The flamboyant media world in India invites thousands to join it every year. The country has one of the best institutes providing education in the field of journalism and mass communication and droves of students gravitate toward colleges such as AJK Mass Communication Centre (AJKMCRC), India Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) and Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC).

The aforementioned colleges rule the roost when it comes to providing media education but a thorough scrutiny would shed light on the dark reality that exists well within this industry. In a country where journalists are paid pittance, parents spend huge amount of money to help their kids get a diploma or degree in journalism.

However, some of the institutes seem to be so apprehensive and at the same time sceptical that they have implemented their policies in such a manner that it serves their own interests and doesn’t leave any seat vacant. ACJ and XIC, being the privately owned institutes not only charge humongous amount of fee for their courses but also have reprehensible refund policies. ACJ goes a step further by offering nothing as refund.

While AJKMCRC and IIMC start their courses in the first week of august, ACJ and XIC start as early as in the first week of July. This leaves very little chance for the students to join any other institute they wish to as IIMC conducts its interviews in the first week of July. “Not only fee is very high at ACJ in comparison to IIMC but in case somebody leaves, his money is gone. I think they know that if they had a refund policy, students would withdraw their money and probably join any other college later on”, says Divya who left ACJ last year to join IIMC.

Another significant factor to be kept in mind is the number of seats each institute has for the journalism course. XIC selects as many as 75 students for its journalism and mass communication course while ACJ on the other hand selects close to 200 students every year for a variety of courses in TV, Radio, Print and New media. “They selected about 400 people for the interview and about 250 turned up and most of them cleared interview as well”, says a student at ACJ who doesn’t want her identity to be divulged. These worlds could be a testament to the preferences of students who don’t see ACJ as one of the first choices.

One of the students who had high regards for ACJ decided to leave his interview at IIMC as he had already received e-mails and verbal communication over the phone from ACJ confirming his seat. “I was told on the second day that my name was not in the admission register and on my enquiry they said that it was a mix-up at their end and they are ready to offer me a seat next year without any written exam or interview”, says the student. They even told me that I won’t be provided with any hostel accommodation if I decide to stay. I asked them to give everything in writing which they flatly denied, he explains further.

“Initially I was offered radio but I wanted to wait for my results at other institutes. Their clause of depositing cash is ruthless. Then I got a call and they offered me broadcast which I originally aspired for. It becomes very difficult especially in case of people who want to wait for the results at other institutes”, says a student at AJKMCRC who wants her identity to be concealed.

Asian college of journalism is considered to be one of the premiere institutes in India and the students have repeatedly boasted of its rigorous curriculum and faculty members. “At ACJ they provide you with a lot of practical exposure toward journalism rather than just the theoretical knowledge. We have people like P.Sainath and Paranjoy Guha taking classes there”, says a recently passed out student from ACJ.

Private media institutes like ACJ and XIC have on repeated occasions justified high fee on the grounds that they don’t receive any grant or aid from the government as some of the other institutes like AJKMCRC or IIMC do. However, they need to be reminded that AJKMCRC offers an M.A. degree in convergent journalism at relatively lesser fee of Rs.70000 per year. This course at AJKMCRC happens to be a self-financed course which also means that it doesn’t receive any aid from the government as was the case with institutes mentioned above.

“These media institutes should actually be called “media shops” as these “diploma dealers” are charging as much as Rs 400,000 for merely offering a post-graduate diploma degree in journalism. The industry is in bad shape and the remuneration doesn’t add up anywhere close to such a high amount so there is no point in shelling out a fortune to obtain a diploma or Master’s degree in journalism from a private educational institute”, says Saif Ahmad khan, a passionate journalism student at AJKMCRC.

Not only the students but even parents have been exceedingly critical of ACJ’s no refund policy. “I would have still understood, had the amount been a little reasonable. It’s awful and moreover that, there could be people who might need loans”, says father of a student who cleared ACJ, Jamia, and IIMC.

When the reporter tried reaching out to the administration of ACJ, the registrar refused to comment on the policy and asked to contact the Chairperson of the institute. The chairperson was contacted through email and even after almost a week there was no response from him.

(This article appears on Young Citizen).