Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?

Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?

by Anurag Singh - Monday, November 25, 2019 01:34 PM IST
Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?Indian activists of the DISHA Students Organistion hold placards against the February 15, 2016 attack on JNU students and teachers at Patiala House court, during a protest in New Delhi on February 16, 2016. Indian students,teachers and activists are protesting against the arrest of a top university student leader after he was charged with sedition, and demanding his immediate release. AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH / AFP / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
  • There are around 8,000 students at JNU, says data available in the public domain.

    And the university spends about Rs 556 crore per year on its functioning.

    That works out to a princely Rs 6.95 lakh per student annually. With no cutting-edge research or patents being obtained, how does the nation benefit?

Caution: Please be objective while reading this. I still know that I would be trolled. I’m no expert on the politics of JNU. But we all can understand basic numbers and information that JNU has on its website and other public media.

Trouble, however, is that this data is extremely unorganised, as if nobody cares to know about it. At-least that is what I observed. You can draw your own inferences. I’ve tried to compile some critical information at one place, which poses certain questions.

The Student Strength & Courses: What Do They Teach At JNU

Let’s go one step at a time. Do you know how many courses there are at JNU and what is the student strength? Here is how it looks.

Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?

Now we see that there are a total of 8,000 students at JNU. Of this, the lion’s share of 57 per cent of students is of social sciences, language, literature and arts (4,578 students) and International Studies (15 per cent at 1,210 students). So, between the two categories, we have 72 per cent of the campus covered.

There is another interesting statistic here. Almost 55 per cent of the total student strength i.e. 4,359 students are doing M.Phil. or Ph.D.

At any campus across the world, the strength of students declines as we move from undergraduate courses to postgraduate, and there are very few who pursue doctorate- level courses.

This is also driven by financial compulsions as people need to get back to the earning workforce fast and get on to a career track. I couldn’t find specific information about why did JNU chose to have such high strength of M.Phil. and doctoral-level students. Anyways, we’ll use this number once again to derive some conclusions, and hence do keep this in mind.

Cost of Running Such A University: Just How Much Does The Government Spend On JNU?

Look at the profit and loss account of JNU for 2018. This is from the 600-page annual report, and this one page, which should possibly be the first section on any annual report, is hidden somewhere in the middle.

Probably, this was not very important in the overall scheme of things. So what do we observe here:

Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?

So, JNU spends about Rs 556 crore per year on its functioning. This is apart from the fixed assets it has such as the huge land base, the infrastructure and building it owns, courtesy government money. I see that some depreciation is accounted for.

So, what is the cost per student at JNU? We can calculate. Rs 556 crore/8,000 students, which gives us Rs 6.95 lakhs per student annually. Although the university calculations somewhere quote this number as Rs 2.33 lac per student (Rs 170 crore/7,304), this calculation is seriously flawed.

The real numbers have to divide the entire university expenses by the number of students. There can be no university without students, so all expenses eventually have to come from the student body and other income.

Even if we exclude “other income” and count only the government subsidy and grants, we have a total expense of Rs 352 crore over 8,000 students. We can safely assume that each student consumes Rs 4.4 lakh of government subsidy at JNU every year. Shocking how public money can be misused at scale. What talent are we producing at this high-cost subsidy ? This is competing with the fees at IITs and IIMs.

Research, Publications And Patents At JNU

Now, the students would say that JNU is an academics focussed institution and it should not be compared with commercial institutions. Fair point. I tried to dig into the kind of work and research papers JNU publishes. You would be surprised that for an institution which claims to be a centre of academics on social sciences, the claims on the website seem pretty sketchy.

Read for yourself as I quote from the website:

Publications : The faculty of the university has been regularly publishing many research journal articles, books; contributed chapters in books; presented papers in national and international conferences/workshops and delivered several lectures outside the university.

Research: JNU has been promoting research by students and faculty. Faculty members have been able to attract competitive research grants from many national and international funding agencies. Currently, more than 300 research projects are running in the university. Research grants are also received from DST, DBT, ICMR, CSIR, UGC, ICSSR, ICHR, ICCR, Ministries, European Union, European Commission, Ford Foundation, Welcome Trust etc.

In addition to research projects, faculty members are also encouraged to undertake consultancy projects. The university has also set up an Advanced Instrumentation Research facility where state-of-the-art equipment have been installed to meet the requirements of many science schools/special centres. The university has also set up an Intellectual Property Management (IPM) Cell to facilitate filing of patents and technology transfers.

As you can see, there is no specific mention of any numbers or concrete claims on research & publications, no names of journals or publications worth mentioning.

Perhaps, JNU doesn’t need to publish this information as nobody cares to read this. At-least, not the students who study there or those who want to join JNU.

