Around 5,000 students pursuing their Masters in Pharmacy degree in institutes across the country after qualifying in the national-level entrance examination- GATE or recently the GPAT- have not received their monthly stipend of 8,000 from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for the last one and a half years.
Even as many of the students have reached half way through their second and final year in the course without ever receiving the stipend, AICTE officials simply say that the file is under process.
Until last year, students were admitted to MPharm based on their score in the Graduate Aptitude Test (GATE) where the pharmacy paper was conducted along with engineering subjects. Based on the GATE ranks, stipends were issued by funding agencies like UGC, AICTE etc.
But in 2010, the pharmacy paper was terminated from GATE and a separate national-level entrance test-Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT )- for pharmacy was held for the first time. The organizing body for the test was Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and now, the GPAT score is the criteria for admission to the MPharm course.
While some institutes in the country provide admission to the MPharm course based on the students’ performance at the BPharm level, others provide admission to the masters degree based on the students’ GPAT score. But most universities and colleges conduct their own entrance test and give admissions to MPharm based on the score at the national-level GPAT rank and university/college level entrance test. For example, 70% weightage to GPAT rank and 30% weight age to the local test.
Students, whose GPAT score is accepted for admission, are provided a monthly stipend by AICTE which was recently hiked to 8,000. The purpose is, especially, to fund the students’ thesis and research projects in their final year of the two-year MPharm course. However, students now in their second year of MPharm are finding it difficult to cope with the project expenses as they are yet to receive their stipend. “We are supposed to receive the 8,000 stipend every month. But I am in my second year of MPharm and have not yet received the stipend for the last one and a half years. Eighteen students in my batch who joined through GATE and another 23 in the first year who joined through GPAT have not got the stipend,” said an affected second-year MPharm student from the Government College of Pharmacy in Goa.
“We were depending on the money for our final year project for which the expenses are considerable. But now we have to shell out from our own pocket,” she said.
A first year student who did not want to be named said, “Our academic year began in August and it’s November now but we have not got our fellowship money yet. We have met the principal several times, but he only keeps assuring us that we will receive it the following month.”
Principal of Goa College of Pharmacy A B Joshi said, “The AICTE has recently asked us to open an e-account. We have sent the request to the state government. We are told by AICTE that we will receive the money in the account once it is created.”
Director for Research and Institutional Development (RID), AICTE, Suresh S M, however, admitted, “The file is under process. Students should receive the money by next month.” When asked what caused the delay of one and a half years, the official stated, “We have some 20 different schemes under us so it is natural that it takes time to process them. We can process the file only after the funds are sanctioned by the MHRD.”
An AICTE official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that some 5,000 students around the country are yet to receive the stipend.
N Udupa, principal of the Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was more open in his criticism of the national regulatory body. “We have written to AICTE several times. We have even opened the e-account now as we had been told. Each year they delay the payment and then ask us to open e-accounts and in the end send the payment by cheques. Transfers keep happening there and that causes a lot of miscoordination.” Udupa said that around 117 first year and second year students from his institute are affected by the delay in payment.
“They are the authority, so all we can do is request. We have been told that we can expect the payment in one or two months time,” Dr P N Dhable, principal of Karad College of Pharmacy, said.