With allegations of plagiarism raised against some Dhaka University (DU) teachers, questions about the quality and integrity of academic practices at the nation's leading educational institution has once again been brought into question.
Experts have urged for greater scrutiny and transparency of the recruitment process to ensure that the academic integrity of the university is maintained.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, noted education expert Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University Dr AF Serajul Islam Choudhury said: “In our times, only students with excellent results could become teachers and we were fully committed to conducting academic activities.
“We never thought of promotions. Now-a-days, as soon as they get appointed, lecturers focus on promotion and they are not even afraid to commit plagiarism to that end.”
He believed this was because many teachers may not have been appointed through the proper process and were not ethically sound.
“We established autonomy of the universities after much struggle. The university ordinance is an outcome of our movement. But these things have no value now as the vice-chancellors cannot take decisions autonomously, which affects the recruitment of teachers in the university.”
“Ignoring the tradition, lecturers are recruited not based on merit, rather their political identity and political involvement.”
Moreover, the VCs are also involved in nepotism in appointing lecturers, Serajul said.
“Another reason why this is allowed to happen is that the students' representatives are absent from the university senate, as the election of the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) election has not been held in 26 years.”
“The university has become an educated people's slum,” he remarked.
Last week, the university formed two committees to look into allegations of plagiarism committed by five teachers in three papers.
Plagiarism is a result of irregularities in appointments, said Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
“This has also put the reputation of the university in question.”
“If a teacher is appointed for their performance in something other than academics, they would naturally be more interested in doing that thing rather than engage in academic activities,” he said.
This in turn hampers professionalism and discourages students, he added.
Iftekharuzzaman urged for the identification of and stern action against people involved with irregularities in teacher recruitment at DU.
He also emphasised on following the tradition of recruiting teachers from among meritorious students and also to maintain transparency and accountability in process.
There are six steps in the recruitment of lecturers at DU.
First, a department or institute ascertains its needs and then forwards it to the respective Deans’ Committee with a recommendation from the dean. After verifications by the Deans’ Committee, it is sent to the concerned academic council via the registrar for re-checking and approval. The lists of new posts have to be sent to the University Grants Commission for approval. The UGC approves the posts based on the availability of the budget. After approval of posts, the syndicate determines the qualification of candidature and the registrar’s office publishes the job circular. After submission of applications by candidates, they are verified by the Registrar’s Office and the concerned department. The Registrar’s Office then informs the candidates about the date of the interview. Following this recruitment interview, the final approval of the syndicate is obtained for appointment of the candidates recommended by the recruitment committee.
Over the past decade, there have been many allegations of appointments not in line with rules and standard practices. Many teachers have allegedly been appointed for their political affiliations or other forms of nepotism in spite of their insufficient qualifications.
In the eight-year term of the former vice-chancellor, the university recruited 907 teachers.
Reports published in the media say at least 78 of these appointees did not meet minimum qualifications or were picked over more qualified candidates.
Traditionally, Dhaka University departments take their own students as teachers, usually those who come out at the top of their classes during both graduation and post-graduation.
But in recent years students from much lower positions have been appointed as teachers, overlooking the top ranking students.
DU VC Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman told the Dhaka Tribune: “There will be no scope of irregularities in appointment of any faculty member during my tenure. We will appoint the best applicants as teachers through the selection committee, in accordance with the Dhaka University’s standards and the existing regulations.”