Press Trust of India|Oct 22, 2021
JNU gets Rs 445 crore HEFA loan; will lead to fee-hike, say students
NEW DELHI: Jawaharlal Nehru University, on Tuesday, announced that it has received a fund of Rs 445 crore from the Higher Education Funding Agency, or HEFA, for the construction of academic buildings, hostels and research centres.
The loan, approved by the HEFA, will be largely utilised to set up hostel accommodations for the newly-established academic schools and special centres.
Elaborating on the plans to use the funds, JNU Vice-Chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar said: “The funds allotted by HEFA will be utilised for the construction of hostels for students and researchers of School of Engineering, Atal Bihari Vajpayee School of Management and Entrepreneurship, the academic complex building for School of Engineering, trans-disciplinary academic research, Animal Research Facility, advanced instrumentation research facility and lecture hall complex in the University.”
Kumar further said that the animal research facility and the advanced instrumentation research facility will be set up as a “national facility” open for other institutions of the country. The animal research facility will be used for robust research on “communicable, noncommunicable and rare diseases” like coronavirus.
E-learning centre and incubation centre
Moreover, a special centre for e-learning will also be established for the students. The centre will be instrumental in providing online degree programs to students not enrolled in the university. “This is also in tune with the objectives of national education policy of increasing the gross enrollment ratio,” an official statement added.
In March, JNU had started the Atal Incubation Centre. It is currently accommodating three start-up companies. The funds will also be used to expand the incubation centre for 100 more companies.
To improve efficiency in the academic and administrative processes, a unified education ERP system will also be established with the help of HEFA funds. The ERP system will allow all operations to be conducted using online means and in an integrated manner.
JNUTA and HEFA funding
The HEFA was set up in 2017 to marshall funds from the private and public sectors and from that, offer infrastructure loans to educational institutions. The interest on the loan is budgeted for by the government but the principal amount is paid from the institutions’ “internal accruals”. Until then, institutions had relied on government grants for expansion.
The JNU Teachers’ Association, JNUTA, had resisted the policy as well as JNU’s applying for the loan from the start. "JNUTA has always opposed HEFA financing and for good reasons. Teachers of JNU overwhelmingly voted against it in the referendum held in August 2018," said an official statement. "As can be seen, this is a replacement of public funding for infrastructure development with loans whose terms cannot possibly be better than grants where no repayment obligation exists," the statement added.
The teachers' association further expressed apprehension that the funds will make JNU inaccessible to the disadvantaged students. The statement also said that the funds will "falsely" promote online learning as a substitute for regular teaching-learning.
JNU students on HEFA loan
Soon after the announcement, the students of JNU have expressed their discontent on the approval of HEFA loan. Rejecting the HEFA loan, All India Students' Association, a left-leaning students group has demanded the University to stop the loan.
"Higher Education Funding Authority (HEFA) provide loans to Universities for building infrastructure! If JNU has got 455 cr, its not called Funding, its called "loan". Yes, a loan " wrote N. Sai Balaji, former JNU Students' Union president. "455 cr will mean present 8000 students plus coming students will keep repaying it through taking education loans or selling their homes. ," he wrote further.
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