Monday, July 22, 2019 | ePaper

Private Higher Education

Phenomenal Growth Takes Place In Bangladesh

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AFM Mohiuddin Ahmed :
After deregulation program, the participation of the private sectors is increasing significantly in service sectors in Bangladesh. Higher education sub-sector is one of them. As a reform initiative of public sector management government shifted its policy in early 1990s in higher education sector. Earlier public sector had monopoly in the tertiary level of education.
The emergence and the growth of the private universities in Bangladesh have taken a phenomenal shape in recent years. However, the private universities are playing an important role in spreading the opportunities of higher education in our country. But in recent years a widespread allegations were raised against Private Universities that some are selling certificates, easy-to-get degrees, very poor teaching qualities, poor infrastructure, high tuition fees, etc.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
The establishment of private university is relatively a new phenomenon in this country. In early 1990s, private sector came forward to establish universities. Since then country experienced a spectacular growth in private universities- they were mostly in and around Dhaka.
Private Universities are those higher education institutions established privately by a group of people or an organization with the Government permission with an aim to spreading the opportunities of higher education among larger number of students under Private University Act, 1992 (Amended 1998) that was passed on 9th August in 1992.
According to the Act 'Private University' means; any Private University established under this Act; and following the provisions of this act and in fulfillment of the conditions provided by the government, any institution managed under the affiliation of any foreign university which is operating courses of Honors or Masters Degree, Diploma or Certificate Courses or any institution which is offering Degree, Diploma or Certificates(Section-2, Subsection-(g), Private University Act, 1992, Amended 1998).
The Government of Bangladesh established several Education Commissions and Committees since the independence of the country in 1971 for searching an Education policy. Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission was formed in 1972, headed by the leading educationist and scientist Dr. Qudrat-e-Khuda. The perspectives and this scenario of the education system of the contemporary world were also taken into consideration. In the field of Higher education a combined degree course of four years and a one year Master's course were proposed. In 1979 the Government felt the necessity of reviewing the report. Advisory Council for National Education styled Interim Education Policy Recommendations was published and the reports of the Mofizuddin Commission were brought to light in February, 1988.
After opening the flood gate, huge number of private universities started academic activities by taking government approval. But it was widely criticized by the academics, educationists that private universities are deteriorating higher education quality and authorities take it as business sector. Universities are also criticized that they are selling certificates without considering quality and putting the county's higher education sub-sector questionable. They have no required faculty, library, laboratory and other conditions that were supposed to fulfill before starting academic program.
In that context government formed a high powered committee consists of 9 member headed by the then UGC chairperson Professor Dr. M Asaduzzaman. The Committee was assigned to submit a report about the status of private universities. This committee physically visited all universities and analyzed the relevant issues. Finally the committee categorized all universities in six categories on the basis of 18 issues that are related to academic standard, infrastructure, faculty quality, enrolment, library resources, lab facility, tuition fee, financial statement, managerial capacity, etc. In line with the observation and findings, committee also submitted recommendations and proposed to close 8 universities those failed to create environment for higher education after getting approval as per terms and conditions.
In 1997, government formed a commission headed by Professor M Samsul Hoque. There were 16 private universities were established till then. This commission recommended that Private universities should maintain prescribed guidelines properly and also proposed to develop a common statute for both public and private university to maintain quality of education, course curriculum, and teacher recruitment etc under the leadership of UGC. This commission also proposed formation of an independent accreditation or certification body to monitor education quality of these institutions.
An Expert Committee headed by Dr. M.A. Bari was formed in 2002 to identify immediate implementable reforms of education sector. This committee recommended that private institutions must follow the terms and conditions described in act and guidelines. Those who failed to abide by the rules their affiliation or approval should be cancelled or postponed. Committee expressed its concerns that lack of proficiency in English causes for deteriorating education quality. To ensure quality the committee proposed more investment in education and research. This committee also made some remarks for private universities, such as;
1. A unified statutes need to oversee or monitor private universities;
2. Every university should have own campus;
