Bangladesh – Private University issue: Honesty is the best policy
One of the country’s much-talked issues in the recent period is the UGC’s recommendation for imposing ban on eight private universities for their below-standard education. Tens of thousands of education-lovers have expressed their support to the recommendation. On the other hand, many educationists have termed the recommendation as ‘an extreme way of solution’. But, all of the two opposing streams have admitted that most of the private universities are merely making money in the name of education and something must be done against this ‘destructive’ trade with education, the backbone of a nation. But, what is the root-cause of this ‘shameful’ business with higher education?
In view of a controversial mongering by most of the country’s private universities in the name of education, the government constituted a nine-member committee headed by University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman M Assaduzzaman on July 17, 2003 to look into the fact. The committee conducted one-year-and-three-month-long extensive scrutiny over 52 private universities out of total 53 universities and submitted its report to Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia on October 17,2004. The principal recommendations of the committee are: "Eight private universities — BGC Trust University, Comilla University, Pundra University of Science and Technology, Green University, Queens University, American Bangladesh University, Central Women’s University and Southern University — should be closed down, 10 other such universities should be provided one-year ultimatum and another six ones should be served six-month deadline for ensuring quality education." The committee found the standard of education of only nine private universities – North South University, East West University, Independent University, BRAC University, American International University, Daffodil University, Stamford University, University of Development Alternative and Chittagong Islamic University – as satisfactory.
The major faults, the committee found, in most of the private universities are: providing the students with high Grade Point Average (GPA) in the examinations despite their poor performance, violation of Private University Act 1992, acute crisis of compulsory full-time teachers, launching of some departments, outer campuses and two examination system for internal examinations by some universities without prior permission of the UGC, drawing huge loans against reserved funds by some universities and the like.
The committee marked the above-mentioned defects as ‘dangerous’ for the standard of education of a university. The students, who will pass from such a university, must be unskilled and will be able to show poor performance in the job market. Considering the recommendations as essential, education minister M Osman Farruk assured last October 19, when he received the report at his office, that the recommendations would be fulfilled. He decided to issue letters very quickly to the authorities of eight private universities to close down their operation. On query over the fate of about 5000 students studying presently in those universities, the minister ascertained that they would be shifted to other universities.
But, till December 7, no sign of any measure of closing down of the eight private universities was observed. The recommendation is presently hanging for the consideration of the Supreme Court. Now, it is very uncertain whether the recommendations would be applied at all. Most of the authorities of the eight private universities have hot terms with the high personalities of both governmnet and oppositions. Following the submission of the UGC report to the Prime Minister, the authorities of those universities have expressed their agitation in separate press conferences. They termed the recommendations as fabricated and politicised. Founder Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University of Science & Technology Chittagong (USTC), Nurul Islam, at a press conference last October 30 alleged that the UGC-made report on the private universities was fabricated and biased by the ministers and ruling politicians.
UGC chairman M Assaduzzaman, however, turned down the allegation of favouritism in making the report and claimed that the report was made with hundred per cent honesty and sincerity. He viewed that lack of morality and absence of real patriotism among the authorities of most of the private universities have pushed them to commercially conduct with education, causing gradual downslide in the quality of country’s higher education. He said that those private universities were earlier cautioned several times about their low standard of education and mere business violating the rules and regulations 1992’s Private University Act. But showing thumbs to the repeated requests of the UGC, those private universities continued doing mongering, he alleged.
Meanwhile, the government has planned to form a 21-member Accreditation Council with the preliminary cost of Tk 10 million to monitor the private universities. Country’s most famous educationists and qualified persons are expected to be the members of the council. Though all these initiatives are the honest signs of the government to preserve the quality of country’s higher education, many argue that formation of an Accreditation Council or imposing ban on eight private universities can not be the permanent solutions. The common questions are: How can the Accreditation Council eradicate corruption practices of so many private universities whose authorities are the portion of the country’s most powerful people? What will be the workforce of the council and how much honesty they belong in them and how will the force deal with thousands of students to evaluate their quality of education?