Medical colleges continue to defy government-fixed ceiling of feeStudents of two medical colleges are up in arms. Operators refuse to budge.
Students from the Bhaktapur-based Kathmandu Medical College (KMC) and Nobel Medical College, Biratnagar have been continuously protesting against exorbitant fees imposed by the college authorities bypassing the Medical Education Commission’s ceiling. However, there has been no hearing.
After the college administration refused to budge despite several rounds of meetings with the guardians and students, Education Minister Devendra Paudel reached the KMC last week “for monitoring”. He directed the administration to sort out the problems after holding discussions with the students.
A week has passed but there’s no headway yet.
The Education Ministry on Friday held meetings with the students and guardians and the representatives of the commission, medical colleges and student unions. In the meeting, the ministry directed the medical colleges to abide by the fee ceiling set by the commission.
“The ministry has asked the medical colleges not to charge more than the amount prescribed by the commission,” said Hari Lamsal, joint-secretary at the ministry.
The representatives from the Association of Private Medical and Dental Colleges of Nepal rejected the call.
The commission in September 2019 fixed Rs4.02 million as the fee for MBBS students inside Kathmandu Valley and Rs4.44 million for the rest of the country. There was an increment of around Rs2.2 million in both categories.
The fee, according to the commission, includes every cost except the hostel fee. The students are free to choose whether to stay in the college hostel or in a rented accommodation, wherever they wish.
However, the two medical colleges are demanding that students pay thousands of rupees in addition to the fee determined by the commission and have made the hostel mandatory.
Dr Sunil Sharma, general secretary of the association and the chairperson of the KMC and Nobel colleges, said since they constructed the hostel as per the government’s requirement, it is mandatory for the students to stay there.
“Medical students must be available round the clock. So s/he must stay in the hostel,” he told the Post.
He also said the students must pay additional fees that the respective universities charge.
The commission, however, says its ceiling includes all the charges, except hostel fees, but whether to stay in the hostel is students’ choice.
The colleges have set fees as high as Rs240,000 for internship besides a registration fee of Rs25,000 and internet charges of Rs20,000 and an examination fee of Rs11,000 per year. They are also forcing students to stay in college hostels paying Rs12,000 monthly on a twin sharing basis in addition to Rs7,897 for food.
They are also demanding Rs98,579 as affiliation fee that the universities charge.
“There are other hidden fees like electricity, laundry and library,” said a student from KMC who requested anonymity fearing reprisal. “The medical college operators said in the face of the education minister that they won’t abide by the commission’s ceiling. However, no authority dares to take action against them.”
The students will have to pay at least Rs2.1 million extra—50 percent more than the commission’s ceiling—if they meet the college operators’ demand.
Officials at the commission said their role is focused on the academic sector like maintaining quality education and ensuring academic environment.
“We fixed the fee ceiling as authorised by the Medical Education Act. Now it is the responsibility of the local administration to take action in a fraud charge as the fee structure hasn’t been followed,” said Dr Shree Krishna Giri, vice-chairperson of the commission. “We can recommend revocation of affiliations to respective universities. However, that is the last resort and we don’t think the present problem demands the cancellation of their affiliation.”
College operators blame the commission for failing to determine the fee scientifically.
Basruddin Ansari, the chairperson of the association, said the commission must take the private colleges into confidence while finalising the fee structure. He said the fee must be increased every year at least at par with the inflation rate. It has been two years since the medical fee was finalised.
Ansari said there must be at least a nine percent increment in the fee as the inflation in two consecutive years stood at 4.5 percent.
“We cannot operate our colleges if the fee is not adjusted,” he said. “Over the years it has been proved that no government cares for the private sector.”
He said they are being intimidated by student unions.
Those associated with the student wing of the CPN (Unified Socialist) on Friday smeared black on Sharma’s face after he refused the ministry’s directive to abide by the commission’s ceiling.
“We will be compelled to submit the locks and keys of colleges to the government if it cannot ensure our safety,” said Ansari.
College owners’ refusal to follow the commission’s ceiling indicates that the confrontation will continue.
Seven student unions, including five affiliated to the parties in the ruling alliance, have said they jointly own up the act of smearing black on Sharma.
“We have every support in the protest of the medical students,” reads a joint statement by the student unions. “The medical mafias, who don’t follow the state’s rule, must be brought to book as per the existing law.”