In the 11 years since public universities introduced evening master's degrees, people have been sceptical about the quality, given that these degrees can be easily achieved in exchange for money and without giving any real effort.
The evening courses – run alongside others by Dhaka University, Jagannath University, Jahangirnagar University, and Rajshahi University – are the result of a strategic plan drawn up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2006.
University teachers, students, educationists and even employers or recruiting agencies are raising eyebrows at the standard of these degrees and quality of their holders.
An evening MBA student at Dhaka University said: “The teachers do not care about our education. We pay them and do not have to worry about getting marks or passing the exams.”
According to the student, the teachers halve the duration of four-hour classes and leave out lessons when the semester nears an end. Thus, they end up giving about 12 classes per semester instead of at least 16.
The semester fee, too, was being increased regularly, many students said. Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique however pointed out that most of the evening course students were employed.
“The curriculum is designed considering a number of things. But, maintaining quality is mandatory. Teachers have to be more careful in this regard,” he said.
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Perceptions of evening classes and its quality have fallen so low, even the students have become dismissive given that these degrees can be easily achieved in exchange for money and without giving any real effort Rajib Dhar
In a senate meeting on June 18, Dhaka University Treasurer Kamal Uddin criticised the evening courses, saying they were generating “low-quality graduates”.
UGC Chairman Prof Abdul Mannan said: “Quality of education must always be ensured, be it a regular or evening course. Students of both courses have to go through the same admission process and academic activities.”
He asked the university authorities to be careful so that incompetent students are not enrolled and given certificates.
There are also incidents where teachers had disputes among themselves over sharing money earned from evening courses.
“The teachers do not care about our education. We pay them and do not have to worry about getting marks or passing the exams.”
Such an incident took place on March 21 at Jagannath University’s Marketing department. During an altercation, the department’s former chairman Zakir Hossain locked every room of the department.
Rayhan Rhyne, an associate professor at Jahangirnagar University's Philosophy department, said a regular student has to compete with thousands of candidates to enrol in honours courses at public universities.
“But students of evening courses do not have to face that hurdle. I never heard of any evening MA candidate being denied after taking an admission test,” he said.
“Other than drafting question papers and checking answer sheets on their own, teachers also prepare results, giving rise to questions regarding the education quality,” Rayhan said.
Regular post-graduate students get 45-minute classes. On an average, there are a total of 22 classes for each course.
The entire period of classes amount to around 825 hours, when there are 50 honours and master's courses.
On the other hand, students of evening courses get an average time of two hours for each class. Total time for all courses during the two years cover 576 hours.
Evening MBA on high demand
Most employers, including some multinational and private companies, prefer MBA degrees. Taking advantage of the situation, the universities are offering evening MBA courses that are also very expensive.
Recruiters say they find the MBA degrees below the average standard since their holders fail to perform well at work.
Bashundhara Group Deputy General Manager Shahinur Rahman Shahin said the companies look for candidates with good grades in any master’s degree, especially MBA.
“But, evening degree holders get less priority. It, however, does not necessarily mean that they are unable to perform well. The companies regularly want candidates with MBA degrees. It has become a tradition,” he observed.
This story was first published in the Bangla Tribune