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Are women denied or indifferent to VC posts in public universities?

  • Published at 09:00 pm August 9th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:39 pm August 9th, 2017
Are women denied or indifferent to VC posts in public universities?
Even though there are many qualified women teaching in 38 public universities, only two of them have been appointed as vice-chancellors (VCs) in Bangladesh so far. However, many female teachers have been successfully working as department chairs or have been given administrative posts at universities. While commenting on why there are fewer female VCs, many academics said that the matter is more political than judging them on the basis of their credentials. They said even though there are numerous eligible female teachers, many prefer not to go for the top posts to avoid the politics behind it. In addition, some said many women who were interested in such posts were not given the title. [caption id="attachment_151832" align="alignright" width="193"]File photo of Professor Farzana Islam, vice chancellor of Jahangirnagar University JU website File photo of Professor Farzana Islam, vice chancellor of Jahangirnagar University JU website[/caption] In February 2014, Professor Farzana Islam was made the VC of Jahangirnagar University. She is the first ever female VC in the country. In September that same year, Professor Khaleda Ekram was appointed as the VC of Bangladesh University of Engineering (Buet). In 2016, after Khaleda passed away, Professor Zebun Nasreen Ahmed took charge as the university's acting VC for a few days. Meanwhile, Professor Nasreen Ahmad is serving as the Pro-VC of Dhaka University. Another female professor was also appointed as the Pro-VC of Chittagong University. [caption id="attachment_151833" align="alignleft" width="193"]File photo of Professor Nasreen Ahmed, pro vice-chancellor of Dhaka University DU website File photo of Professor Nasreen Ahmed, pro vice-chancellor of Dhaka University DU website[/caption] However, the question still remains as to why the number of female Pro-VCs and VCs are so little in comparison to their male counterparts. According to the 1973 ordinance, Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, Jahangirnagar University and Chittagong University host the VC panel elections. Through these elections, the three VCs get appointed by the president. The current DU Pro-VC Professor Nasreen Ahmad was recommended by the university on August 25, 2013 in the panel election. In February 2014, Professor Farzana Islam became the VC of Jahangirnagar University with the highest number of votes in the panel election. A female contender from Chittagong University also contested for the same post in the panel election. However, according to insiders, there had been no female candidates from Rajshahi University even if they ran the election five times so far. In addition to these four public universities, the Ministry of Education sends the list of three people to the president for appointing the VC from the remaining 34 universities. But there had been very few females in the list, according to ministry sources. When asked how this list is made, Ministry of Education's Additional Secretary Abdullah Al Hasan Chowdhury said: “For appointing VCs from the 38 universities, the ministry and University Grants Commission [UGC] discuss and recommend the names of qualified and experienced educationalists and teachers. Later, a short list of three individuals is sent to the president. Finally, the president appoints the most deserving candidate as the VC.” Noting the negligible number of females in the top university posts, Professor Nasreen Ahmad said: "Firstly, there are fewer women compared to men who secure teaching positions at universities. This is why female teachers lag behind. Besides, to achieve these [top] posts, they need to be involved in political activities and have other skills. Women are less likely to be involved in such activities. As a result, they show less interest in those posts." Predicting a change in the future, she added: "Just a few years ago, there were no female VCs or Pro-VCs, but the situation is not the same any more. This indicates that women are to go forward in the future.” Campaign for Popular Education (Campe) Executive Director Rasheda K Chowdhury said: "A lot of what happens depends on the mindset of those who select the VCs during the panel election. I do not think women are lagging behind on the basis of their credentials or skills.” She added: “Candidates need to be politically involved besides having qualifications to become VCs. However, women prefer to evade politics. That is why they do not get recommended to be VCs.” She also said: "The VC post is a vital one, so the person who gets appointed as one has to deal with a lot of things. He/she has to deal with thousands of students, various departments, numerous teachers as well as the student movements, any discordance on the campus, etc. Many women find it a little difficult to maintain these. As a result, they sometimes avoid this top post. If they want, they can even take their names off during the selection period.” Former treasurer of Rajshahi University Central Student Union Professor Mahbuba Kaniz Keya said: "Our society still cannot accept women's participation in any decisionmaking process. It is not any different in universities. The reason behind this is that we look at women differently when it comes to policy and decisionmaking. But gradually our mindsets will transform. Women will secure these [top] posts in the future.” UGC Chairman Professor Abdul Mannan said: “It is advisable for both male and female candidates to have administrative skills besides high qualifications to be VCs. If women can meet such requirements, they will definitely qualify for the post. I do not see why there should be any disparity based on gender.” This article was first published on Bangla Tribune