Students at a top Indian engineering school are protesting tuition fees tripling

Waiting for a solution.
Waiting for a solution.
Image: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
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The Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) is the third marquee Indian engineering institute in the last three years to face its students’ wrath over a proposal to increase tuition fees.

On May 06, thousands of students at three BITS campuses—Pilani, Hyderabad, and Goa—protested against the management’s proposal to increase the tuition fees for the next year.

“The recently published notice on fee structure for incoming students on the BITS admissions website listed the semester fee as Rs1,59,000, more than three times the fees in 2011-12,” The English Press Club, BITS Pilani, which runs a college newspaper, said in a blog post.

BITS did not respond to an emailed questionnaire from Quartz.

Last year, students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay staged a hunger strike against the proposed fee hike for the 2017-18 academic year. The protests were later called off after the management at the institute decided to address the students’ concerns and decided to roll back the fee hike partially. Students at IIT Kharagpur also railed against proposed fee hikes in 2016.

According to the BITS blog, management told the students that the sharp hike in the tuition fees has been proposed since revenue from other sources are drying up. However, the director of the institute refused to share details on the institute’s income and expenses with the students.

The director also said that the alumni network of BITS was not helping the institute as much as those of other institutes, according to the BITS Herald, the college newspaper.

The students believe that this increase in fees will lead to a drop in the quality of incoming students as many deserving candidates may not be able to afford it anymore. “The plummeting cutoff scores last year were widely attributed to this cause,” the English Press Club said in its blog post.

Established in 1964, BITS has produced some of the country’s most successful and innovative technology entrepreneurs. Between 2013 and 2016, alumni of the four BITS campuses—Pilani, Hyderabad, Goa, and Dubai—launched around 500 startups, according to data from startup research firm Xeler8. Unlike other Indian engineering schools, BITS is known for giving students the freedom from strictly following the curriculum, allowing them to spend time innovating and experimenting. But that flexibility, apparently, comes at a price.