Sunday, August 05, 2012

Drunk on Kakodkar Kool Aid

The idea of making students pay their "full share" for their college education (IIT education in particular) has been around for quite sometime. It gathered some force when the 'original' IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta raised their fees to the stratosphere for their MBA-equivalent programs sometime ago, and declared financial independence from the government. The idea gained a much-needed legitimacy when the Kakodkar Committee (KC) adopted it as a central theme in its report on IITs and their autonomy.

I have blogged about how the KC depended on some bad (and downright deceptive) arguments in its report. I addressed (here and here) the specific stuff about raising the tuition fees to over Rs. 200,000 per year.

Along comes an article from a professor at an IIT peddling this idea, once again.

Using similarly deceptive arguments, once again.

For example, raising tuition fees is touted as a great way to help government save money by ridding itself of the onerous burden of funding the education of spoiled brats with a sense of entitlement IIT students; while this noble goal is presented fairly early in the article, the second half of the article is all about how the student loans can be converted into grants for students who choose careers in allegedly nation-building core sectors (DRDO and CSIR labs, IITs and NITs), and / or repayment of loans may be suspended if they choose to go for higher education. And who foots the bill for all these concessions? The government, of course!

At the root of it all is a simple, crass argument: students flock to us, and most of them are affluent enough to afford expensive cram schools, so let's go out and stiff them for what they can pay; and we might as well have some fun by throwing around erudite terms like "market forces"!

It's revealing, isn't it, that when it comes to making their customers students pay, some IIT professors are no different from the vast number of businesspeople, thugs, crooks, politicians and muttheads who run self-financing colleges.

The only difference is that these IIT professors can cover it all up by talking about "building research infrastructure."


  1. Ungrateful Alive said...

    I don't find the article unreasonable. If you are worried about social justice and inclusion, that fight starts much earlier, and very far from IIXs. The government and Kakodkar may not know best how to fix IIXs, but most will agree that IIXs need fixed. Undergraduate commitment and application to the program is lower than ever, and postgraduate education is as remedial as ever. With the possible exception of IISc hardly any IIX has a healthy PhD culture in engineering. What's to like in this story?

  2. Ankur Kulkarni said...

    I don't see why, if UGs paying a fair share of the cost as fees, results in steps that lead to better IITs, it is unreasonable. Making anyone pay for anything that costs something is not a sin or a crime. In fact not making them pay is stupid.

  3. S said...

    Let me ask some questions. I don't really have answers for these.

    What is the purpose of universities? Do they "owe" anything to society? Do they owe anything to their students such as making sure that they will have jobs at the end of their studies (by training them only in fields that are likely to have jobs)?

  4. Ungrateful Alive said...

    @S -- if "society" is bankrolling the university, of course the university "owes" something back. Seems like an obvious natural law. The issue is who decides what is due. Rabid market capitalism and the terminal disease of Indian democracy dictate that students and their parents are "customers" to the university and its professors, and the customer is always right. Well, for starters, the customer who pays is always right, not freeloaders. Also, naturally the ones that call the shots over IIXs are not the freeloading customers, but the sugar-daddy MHRD led by malicious pricks whose only long term goal is to extend rent-seeking from every other public service to higher education.