• Friday, Dec 02, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Government looks to tighten grip on private universities

  • Published at 06:14 pm August 27th, 2021
North south private university
File photo of entrance of North South University in Dhaka Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

APUB calls for discussions with all stakeholders before making changes to the existing Act

The Education Ministry is set to propose amendments to the Private University Act 2010 next month to increase its capacity to monitor and regulate the institutions.

A three-member committee, formed by the ministry in August last year, is expected to submit its proposal on the amendment in September. They are mooting changes to around 50 subsections of the Act formulated 11 years ago.

Committee sources said the existing Act lacks clarity on how the administrative and educational activities of private universities should be conducted. The amendments aim to ensure more accountability and smooth operation of academic activities.

Meanwhile, academicians have proposed the formation of a uniform national education commission to coordinate between public and private universities for the greater benefit of students.

What changes are being considered?

According to committee sources, the changes are centred around the inclusion of more government representatives on private university boards of trustees, the appointment procedure for vice chancellors, the formation of departmental committees, planning committees and student councils, and increasing scholarships.

The board of trustees of a private university currently includes only one member from the government, which is deemed insufficient to ensure accountability and transparency. As a result, the government is thinking of increasing the number of government representatives, Education Ministry sources said.

A lack of committees at the departments of private universities also makes monitoring difficult, they added.

Regarding changes to the procedure for appointing VCs, a ministry official, wishing anonymity, said: “Currently, the private universities send a list of candidates to the president for approval. However, many universities did not send a new list after the tenure of the VC expired and they are running without VCs.”

There are vacancies for 19 VCs and 83 pro-VCs at the private universities, he added.

As a result, the committee is planning to propose a deadline to send the list of VC candidates. If a university should fail to send their list by the deadline, the government itself would appoint a VC.

The new procedure for VC appointments has yet to be finalized, and a decision will be taken after meeting with all stakeholders.

Regarding changes to student councils, committee sources said student advisors would be appointed at every department and central student council committee, and the entire student council process may be reformed.

Meanwhile, scholarships for meritorious and poor students may be increased from 5% to 10%. The quota for poor students may also be raised from 3% to 10%.

The committee is also looking to reform the definition of freedom fighters’ children's benefits at private universities, and there will be guidance for the benefit of their grandchildren. Currently, there is a 5% quota, but it may be increased to 10%.

ANM Tariqul Islam, deputy secretary at the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, confirmed that the Education Ministry committee is expected to submit its proposal next month.

Experts call for national education commission

Higher education experts in the country have called for the establishment of a uniform national education commission to decrease the existing discrimination between universities.

Prof Shaikh Ekramul Kabir, a member of the Education Policy-2010 formulation committee, said the committee is focusing on bringing balance between public and private universities at each level. A uniform education commission would greatly benefit everyone in this regard.

The government should have given more responsibility to the UGC under the Private University Act 2010, so that they could strongly tackle issues such as setting centralized fixed fees during admission periods, and the organizing of admission periods in a way that grants students the greatest opportunity to apply to their favoured institutions, he added.

Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury, renowned academician of Dhaka University, said a university cannot be properly run without a VC, pro-VC and treasurer.

The government should abolish the present VC appointment procedure in favour of a simpler and less time-consuming one, he added.

Chairman of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) Sheikh Kabir Hossain said the existing law already contains provisions for regulation, and there is no need for changes to the VC appointment procedure.

Instead of amending the Private University Act 2010, he suggested that the government increase manpower and make the UGC more efficient so that the existing law can be implemented properly.

Speakers also called for discussions with all stakeholders before making any amendments to the Act.

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