The undergraduate programme in theoretical physics at Dhaka University (DU) has been closed to new admissions only one year after opening due to a conspiracy by teachers who had been taking other classes at private universities, it has been claimed.
The university launched the Bachelors programme in theoretical physics last year with four teachers and 23 students. The DU authorities have said all those who are already enrolled can complete their undergraduate studies, while the Masters programme will continue as before.
“The department does not consist of well-equipped lab facilities and there is an inadequate number of faculty members, and this is why the admission process in the undergraduate programme will remain suspended for the time being,” DU interim vice-chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman said.
The VC said the decision to scrap the theoretical physics undergraduate programme was taken unanimously in the deans’ committee meeting on September 24.
“Academic operations for the current students will continue until they complete their graduation. The postgraduate programme will continue as before [and] the admission process will resume after arrangement of adequate facilities,” he said.
Asked whether it would have been possible to resolve the crisis without suspending the programme, the VC said: “In such a case, the crisis would intensify, because it is not possible to resolve the crisis quickly.”
The committee meeting decision came after Prof Arshad Momen, the former chairman of the department, and Asst Prof Tanvir Hanif sent a letter to the university authorities reportedly seeking the programme’s suspension. In the letter, the pair claimed the department “is reeling under a crisis of teaching staff and logistical facilities”.
However, the department’s incumbent chairman, Dr Golam Mohammad Bhuiyan, said the authorities had opted to shut the programmes down instead of taking measures to improve them.
“The newly-launched programmes are not facing any crisis, nor is the theoretical physics one,” he said. “I do not know why and on what basis such decisions are being taken. There might have been a conspiracy behind this.”
Several teachers, requesting anonymity, said the dean’s committee holds the belief that the department was launched during the tenure of former VC AAMS Arefin Siddique, “without any plan or preparation”.
Wishing to be anonymous, a DU official held the former chairman accountable for not upgrading the department, alleging that Prof Momen – who is now on sabbatical – had been an irregular feature of his own department.
“He was always busy teaching at private universities,” the official claimed.
A dismayed student of the 2016-17 session said the subject of theoretical physics is given a high importance at foreign universities. “Students of this discipline get scholarships for higher studies but here, some people are conspiring against it instead of making it better,” the student said.
Accusing Prof Momen and Asst Prof Hanif of being inattentive to the department, he alleged: “They used to come to the department once a week and take classes only on Saturdays. Their jobs at private universities will be hampered if the programme continues [so] this is why they are conspiring.”
The theoretical physics department was first opened in 1975 with Prof AM Harun-Or-Rashid in the chair. It was shut down within three years, however, due to a lack of teachers and infrastructural facilities.
Later, Dr Golam Mohammad Bhuiyan, Dr Abdul Momen and Dr Md Quamrul Hasan took the initiative to revive the department. In 2007, the department started its new journey with the postgraduate programme.
Despite several attempts, the dean of the science faculty could not be reached for his comments.
The Bangla Tribune contributed to this article