Academics at private institutions criticize the decision
Private university affiliates have come down heavily on the University Grants Commission (UGC) decision that sets a limit to the student intake at private universities in every semester.
Terming the decision “illogical,” they said the classroom and teaching facilities are not the same at all the private universities, and setting a flat limit to the enrolment will affect the prospective students seeking higher education the worst.
The UGC issued the directive on November 20, signed by Director (Private University) Dr Md Fakhrul Islam, in which it said it would set limits to the number of students admitted at each private university in every semester.
If that happens, a significant number of students in the country would not be able to pursue higher education in their preferred universities despite having all the qualifications, the private university affiliates said.
In response to this criticism, the UGC said the size of student intake at a university would be determined based on its capability to provide quality education.
According to the UGC directive, in cases where the number of seats were not determined during the approval of a program or a course, a maximum of 50 students can be enrolled in a lab-based course in each semester, and a maximum of 60 students in other courses.
In 2019, some 1,336,629 students passed the HSC examinations in Bangladesh. If the UGC directive is enforced, not only the number of students at the universities will decline, but many teachers will also lose their jobs, the affiliates said.
Speaking on the issue, Prof Yusuf Mahbubul Islam, vice-chancellor of Daffodil International University (DIU), said: “We should not forget that these universities were established to meet the growing demand for higher education. If anyone thinks that these universities can be shut down through such regulations, then I say in reality, they are putting a stop to the future of the country."
He further said, in the public universities at least 65 admission seekers contest for one seat. For this reason, private universities have been established with the objective to provide higher education to over a million students.
“Would it be wise if the private universities were not allowed to enroll more than 60 students to each of the subjects?"
Saying the UGC directive was illogical, the DIU VC said: “Some renowned private universities admit up to 400 students in a program. If that number is brought down to 60, where will the remaining 340 students go? Did the UGC consider that when it issued the directive?"
Sheikh Kabir Hossain, president of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh, said: "The question arises as to how the UGC can determine the number of students to be enrolled at private universities, without discussing the matter with the private universities. There is an association of private universities in the country. The UGC should have discussed the issue with them first."
Architect Mobasher Hossain, member of the board of trustees at the Tagore University of Creative Arts, said: "If you want to determine how many students can be admitted to a university, you have to find out how many teachers are there in a department, and how will the authorities facilitate providing quality education to their students.
"Otherwise, the seats will be reduced if the universities comply with the new UGC directive, and some universities will be forced to refrain from taking in more students despite having the infrastructure, and the facilities."
Asked about the comments made by the private university affiliates, UGC Chairman Prof Dr Kazi Shahidullah said: "The number of students to be enrolled into a program at a private university is determined based on a said university's available resources. Considering the classroom and facilities, the UGC sets the limit on student intake."
However, when asked if the private universities are consulted in this regard, the UGC chairman did not give a direct answer.
He said: “We first determine the number based on the available information. If a university can show their competence, there is an opportunity to gradually raise the limit on student intake. It is not a problem.”