HYDERABAD: In what was supposed to come as a relief for students across the country, the University Grants Commission had recently issued a notification preventing colleges from demanding original documents of students at the time of admissions. However, it looks like the move would do more harm than good to students, particularly to those who wish to pursue engineering courses, for engineering colleges have begun mulling over demanding the entire academic year’s fee to be paid at the time of admission.
Though the statutory body for higher education in the country had notified educational institutions in 2016 against withholding or collecting personal certificates at the time of admissions, several colleges, especially the engineering ones in the State, have taken to the practice of keeping back the documents as collateral against those students who fail to clear the dues at the end of the year/course.
Apart from trying to put an end to this, UGC’s latest slew of guidelines directs colleges to give back fees as refund if a student opts out of the programme. “Taking into account the sheer volume of the complaints regarding the non refund of fee and retention of original certificates by Higher Education Institutions (HEI), the commission felt the need to elaborate the instructions to curb such malpractices,” said UGC, in its communique.
Pay fees at the time of joining, say colleges
Reacting to the notification, Dr Goutham Rao, president of State Engineering Colleges Management Association, admitted that though it is against the rule to retain certificates of students at the time of joining, there wouldn’t be a need for such a “nuisance” if the government had cleared the fee reimbursement dues on time.
“There is no clarity on how we are expected to run colleges in the absence of certificates because in such a case, there is no assurance that the student will join the course or not. The only way colleges can follow this diktat is by asking students to pay up the entire academic year’s fee at the time of joining, considering how lax the government is at reimbursing the amount,” he said
A former principal, and currently, the academic head of a private engineering college, who did not wish to be named, justified the collection of certificates on grounds that they collect them “only after the third round of counselling” and till then students in Telangana are permitted to join any college they want.
“If we don’t take the certificates from students, then who will pay the fees? In case the student is unable to pay the fees, the government is also not going to pay on time. And in the process, the course will also get completed. Without collecting the fees how will we run colleges? It is not that simple,” he said.
Verify and return original certificates, says UGC
It may be recalled that on October 10 this year the Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that no student would be required to submit any original academic and personal certificate at the time of admissions.
In line with this, the commission has instructed the Higher Education Institutions to verify and return the certificates then and there while retaining the attested copies of the same for the purpose of their records. “Taking certificates into institutional custody under any circumstances or pretext is strictly prohibited,” the notification states.
Vijay Gopal, founder of Forum Against Corruption, who had send legal notices to over 15 colleges across the State after receiving complaints from students on retention of certificates over pending fee dues, has received the UGC’s circular with a pinch of salt. “The notification does not mean anything unless the commission holds colleges accountable and criminalise such acts,” he said.