UGC says only online classes allowed during shutdown
When more and more higher education institutions across the world are opting for test-optional decisions to provide aspirant undergraduate students with greater flexibility because of the Covid-19 pandemic, higher education regulators in Bangladesh have come up with an opposing move, causing irritation among stakeholders.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Monday urged universities to stop admissions, online examinations, and evaluations during the time of coronavirus, but to continue online classes only.
The Bangladesh government imposed a nationwide general holiday on March 26 to prevent a proliferation of the infection and all educational institutions have remained closed since March 17.
In light of the situation, the University Grants Commission (UGC) on March 23 urged all universities to continue classes online while asking them to shut down to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Complying with the instruction and providing flexibility for students, most private universities began taking classes online so that their academic activities were not hampered.
The situation is similar in many countries across the world.
During the admission season, many colleges and universities are temporarily adjusting to circumstances and relaxing admission requirements for undergraduate admission to help aspiring students tide over the extraordinary challenges they are facing amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The disease has already killed over 76,000 people across the world.
In Bangladesh also, some universities deferred admission tests while others decided to enrol students for the summer semester without any admission tests on the basis of only their SSC and HSC results.
Some universities are also assigning grades to students without holding semester finals in a bid to have their semester come to an end. They are determining the grades based on available semester assessments to save the students from getting caught in a sessions jam.
However, the UGC decided to go against the decision and ordered universities to stop admissions, online examinations, and evaluations. Only online classes would continue, UGC officials said.
“Despite the shutdown amid the Covid-19 crisis, many private universities have shamefully initiated the procedure for enrolling students for the summer semester,” the UGC said in its statement on Monday.
It said it had also found that universities were conducting examinations and evaluations online, thus violating UGC guidelines. It urged all private universities to stop such activities.
Private university operators said the UGC was completely in the dark and questioned its decision considering that universities around the world were taking exams and admissions online to mitigate the pressure on students amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Sheikh Kabir Hossain, president of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB), told Dhaka Tribune the leaders of the body had spoken with the education minister as well as the UGC on the issue and were planning their next course of action.
“We cannot understand why the decision was taken, ignoring the global strategies taken,” said Hossain, who is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of Fareast International University.
Professor Dr Mohammad Ali Naqi, vice-chancellor of Stamford University Bangladesh, said no discussion or consultation had taken place with the private university authorities before the UGC made this new announcement.
According to the VC, the UGC might have come up with the announcement as some universities had decided to assign students grades without holding semester finals to conclude their semester.
“But nowadays, we have documentation of everything online so there is nothing to worry about if exams are taken online. I hope they will review the decision and will consult us before making any new move,” said Naqi.
UGC member Prof Dr Md Sazzad Hossain said the current critical situation around the world was like life and death.
“In such a situation, we have to consider the mental state of students before asking them to sit for exams or admissions. No student can be forced to take part in exams as their mental state is not suitable for an exam right now," he said, defending the UGC decision.
The universities can take online classes to keep students in touch with education, but no one should be forced to appear at exams mandatorily, he opined.
“Other educational institutions - schools and colleges – are also closed for the same reason. So, we will think of the next course of action once the crisis is over,” he said.
Currently, there are 105 private universities across Bangladesh.