The suggestion comes two months after the UGC issued an instruction on it
After months of deliberation and amid growing concern among academicians and students, the authorities at Dhaka University (DU) may move to temporarily suspend its evening courses, mostly for master’s programs.
A five-member committee, comprised of deans from major faculties, deliberated on this issue for more than eight months, and finally on February 9 made the recommendation of suspending fresh enrolment into the evening programs.
The recommendation comes in line with the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) instruction for all public universities to discontinue evening courses.
When contacted, DU Vice-Chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman told Dhaka Tribune that he is yet to go through the committee’s letter with the recommendations.
“We will make a decision in this regard after having a discussion with the committee, the academic council and other major academic bodies of the university,” he added.
Issuing a 13-point guideline in this regard on December 11 last year, the UGC asked public universities to comply with its instruction, saying the evening programs go against the characteristics of the educational institutions and tarnish their image.
The evening courses at Dhaka University came under the limelight after 34 former and incumbent leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student front of the ruling party, were enrolled into a postgraduate course in gross violation of the university rules.
While the news of the admission sparked protest among students and some teachers on the campus, the dean of the faculty concerned claimed that their admission process was “fair.”
Even the president and the prime minister have occasionally criticized the “money-spinning” evening courses.
On December 9, while addressing the 52nd convocation of Dhaka University, President Abdul Hamid said a section of teachers had turned universities into business institutions, disrupting their overall academic environment.
“Several public universities have opened many departments, evening courses, diploma courses and institutes… Many students are graduating from ‘business courses,’ and a section of teachers are getting cash benefits, turning the universities into business institutions,” he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while speaking in parliament on Wednesday, said public universities once struggled with session jams, which is why evening courses had been introduced.
About the current situation, she said the government was taking appropriate measures, and the UGC and the public universities themselves should sort it out.
Right after the UGC issued its instruction, Jagannath University and Comilla University announced that they would operate their evening programs in line with the UGC instruction.
If the authorities implement the committee’s recommendation, Dhaka University will be the third tertiary-level public institution to suspend evening courses.
When contacted, UGC member Dil Afroza Begum told Dhaka Tribune that they were aware of the development.
How it came to be
The DU authorities formed a committee, with five deans as members, in May last year to examine the logic and necessity behind the evening programs. Faculty of Science Dean Dr Tofail Ahmed Chowdhury was made the convener of the committee.
The other members are Faculty of Arts Dean Dr Abu Md Delwar Hossain, Faculty of Business Studies Dean Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam, Faculty of Social Science Dean Sadeka Halim, and Faculty of Engineering and Technology Dean Md Hasanuzzaman.
Four of the deans agreed on suspending the evening courses, except Shibli Rubayat who opined that the evening programs be continued.
Other than the recommendation submitted to the university’s vice-chancellor, the committee also suggested preparing a proper guideline to follow if the courses are resumed.
When contacted, Shibli Rubayat admitted to having an “opinion of difference,” but declined to disclose the details, saying it could “garner reactions and cause losses.”
Dr Tofail Ahmed Chowdhury, the Convener of the committee, said the recommendation letter consists of around 40 enclosures, many sections, data charts, explanations by respective departments, analysis, etc.
“A draft of the guideline for running the evening courses were also attached to the letter,” he added.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Dr Md Hasanuzzaman, dean of the faculty of engineering and technology, said: “We also recommended thinking about the future of the postgraduate students currently enrolled in the evening courses. There should not be any bar on the current students to complete their ongoing courses.”
He also said the vice-chancellor had said he would discuss the matter with the committee soon.
The scenario at public unis
Dhaka University first introduced an evening course under the faculty of business studies back in 2001.
After nearly two decades, the country’s apex university now offers dozens of evening courses in postgraduate, certificate, diploma, and other professional programs.
The university admits around 7,000 students in regular master’s programs, and also 7,000 in evening courses in a year.
Students in evening courses have to pay more compared to students in regular programs.
For instance, a regular master’s student pays between Tk300 and Tk600 per semester, and about Tk8,500 annually for various university expenses. But on an average, a postgraduate student enrolled in evening programs pays Tk5,000 admission fee, around Tk42,000 for four courses per semester, and in some cases a laboratory fee of Tk5,000.
According to DU authorities, 30% of the money earned from an evening program is supposed to go to the university fund, while the rest of the money is meant for the responsible faculties, departments, teachers and officials.
Although much more expensive, evening courses are more sought after by students looking to enrol into Dhaka University.
Among other public institutions, Rajshahi University has the highest number of evening programs: at least 16 departments and four institutes are running evening courses.
It introduced evening courses under its Business Administration Institute in 2003. Currently, at least 300 teachers there are involved with evening courses.
Jahangirnagar University offers evening courses under 17 departments. Till date, it has registered nearly 10,000 students at its various evening courses.
Chittagong University provides only one evening program, at the master’s level.
Unlike the other top universities, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) does not offer any evening course.