Tuesday, August 16

Private Universities: UGC study finds dismal picture

Wasim Bin Habib:

Imagine universities being run with no vice-chancellor (VC), pro-VC or treasurer. Or think about students obtaining graduation and post-graduation degrees from universities that do not have enough qualified teachers, properly equipped libraries and laboratories, do not publish research journals and have no campus of their own. It is shocking but true that there are many such private universities in the country, according to a report of the University Grants Commission (UGC). The statutory apex body for higher education sent the report outlining the overall situation and problem of the universities and the way out to the education ministry in June. According to the report, majority of the private universities in the country are operating without meeting the criteria set by the Private University Act-2010. At least nine universities are operating unauthorised outer campuses while three universities have disputes within their trustee boards. The journey of private universities in the country began in 1992. Currently more than 3,00,000 students are studying at 79 private universities, according to the report.


The report revealed the appalling way some private universities are being run. As many as 20 private universities do not have vice-chancellors. Most of them have been running with acting or nominated VCs over the years, though the law makes it mandatory for universities to propose names for the VCs from which the president of the country, who is also the chancellor of all the public and private universities, will pick one. The situation is even more deplorable when it comes to the post of pro-VCs and treasurers. Sixty-one universities have no pro-VC while 49 are running without a treasurer. The report also states that almost all the universities have a shortage of teachers while many private university teachers lack experience and efficiency. “The UGC rules on teachers’ appointment are not followed properly,” it said, adding that people with comparatively poor academic results get appointed as teachers in many cases and they fail to ensure quality education. At least three private universities have disputes in their boards of trustee with the members filing cases against each other, the UGC found. The universities are Darul Ihsan University, IBAIS University and Prime University. The report also pointed out that many private universities do not hold regular syndicate meetings. Syndicate members nominated by the education ministry and the UGC often allege that some universities never held syndicate meetings since their inception. Some universities do not inform the syndicate members about their academic and other activities. SHIFTING TO OWN CAMPUS The Private University Act-2010 makes it compulsory for a private university to have a permanent campus within five years of launching, a condition which only 17 universities met, the report said. Eleven universities are running their academic activities on the land owned by their foundations while six more are building infrastructures on the land belonging to their foundations. Four universities are constructing infrastructures on their own land while 12 have bought land but have not started construction. Another 11 universities bought land but they neither applied to the authorities for using it nor prepared the design. Two universities have land less than the specified amount and one university is tangled in land disputes, according to the UGC. Despite repeated warnings, a number of private universities did not shift to their own campuses. Eventually, the government this year set September 15, 2015, as the new deadline for the universities to comply with this. OUTER CAMPUS Nine private universities are illegally running outer campuses in and outside the capital, after securing stay orders from the court. They are Darul Ihsan University, Prime University, Asian University of Bangladesh, Atish Dipankar University of Science & Technology, Southern University Bangladesh, Northern University Bangladesh, The People’s University of Bangladesh, BGC Trust University Bangladesh and IBAIS University. These universities are doing business in the name of education by running such unapproved campuses in district towns, affecting the educational life of the students, the UGC said. “Allegations of selling certificates are also rife against these universities,” it added. Darul Ihsan University in Dhanmondi has many outer campuses in different regions of the country. Its board is divided into four groups, with each group running multiple outer campuses. According to education ministry sources, this university has around 300 campuses scattered across the country. Prime University in Mirpur, Dhaka, is operating its educational activities on its Uttara campus by obtaining a stay order from the court. This university too has disputes within its trustee board. One group based in Uttara is running four unapproved campuses in Dhaka city, the report said. Asian University of Bangladesh operates outer campuses at the capital’s Motijheel and in Khulna; Atish Dipankar University in Mirpur, Panthapath, Uttara and Purana Paltan; and The People’s University at Purana Paltan and Pragati Sarani in the capital. Northern University runs outer campuses in Rajshahi and Khulna and an unapproved campus in Banani with the help of a court order. IBAIS University has campuses in Uttara and Mohammadpur. Chittagong-based Southern University of Bangladesh has three unapproved campuses in the port city. BGC Trust University Bangladesh in Chittagong also runs an outer campus in the city on a court order, said the UGC report. LIBRARY, LABORATORY, RESEARCH With a few exceptions, most private universities offer poor library and laboratory facilities, according to the report. The laboratories are not spacious enough; nor are the apparatus and chemicals adequate. The libraries do not have adequate books and research journals essential for quality education. The private universities are not much interested in research activities either. “The universities do not allocate money for research and, as a result, the universities cannot confer MPhil and PhD degrees,” it said, adding that only a few universities publish research papers. ‘THINGS ARE IMPROVING’ When the Awami League government took office in 2009, only two private universities had their own campus and these universities used to be regulated under a 1992 law, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told The Daily Star last night. Things improved a lot in the past five years, he said, adding that more than 12 universities (17, according to the UGC) now had their own campus. “But still there are some problems and we have some shortcomings. We are trying to discipline this sector. We are also trying to empower the UGC further so it can monitor the universities,” he said. The minister said some universities were operating on illegal campuses by securing High Court orders. “We are trying to have these orders vacated by the court. We will then take action against them.”