Ghazala Ahmad | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Scores of students or dropouts from various private colleges in Telangana are unable to enroll themselves in other colleges, pursue a career or move abroad for higher studies as many educational institutions are reportedly withholding their original certificates.
The colleges are also accused of demanding whopping charges from students desirous of collecting the original documents they submitted at the time of admission.
Mohammed Aslam, 25, enrolled himself in the Lords Institute of Engineering & Technology in Hyderabad in 2016 to pursue a B.Tech degree but couldn’t complete the course as he met with an accident in 2017. The accident left him in such a bad state that his mobility was considerably restrained.
As per college rules, Aslam submitted his original documents, mark sheets and his past academic record with the institution as a requirement to complete the admission procedure.
Now, the college authorities are refusing to return his original documents.
Aslam claimed that when he went to collect his certificates, the administration asked him to pay the entire fee for a three-year course and that was the only way to get back his certificates
“The college is asking me to pay 1.5 lakh rupees to return the original documents and I cannot pay that much money,” Aslam told Clarion India over the phone.
“For seven years I couldn’t get myself enrolled in any other course in any institution without the certificates, apply for a job or travel abroad. For all this, original academic records are a prerequisite,” he said.
Justifying the fee for returning the original documents, Dr. Shah Wali of the Lords Institute’s management cell said, “We are not getting enough funds from the government and students are not willing to study; the dropout rate is very high and hence we have adopted this policy. At least then students will study.”
He contended that the “colleges want them to study, the parents want them to study but the students don’t want to study. These days, they are addicted to their mobile phones and other activities.”
He was vague in his response when asked how holding the documents of students was justified and how would it encourage them to study further. What if students don’t want to study in that particular college as stated by many of them?
“They can do whatever they want, they can go to the courts, the UGC, or AICTE, but we know that these institutes are short of funds,” he said.
“They can go ahead with their remedies, we have our arrangements and procedure, and we will follow them,” he added.
“We are not harassing students, they are raising an unnecessary issue. We just want them to study,” he said.
If institutions are not getting enough funds from the government, filling their coffers by harassing and milking the students is illegal and malpractice as per University Grants Commission guidelines.
As per a 2018 UGC notification, universities and colleges cannot retain the original documents of a student in any case. The notification also states that if a student withdraws from the program, the institution has to refund the fees.
It further states that higher educational institutions face strict penalties including withdrawal of affiliation, and deemed status and are barred from receiving any assistance from the UGC if they fail to follow the directive.
But most private institutions in Hyderabad are ignoring the directive with impunity.
Many students who fall prey to this malafide practice of retaining the documents, which the UGC describes as “coercive and profiteering,” are having severe mental health issues including developing suicidal tendencies. For them, there is no light at the end of the tunnel since there cannot be any progress in their lives as their documents are stuck with their previous institutions.
One such case is that of Asma Zehra (Name changed), 21, who was admitted to a bachelor’s program in Business Administration in 2016 at Nawab Shah Alam Khan College of Engineering and Technology (NSAKCET) but had dropped out after two years due to some mental health issues.
In 2021, she approached the college to collect her original high school and intermediate documents but the administration asked her to shell out approximately 2 lakh rupees as the remaining fees of the course.
Zehra told Clarion India, “The college administration bluntly refused to return the documents. Officials told me I could get them only when I pay the fees of the entire course which amounted to nearly 2 lakh rupees.”
She continued: “I had already paid fees for two years. My family can’t afford to pay this huge amount, that too when I have left the course midway.”
Zehra is dejected and crestfallen. She is under continuous mental stress since then and feels that her future hangs in balance.
“All those of my age are exploring different things in life, going abroad for further studies or doing a job, but it’s me who can’t even continue my studies because the college is creating hurdles in my getting back my certificates”.
This is not the case with dropouts only. Another student, 25-year-old Syed Abdul Bari, got admission to Amjad Ali Khan College of Business Administration (AAKCBA) in 2018 availing the scholarship provided by the Telangana government to students belonging to minority communities.
He did his MBA from the college, passed the two-year master’s program and got his degree in 2020 but when he asked for his high school and senior secondary certificates, the college demanded 1.5 lakh rupees.
“When I asked the college authorities to return my certificates, they said the minority department of Telangana state government did not release the funds allocated for scholarships to minorities,” he said.
