Academic activities across the world have largely been affected because of Covid-19 and classes have gone virtual to keep students engaged with education
While an increasing number of countries are assisting their educational institutions in conducting academic activities online during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh’s higher education regulators are not extending a similar courtesy to educational institutions here. The allegation has come from the country’s private universities.
Academic activities across the world have largely been affected because of Covid-19 and classes have gone virtual to keep students engaged with education.
In Bangladesh, private universities are on a similar track to keep academic activities rolling. However, decisions taken and imposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) without consulting the universities have been an impediment to moving forward, according to the authorities of private universities.
An observation of conditions in India shows that the neighbouring nation has provided suggestions and assistance to the higher educational institutions on how to move forward amid the crisis.
The Indian UGC recently introduced a set of guidelines over examinations and the academic calendar for universities, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, with the regulator keeping a lot of leeway and autonomy for the institutions.
Stating that the guidelines offered were advisory and not mandatory measures, the Indian UGC has urged universities to chalk out their own plans, taking into consideration the facilities available at their institutions.
In Bangladesh, however, initiatives suggested by private universities were not welcomed by the UGC. Meanwhile, public universities enjoy the advantage of making their own decisions.
Sheikh Kabir Hossain, Chairman, Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB), said private universities, since the beginning of the crisis, had been seeking consultations with the UGC to discuss how the situation could be handled better, but in vain.
“It is always easier to implement decisions and policies when stakeholders are involved in discussions,” he said.
Education Minister Dipu Moni on April 30 said private universities could conduct exams and admissions online and complete the semester with guidelines provided by the UGC.
The UGC is expected to submit its final guidelines to the government within two days.
UGC Chairman Kazi Shahidullah, in conversation with Dhaka Tribune, said the guidelines would be mandatory for all if they wanted to hold either semester examinations or process admissions.
“We will not allow the holding of an exam in name alone,” he said.
The commission on March 23 initially urged all universities to continue classes online to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
But on two separate occasions, on April 6 and April 10, the UGC urged all private universities to stop online examinations, evaluations and admissions.
Later, private universities sought a review of the directives and urged the government to offer incentive packages as the private universities were facing a funds crunch caused by the crisis.
UGC member Muhammed Alamgir said the commission was only developing the guidelines as a regulator and it was the responsibility of the government and other stakeholders to implement them.
Meanwhile, a platform of private university students has called on the authorities of private universities not to continue classes and exams online and not to pressurize students for tuition fee payments until the limitations in online academic activities were completely eliminated.
In a press release, under the banner of private university students and Bangladesh Student Federation, they cited weak mobile networks, lack of devices, weak internet connections, and lack of quality in online classes behind their demand.