Approach
to the Twelfth Five Year Plan’, Government of India, October (available at
accessed on September 29, 2014)
Commission. 2012. Committee on Corporate
Participation in Higher Education:
     Report of NR Narayana Murthy Committee. New
Delhi: Government of India
Rajalakshmi, T.
J. 2000. ‘Adding to the burden’, Frontline,
17 (9), April 29- May 12 (available at
accessed on September 25, 2014)
Rajalakshmi, T.
K. 2008. ‘Crying wolf’, Frontline, 25
(06), March 15-28 (available at
accessed on October 08, 2014)
Rao, Yogita.
2014. ‘Mumbai university panel moots 25% fee increase’, The Times of India, April 25, Mumbai (available at
accessed on September 25, 2014)
Sarkar, Nivedita
and Anuneeta Mitra. 2014. ‘A Case Against Curtailing Public Subsidises in
Higher Education’, VIKALP, August 24
(available at
accessed on September 26, 2014)
Sarkar, Urvashi.
2012. ‘Universities gear up for elections’, The
, January 18 (available at
accessed on October 5, 2014)
Solidarity Committee. 2008. ‘Caste, Higher Education and Senthil’s
and Political Weekly
, XLIII (33): 10-12
Sharma, Vijay.
2007. ‘Maya bans student union elections in UP’, Hindustan Times, September 8, Lucknow (available at
accessed on October 5, 2014)
Vijender. 2009. Crisis of Higher
Education in India
(available at
accessed on September 25, 2014)
S. N. Vijetha.
2013. ‘Most women feel unsafe on DU North Campus, reveals survey’, The Hindu,
New Delhi, March 11 (available at
accessed on September 30, 2014)
Correspondent. 2014. ‘Pent-up Anger Burst Out in Students’ Protest’, People’s Democracy, XXXVIII (41), October 12 (available at
accessed on October 08, 2014)
Vidya. 2011. ‘In Dalit student suicides, the death of merit’, The Hindu, May 8, New Delhi (available
accessed on September 28, 2014)
The Economic
Times. 2012. ‘Stop funding universities, raise fee, finance students: Montek
Singh Ahluwalia’, May 8, New Delhi (available at
accessed on September 28, 2014)
The Indian
Express. 2014. ‘PU effects 20 pc fee hike for regular courses, 10 pc for
self-financed courses’, February 23, 2014, Chandigarh (available at
accessed on September 25, 2014)
The Hindu. 2000.
‘No laughing matter’, November 19 (available at
accessed on September 30, 2014)
The Hindu. 2012.
‘BHU Students’ Council to a become reality’, December 13, Varanasi (available
accessed on October 5, 2014)
The Telegraph.
2007. ‘AIIMS apartheid, cricket to class’, May 07, Kolkata (available at
accessed on September 28, 2014)
The Times of
India. 2012. ‘Jamia students protest hostel, course fee hike’, October 4, 2012,
New Delhi (available at
accessed on September 26, 2014)
Jandhyala B G. 2004. ‘Fees, Autonomy and Equity’, Economic and Political  
, 39 (9): 870-873
Tilak, Jandhyala
B G. 2006. ‘Global Trends in Funding Higher Education’, International Higher Education, 42 (Winter): 1-3 (available at
accessed on September 24, 2014)
Tilak, Jandhyala
B G. 2010. ‘Neither Vision Nor Policy for Education’, Economic and  
     Political Weekly, XLV
(13): 60-64
Grants Commission. 2008. Higher Education
in India- Issues related to Expansion, Inclusiveness, Quality and Finance
New Delhi: UGC (available at
accessed on September 29, 2014)
Grants Commission. 2011. Inclusive and
Qualitative Expansion of Higher Education: 12th Five-Year Plan,
. New Delhi: UGC (available at
accessed on September 26, 2014)
Viswanathan, S.