However, refuting the college administration’s claim, Bari shared the status of his scholarship application with the minority department of the state which clearly states that “the application for the scholarship is accepted and released by the minority department.”
Left with no option, Bari was forced to take up a small job at Amazon customer care to support his family.
“I did MBA to get a decent job, but I have ended up doing a small job because every organization I apply to asks for my original academic record which is retained by the college,” he lamented.
“I even requested the college to give me photocopies of the documents. They refused and insisted that I cough up the demanded money,” Bari said, adding that he comes from an economically weaker family. “If I had that much money, why would I take up the scholarship and why would the state government accept my application to avail the scholarship?” he asked.
Bari even tried to remind the college that according to UGC it was illegal to retain original documents, but the latter didn’t pay any heed. He is yet to get back his documents even after two years.
A student, however, got his certificates back but only after paying a huge amount of money to the college. He had to spend his father’s hard-earned life savings to get back the certificates.
Syed Riazuddin, 25, like other cases detailed above, was admitted to Nawab Shah College of Engineering and Technology (NSCET) in 2018 to study engineering but had to drop out within three months to take care of his ailing father.
After his father regained health, he decided to continue his studies but this time in some other discipline. He couldn’t do that because the college retained his intermediate and matriculation certificates submitted at the time of his admission.
“In 2020, when I went back to the college for my certificates they asked me for a sum of 1.5 lakh rupees, which I didn’t have, but I desperately wanted to study.” He further stated that he needed to take admission because he had already missed two years of education while taking care of his father and had to leave the college.
“I spoke with my father regarding this; we didn’t have any other choice but to get the certificates back. So my father decided to pay the amount.”
“The hard-earned money of my father went to the college in the blink of an eye and nobody knows about this malpractice adopted by many colleges in Hyderabad,” a disappointed Riazuddin told Clarion India.
The college didn’t even give him any receipt or written document to prove that it has received that much of an amount to return his certificates.
“I might not get my father’s money back but everyone should know about it. These colleges need to be exposed and there should be an inquiry into the whole sordid affair,” Riazuddin said.
These are just a few of the scores of students whose lives have come to a halt because of greedy and selfish colleges.
A video supporting claims by the students has recently surfaced on social media. The video purportedly shows the administration office of Muffakham Jah College of Engineering & Technology in the Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad.
Mohammad Majid, Parliamentary Convener of Aam Aadmi Party in Hyderabad, also shared the video on his Twitter handle and demanded a CBI investigation into the entire issue.
In the tweeted video, the administration staff can be seen and heard openly demanding money to return original certificates to the students.
“Authorities should look into this immediately. So many lives of students have been driven by this illegal practice,” Majid tweeted.
Some of the students, who were victims of the same institutional malpractice, tried to take up the issue with the UGC and other relevant authorities, but to no avail.
A student, requesting anonymity, said: “We wrote to the UGC but nothing happened. Then we wrote to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) but didn’t get any response.”
Some students have now decided to move courts to confront the malfeasance of these colleges.
In 2019, some students approached the AICTE complaining about institutions withholding original education certificates.
Responding to the letter, AICTE released a directive stating, “Institutions are not allowed to retain the original certificates. Any violation in this regard shall attract strict punitive action including withdrawal of approval.”
The directive also mentioned, “This is a clear violation of AICTE norms and attracts strict punitive action. Technical institutions are directed to comply with the guidelines of AICTFI and not to indulge in such illegal and unethical restrictive practices.”
As the matter came to light, Aam Aadmi Party has taken up the issue and sent letters to colleges reminding them of the UGC guidelines.
So far, they have sent notices to at least 25 colleges involved in the said practice of retaining certificates.
Mohammed Mutayyeb Firdaus, President of Aam Aadmi Party’s youth wing in Hyderabad, told Clarion India, “We have written letters to the colleges on behalf of students requesting back their certificates.”
“If the institutions fail to fulfill our demands, students will take a legal recourse and shall hold mass protests,” he added.
The onus certainly lies on the UCG and the AICTE to take strong punitive action against erring colleges and institutions. There is also a pressing need to have an all-inclusive investigation into the whole affair. Repeated calls by Clarion India to other educational institutions went unanswered. The story will be updated as and when we will receive a response.