Dhaka University admits at least 2,500 regular students in the master’s programs, but their evening courses accommodate no less than 4,000 students. Altogether, these students pay around Tk66 crore in fees
Once dubbed the Oxford of the East, Dhaka University first introduced an evening course under business studies faculty aiming to develop skills of professionals back in 2001.
After nearly two decades, the country’s top public university now offers dozens of evening postgraduate, certificate, diploma, and other professional courses.
Such courses are more expensive when compared to the fees for regular courses.
For instance, a regular master’s student pays between Tk300 and Tk600 per semester, and about Tk8,500 annually for various university expenses.
The amount is an astounding 40 times more for evening courses.
On average, a postgraduate student pays Tk5,000 admission fee, around Tk42,000 for four courses per semester, and in some cases a laboratory fee of Tk5,000. Altogether, a student has to pay anything between Tk165,000 and Tk350,000 for a degree.
Dhaka University admits at least 2,500 regular students in the master’s programs, but their evening courses accommodate no less than 4,000 students. Altogether, these students pay around Tk66 crore in fees.
According to DU authorities, 30% of the money earned from the evening programs is supposed to go to the university fund while rest of the money is meant for the responsible faculties, departments, teachers, and officials.
Despite being more expensive, the evening courses are on high demand among students making it a highly profitable venture for DU.
The trend of running evening courses has also gained momentum in other leading public universities. Of them, Rajshahi University (RU) has the highest number.
At least 16 departments and four institutes are running evening courses at RU, followed by Jahangirnagar University (JU) which offers the courses at its 17 departments.
RU introduced the evening programs in 2003 at its Business Administration Institute. Currently, the university has 300 teachers dealing with all the evening courses.
One has to spend from Tk47,000 to Tk200,000 to secure an evening course degree from RU.
Till date, JU registered nearly 10,000 students at its different evening courses.
Chittagong University provides only one evening master’s program.
But unlike the other top universities, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) does not have any evening course.
UGC halts evening courses
University Grants Commission (UGC) on Wednesday ordered the closure of such courses at all the public universities, citing that the courses tarnish the image and reputation of public universities.
It passed the order in a letter issued to all the public universities containing a 13-point directive, asking them to properly follow the rules and regulations in the higher educational institutions.
The directives came just two days after President Abdul Hamid had said commercially run evening courses are turning public universities into business institutions disrupting the campus atmosphere.
On Monday, the president said: “Different public universities have opened many departments, evening courses, diploma courses and institutes. Apart from the regular courses, many students are coming out successfully from such ‘business course’ and a section of teachers are getting cash benefit, turning universities into business institutions.”
Mixed bag of reactions
Worryingly, many academics and former and current students allege that the universities are failing to ensure their core and regular academic activities, as they are more interested in the evening programs due to the higher income.
A former higher up of the UGC gave a mixed reaction on the evening courses as he said they are both beneficial and controversial.
For service holders the courses are really handy, he said, adding: “However, the course fees are not justified for general students.”
He also questioned the higher academic fees for such courses since the universities use their own infrastructure, manpower, and logistic support for both regular and evening courses.
JU philosophy department Associate Professor Rayhan Rhyne said that regular students were being deprived as teachers were busy with the “commercial courses.”
“In many departments with weekend programs, 20-30 regular students fail every year while the results of the students of professional courses are excellent. It means that teachers are failing to take care of their regular students,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Requesting anonymity, an admission-seeker at a DU evening program opposed the exorbitant fees, saying: “The University cannot charge so much for the evening courses despite using the same facilities.”
DU Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman could not be reached over the phone for his comment over the matter.
DU teacher Prof Md Kamal Uddin rallied against these degrees at a senate meeting in June 2017.
“Businessmen-like teachers either do not know the meaning of ‘knowledge and skill’ or they have intentionally forgotten it. Numerous evening masters programs have been introduced under different names and the disease is spreading,” he said.
“Poor students are being enrolled with or without admission tests, while many public universities including DU, are producing under-qualified graduates, only to make money.”
However, supporting evening master's course, a DU student said his securing a “certificate will add great value to my career.”
When contacted, a JU evening course certificate holder also expressed his satisfaction that he could enrol into the course.
Neither of them graduated from any public university.
Boni Adam, a private service holder, said he was interested to enrol in an evening master's course at DU, but the fees were too high for him.
“For a general student, the fees are quite a burden. I don’t know why the DU authorities charge this much money from the evening course students despite using the same facility, teachers, and staff,” he said.
Our correspondents Fahim Reza Shovon, Tousif Kaium, RU, Wali Ul Haque, CU, Zahid Hassan, SUST and JU correspondent contributed to this report