2007. ‘Lessons not learnt’, Frontline,
24 (06): March 24- April 06 (available at
accessed on October 6, 2014)
author is a research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

[1]The note
has limited itself to government-funded colleges, universities and institutions
[2] In fact PU had
imposed tuition fee hike in the middle of the session in November 2013, but it
had to roll it back due to protests by students.
[3]  See Abraham (2014)
[4]  See Rao (2014)
[5] See
Prabhat Patnaik, ‘Education and Globalization’, Social Scientist, September-October 2005. See also NUEPA (2007).
[8] ‘Report
of the High Level Group on Services Sector’, Planning Commission, March 2008,
available at http://planningcommission.nic.in/reports/genrep/rep_ser.pdf
[9] See the
full approach paper titled ‘Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth: An
Approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan’, Planning Commission, October 2011
(available at http://planningcommission.gov.in/plans/planrel/12appdrft/appraoch_12plan.pdf)
[10] See
‘Committee on Corporate Participation in Higher Education: Report of N R
Narayana Murthy Committee’, Planning Commission, 2012
[11]  See Mohanty (2013). The XII Plan says: “The Central
and the State Universities should be statutorily
to adopt revision of fee
payable by the students by at least 10% for every three year
period” (UGC 2011, p. 77); the Plan advocates development of “Newer Models of
Private Sector Participation in Higher Education” (p. 79).
[12] In fact
the Kakodkar Committee had recommended increasing the fee for undergraduate,
Masters and PhD programmes to Rs 2-2.5 lakh per year which was finally revised
downwards by the Group of Directors and the Empowered Task Force (Dhar 2013).
[13] According to NSS 64th
Round (2007-08), total GER was 17.2 %- Males: 19.0 %, Females: 15.2 %, Others:
26.64 %, SC: 11.54 %, OBC: 14.72 %, ST: 7.67 %, OBC: 14.72 %, Muslims: 9.51 %
& Non-Muslims %: 18.54, Rural: 11.1 %, Urban: 30.0 (UGC 2011). According to
All India Survey Higher Education 2010-11, GER in higher education was 19.4 %-
Males:  20.8 %, Females: 17.9 %, SC: 13.5
% and ST: 11.2 %. SC students constitute 11.1% and ST students 4.4% of the
total enrolment in higher education. 3.8% students belong to Muslim Minority
community (Government of India 2013). Although the enrolment rate are generally
lower for the females compared to the males, the females belonging to the lower
castes and some religious groups (like Muslims) suffer more acutely in accessing
higher education than other female (UGC 2008).
[14]  Estimates from NSS 61st Round
(2004-05) show that the GER was lower in states of Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar,
MP, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura and Jharkhand. It also shows
significant rural and urban disparities; the enrolment rate being 6.73 % and
19.80 % for the rural and the urban areas respectively (UGC 2008)
[15]  See ‘Caste, Higher Education and Senthil’s Suicide’,
Senthilkumar Solidarity Committee, EPW,
August 16, 2008
[16]  Rahi Gaikwad, ‘How casteist is our varsity?’, The Hindu, October 3, 2012
[17]             Vijetha S.N, ‘Most women feel
unsafe on DU North Campus, reveals survey’, The
, March 11, 2013
[18] The Yashpal Committee
Report (Report of ‘The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of
higher education’, 2009) has also pointed out the erosion of democratic space
over the last few decades in higher educational institutions across the
[19] Vijay Sharma, ‘Maya
bans student union elections in UP’, Hindustan
, September 8, 2007, Lucknow
[20] Naveed Iqbal, ‘Jamia
Millia Islamia students hold protest against fee hike’, The Indian Express, October 19, 2012, New Delhi
[22]  Naveed Iqbal, ‘Jamia Millia Islamia students
hold protest against fee hike’, The
Indian Express
, October 19, 2012, New Delhi
[23] See also
the section titled ‘Note on Higher Education’ of the NKC report, available at http://knowledgecommission.gov.in/downloads/report2009/eng/report09.pdf
[24]  See ‘Democracy in the Campus’, http://www.sfiwb.org/issues04.php

author is a research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai