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Students win this round: FTII backs down on 600% fee hike, age limit for admissions

Praneta Jha | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

The Film and Television Institute of India was spared a 33% to 600% hike in fees and an upper age limit on admissions after its Academic Council rejected these proposals made by the administration.

The premier film-making school will, however, continue with its policy, introduced in 2011, of raising fees by 10% every year, and implement an annual 10% hike in hostel charges - despite the students' objection that the hike is too steep for a state-run educational institution.

The Academic Council met in Mumbai on Friday to discuss these and other proposals. On the agenda was setting an age limit of 25 years for admissions under the general category, with a five-year relaxation for SC/ST candidates and a three-year relaxation for OBC candidates.

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Harishankar Nachimuthu, president of the FTII Students Association who attended the meeting as one of two student representatives in the Academic Council, told Catch that while the age limit proposal was entirely discarded, the fee hike was strongly challenged by the students as well as some faculty members, but they were outvoted.

The statement detailing the decisions of the council, headed by Brijendra Pal Singh, is yet to be released.

"The students, alumni and faculty have been fighting hard to maintain the subsidised status of the institute. Even increasing the fees by 10% every year is far too much, and would progressively cut off a major section of aspiring students who come from weaker economic backgrounds. We have protested against this hike in the past and will continue to protest," said Nachimuthu.

The council's decisions now await ratification by the FTII Governing Council, headed by the institute's controversial chairperson Gajendra Chauhan.

Nachimuthu said the students' body will write to members of the General Council protesting the 10% annual hike. "The government is looking at the FTII as a business enterprise, and not as a public institution that teaches an art form and which is accessible to the people."

He said the students also questioned why the Academic Council's meeting was held in Bombay and not on the institute premises in Pune. "We were told that the administration feared protests by students if the meeting had taken place at the FTII itself."

FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola had earlier said the administration had studied the fee structures of other institutes such as the National School of Drama and the National Institute of Design before drafting its proposal. Also, he had added, both the NSD and the NID had age limits for admissions.

The reason given by the FTII administration for the massive hike was that it was long overdue as the fees had not been revised for many years. Kainthola told PTI the CAG, in its audit report, had "passed strictures that fees at FTII were irrational".

Hefty hike

According to the rejected proposal, the annual fees for the four core three-year postgraduate diploma courses - Film Direction, Film Cinematography, Film Editing, and Sound Recording and Sound Design - was to be raised by 33% from Rs 48,315 to Rs 64,308.

A hike by 303% was proposed for the three-year Diploma in Art Direction and Production Design Course, from an annual Rs 48,315 to Rs 1,94,872.

The most expensive course would have been the two-year Diploma in Acting, for which a 605% fee hike was proposed, from Rs 48,315 to Rs 3,41,025 per annum.

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For the one-year television courses that have four specialisations as well as the one-year screenplay writing course, students would have had to shell out Rs 1,65,000 lakh instead of Rs 48,315.

The proposal also sought to double the hostel fees, deposits and other charges.

Back in 2004, the FTII had introduced four courses that were to be "self-financed" with higher fees and not subsidised - Diploma in Acting, Diploma in Art Direction, Four Certificate Courses in TV, and Certificate Course in Screenplay Writing. In November 2008, a 10% annual fee hike was announced for these courses.

In December 2011, however, under a proposal presented by the Students Association and supported by the faculty, the General Council not only revoked the hike, but cut the fees for these courses to maintain parity with other subsidised courses.

The FTII has a had a tumultuous past year. The students went on a 139-day strike against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson. They questioned Chauhan's credentials to head the country's premier film school, especially since more respected names from the film industry such as Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Gulzar had been bypassed in his favour.

Established in 1960, the FTII is an autonomous institute under the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and is subsidised by the central government. It has produced some of India's most acclaimed filmmakers and actors, including Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Prakash Jha, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, and has counted such fine filmmakers as Ritwik Ghatak, Mani Kaul and Satyajit Ray as faculty.

Much has changed now. As Vikas Urs, a cinematography student who took part in the 139-day strike, said, "The government treats the FTII as a white elephant. We are told this is a loss-making institute but it was never supposed to be a profit-making enterprise. That is not the objective of the institute. It is about training in the art and craft of films, not about minting money. The FTII cannot remain what it is without the government's support."

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First published: 30 September 2016, 11:08 IST