A large number of foreign students who decide to pursue higher education in Bangladesh are choosing private over public universities, a University Grants Commission (UGC) report has revealed.
Last year, there were 355 foreign students enrolled at 19 public universities while the number was 1,927 at 34 private universities.
The figures average out to 19 overseas students at each of the public universities compared to almost 57 at each of the private institutions who accepted foreign students.
An official estimate of the regulatory body noted that the number of foreign students in the country’s public universities increased steadily in the five years to 2015 to a peak of 593, before declining the following year.
The private universities, on the other hand, have continued to build on their 2015 level of 1,548 students from overseas.
World University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Abdul Mannan Chowdhury identified four reasons behind foreigners choosing Bangladeshi private universities for higher studies.
“The academic costs at private universities are low, Bangladesh’s weather and environment are better than African nations, [the universities’ attempts] to maintain a good standard in education, and increased use of IT to improve quality of higher studies,” he said.
The UGC report said the 2016 intake included 33 overseas students from Egypt, 32 from UAE, 31 from Philippines and 30 from Myanmar.
A number of students from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, China, Canada and the US were also admitted to private universities.
The UGC report noted that students from developing countries choosing Bangladesh for higher studies is helping the country’s image, and ultimately pushing up foreign currency earnings.
It suggested upgrading the quality of education to international standard to ensure the continued development of tertiary education in Bangladesh.
There are 37 public and 95 private universities in the country.
Jangannath University’s VC Dr Mizanur Rahman said the private universities ran campaigns abroad to attract students, an option not open to the public universities. Moreover, private universities provide foreign students with facilities like separate living arrangements.
“The admission eligibility at private universities is more flexible than the public universities,” he said. “Hence, many foreigners cannot even apply to public universities.”
UGC Chairman Prof Abdul Mannan attributed the declining number of foreign students at public universities to a lack of campaigns.
“Students from many countries including Bhutan, Nepal and Malaysia used to once come to Bangladesh for higher studies,” he said.
“There were many countries that did not have universities to offer higher education, but the situation has changed (and) as a result, very few students from those countries come here now.
The UGC chairman noted that many other countries are now focusing more on vocational and job-oriented education.
“This also discourages students of those countries to pursue higher education here,” he said.
The story was first published on Bangla Tribune