About a hundred research scholars and M. Phil students, mostly women, protested in front of the administrative office at the Pondicherry University here on Friday demanding a rollback in the hike in fee for the food served in the hostel mess. The students refused to take breakfast and pressed for a hearing of their grievances by the Registrar.

According to the students, a notice was put up on the hostel board on Thursday morning stating that a fee of Rs 11,000 for the hostel mess should be paid in advance for the coming semester. The students said that they were told to pay the fees immediately failing which food would not be served in the mess.

Students said that the notice had a come as a surprise as there was an increase of about Rs 300 per month in the mess fee. Also, rather than asking them to pay in instalments, which was the usual process, they said they were asked to make a one-time payment of Rs 11,000 immediately.

This apart, students said two messes run by the students themselves were closed by the University authorities and they were asked to access only the university-run mess for the research scholars opened recently.

Registrar of the University S. Loganathan said that the hike in mess fee was owing to more benefits provided for the research scholars. He said that the caterer was asked to run the mess for longer hours and on all seven days of the week while the mess for the PG students was run only on weekdays. He said that after the meeting with the students on Friday morning, it was decided to extend the deadline for payment of fees to July 10. On why they were asked to pay the fee in advance, Mr. Loganathan said that there were too many who defaulted on payments last year and it was to avoid a repeat of such a scenario that the students were asked to make the payment in advance.

Mr. Loganathan said the students' request to reduce the fee would be considered.