3. Universities should have minimum faculties and have to appoint required quality teacher;
4. Universities have to follow the guideline about tuition fees prescribed by UGC.
To improve the quality of Education and initiate a set of reforms to develop the higher education sub sector government formed a Education Commission in January 2003 headed by Professor Moniruzzaman Mia. The Commission submitted its report to the Government in March 2004. The report consists of three parts and suggests 880 recommendations on all the education sub-sectors.
Committee discouraged government fund for higher level because these are contradictory to the concept of university in one hand and expensive as well on the other. Rather, since higher education is relatively expensive the policies are now encouraging privatizing higher education; provided that institutional mechanisms should be established to maintain the quality of private sector education. About private higher education, commission said, since higher education is relatively expensive, higher education in private sector could be encouraged. But institutional mechanisms should be established to maintain the quality of private sector education.
The Education Commission-2003 recommended for the amendment of Private University Act, so that Act should be realistic. For ensuring education quality need strengthening capacity of UGC and strongly recommended forming an accreditation council. Commission proposed to follow unified grading system, evaluation system and increasing lab facilities for lab-based courses. This commission gave some specific recommendation in the area of library, ICT education, medical, engineering, agriculture etc. to create human resources for new century. It also proposed to introduce new and market oriented courses in university level.
In February 2009, government formed a committee headed by National Professor Kobir Chowdhury. Cabinet approved it in 31st May 2010. In this report, there are some specific recommendations on private higher education and its quality in global context.
For the first time in Bangladesh, UGC prepared a 20 year long strategic planning for higher education with the help of World Bank. This long term plan was submitted in 10th April 2006 to the then Prime Minister. Report proposed an integrated plan for higher education where categorized the recommendation in short term, midterm and long term. Report expressed its concern, if higher education sector fails to bring out enlightened, highly skilled, trained, motivated and ethically committed individuals; the country cannot meet any of its development objectives. This report proposed an accreditation council and in the context of rapidly growing institutions, a strategy should be devised to ensure that these universities enforce quality in both teaching and governance. This report proposed to amend the Private University Act and made it realistic. In the context of allegations against Private Universities, this report said that a large number of Private Universities were operating in makeshift arrangements in hired accommodation. They have failed to meet the minimum requirements of physical infrastructures, full time qualified faculty, teaching aids and other facilities that are essential for imparting proper education.
On the ground of widespread allegations against Private Universities, government formed a high powered committee on July 15, 2003. Committee submitted its report in October 2004. One of the major recommendations was to cancel the approval certificate of 8 universities. These universities were failed to maintain quality of education and didn't fulfill related guidelines.
The committee found several gross irregularities including low educational standard, temporary and overcrowded campuses, false statements of students and teachers and almost total lack of administration in these universities. According to Article 16 (1) of Private University Act 1992 (amended 1998), one-member judicial committee was formed to review the recommendation.
In this phase, BGC Trust University, Southern University, Chittagong and Green University were excluded from this list on condition that they will upgrade their academic, infrastructure and other related issues within a stipulated time frame. Finally, ministry arranged a final hearing session and eventually has taken decision to cancel authorization certificate of five universities, namely; America Bangladesh University; Central Women's University; Comilla University; Pundra University; and Queen's University. In the mean time three universities sued to court against the cancellation order and learned court postponed the order. So, three universities out of five are now functioning and continuing academic activities.
After the recent terrorist attacks, private universities have come into focus in a negative way, which is unfortunate. The perception that private universities are 'elitist' is one of the image problems that these institutions suffer from. Another issue brought out against private universities is that the curricula do not reflect national aspirations. There is also an allegation that some private universities sell certificates. This image is quite in contrast to their real contribution. I think many of our private universities are quality institutions, and some of them can be termed as "centre of excellence". These universities have established links with well known global institutions and through exchange faculties have made significant contribution to spread the latest research and knowledge.

(AFM Mohiuddin Ahmed, Architect and Head of the Department of Interior Architecture, Shanto -Mariam University).

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