The Maharashtra government has passed the ‘Self-Financed Private University Bill’ in the recently concluded winter session of the Assembly. The move has peeved the state’s student community, which is especially opposing the clause as it denies any financial benefit to those enrolling in any private university in the state.
The Bill which is awaiting a final nod from the Governor, mentions—“Every university established under this Act shall be self-financed. The university shall not be entitled to any financial assistance of any nature from the government and any student admitted to the university shall not be entitled to claim for any type of financial assistance or scholarship or reimbursement of fees from the state government.”
Terming it unfair, students are questioning the clause which according to them restricts candidates coming from underprivileged backgrounds from pursuing higher education in private universities. As per students, implementation of reservation in private universities at the time of admissions is of no use if students are denied financial assistance.
Student activist Kuldeep Ambekar, from Student Helping Hand, said, “This will have a huge impact on higher education plans of underprivileged students. So many students are enrolled in private universities, only because of financial assistance from the government. For example, in post-matric scholarship, these students paid their fees upfront but it was eventually reimbursed by the government.”
The new rule, however, will be applicable to all such facilities starting from post-matric scholarships to PhD fellowships.
Questioning the government on whether it intends to close doors of private universities to underprivileged students, MLC Kapil Patil said, “This is dangerous to higher education plans of underprivileged aspirants. The government must provide clarity on whether this rule will be applicable to new admissions or even those who are already admitted. In case of the latter, many students may have to leave their course midway, because professional courses such as medicine and engineering are costly, for which students are highly dependent on government support.”
Saying that he did oppose the Bill when it was presented, Patil said, “It was brought toward the end of the session and was passed with majority in haste.” Patil spoke about how such a Bill was opposed by him several years ago too, during the Congress-NCP government. “But the new Bill, which is a combined regulation for all 30 private universities across the state, is a different document that allows reservation at the time of admission, but denies students any right to claim financial assistance from the government.”
Patil is creating awareness among the student community regarding the bill, for which he held a public meeting on Sunday in Pune, a city that boasts the highest number of private universities. With students up in arms against the new regulation, the Bill is likely to meet stiff opposition as protests are being planned across Maharashtra.