But there should be some patents at least? All that we find for patents is the below information:

Patents by faculty:

• R. Bhatnagar (2001-2002). A Process for the Preparation of Non-Toxic Anthrax Vaccine. Indian patent (1222/Del/2001) accepted. International PCT application (PCT/IN2002/00048; WO-03-048390A1, June 12, 2003) published. R. Bhatnagar (2001). A process for constitutively preparing anthrax protective antigen. Indian patent (1127/Del/2001) accepted. R. Bhatnagar (2001). An Anthrax Protective Antigen. Indian patent (1074/Del/2002) accepted.

• Aparna Dixit (2007). Anti-diabetic recombinant protein. Indian patent and International PCT applications filed. Aparna Dixit (2007). Recombinant vaccine against Aeromonas hydrophila. Indian Patent application filed.

• R. Bhatnagar (2008). An immunodominant B cell epitope based protein vaccine against Anthrax. Indian Patent application (2947/DEL/2008) filed. R. Bhatnagar (2008). A pharmaceutical composition of vaccine against Rabies…..its preparation thereof. Indian Patent (1449/DEL/2008) and International PCT (PCT/IN2008/000578) applications filed.

• K. J. Mukherjee (2006). A process for getting high yields of xylanases (patent application filed). K.J. Mukherjee (1999). A process for getting high yields of streptokinase. K.J. Mukherjee (2002). Process technology for production of human alpha interferon in E.coli Application No. 212080 (1276/Del/2002) Indian Patent Accepted.

• Santosh K. Kar, (2006). Method for Identification and/or Diagnosis of REM Sleep Loss from Blood Samples. Indian Patent. Date of Issue: 24 October 2006.

So, barring some four names of Mr. Bhatnagar, Ms. Dixit, Mr Kar and Mr. Mukherjee, there are no patents by any other faculty.

Any patents by students? Try searching.

I did not find any results. So much for the 57 per cent students doing doctorate-level courses.

You want to know the best claims about the research JNU publishes ? You’ll find that in the placement brochure (yes, they have one, although very superficial and doesn’t disclose any statistics about past placements).

Here is what you’ll see in the name of research at JNU:

Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?

Some inferences from the data above:

1) With 4,360 students in M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses, there are hardly 1,000 research “articles” published in journals. The university doesn’t name any notable journal while making such claims. This implies that there is just One “article” published for every 4.5 students each year.

This, when there are 600-plus Ph.D.s granted annually. Would you consider this any worthwhile research work? May be JNU has more “liberal” standards for us to understand this.

2) There is huge participation in international conferences. So, about 2,000 international conferences are attended every year. Again, not sure what materialises in those conferences. Certainly not the research papers or patents.

Is The Fee Hike Justified ? Why Punish The Meritorious Students?

Firstly, in view of the data above, it doesn’t appear that there is much focus on output or getting laurels for the nation at JNU. There is absolutely no data point to believe that is the case.

Now, let’s look at the “fee” the students pay to study at the university.

Economics Of Funding JNU: Educating A JNU Student Costs A Whopping Rs 6.95 lakh Per Year. Does India Benefit?

Let me clarify. The numbers you are looking at are not in thousands or lakhs. These are what they are in INR.

So, Rs 240 is the entire tuition fee paid by a JNU student.

Aside, they pay a generous Rs 6 for library and Rs 40 as refundable security deposit. How a university was allowed to run with this fee structure and without any hike for decades is itself a research paper in the making.

Of-course, nobody at JNU would have time to research on this. IIT Delhi, which is located close by, charges about Rs 2.25-odd lakh annually and IIMs charge about Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per year.

We don’t see any strikes at those places. Students know they need to jump into the job market, start their earning life and also repay the student loan that they carry.

JNU is free of any such thoughts or troubles. Probably, the reason why students have much time left to create new troubles of their own.

Ideology or idle mind, you decide.

Is The Fee Hike Justified At JNU?

I don’t want to conclude any political thoughts here. But the data from official sources of the university help us infer a lot of ideas. JNU is a perfect example of bad socialism. If you give something for free, people have no incentive to work and earn. Why would anyone at JNU be in a hurry to find jobs or even publish research.

In a nation where we’re hardly able to educate our children through primary schools, JNU stands tall as an example of socialist elitism at its best. This must stop. The students may have all the time for doctoral courses, but the nation is certainly running out of patience and money to pay for these scholars.

I’m surprised that this social reform idea never came out from the university that claims to be the biggest study centre on social sciences? Irony died a quite death!

Note: This piece wrongly carried an image of Mr Nadeem Khan implying him to be a protestor on behalf of JNU when he was not. The image has now been replaced and the error is regretted.

Anurag, an alumnus of IIM Lucknow, has over 15 years of experience in banking, insurance and investing.

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