UGC Chairman Kazi Shahidullah confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune on Thursday
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has permitted the private universities to hold online exams in order to complete running semesters which have already completed 70% of the syllabus with at least 60% of students being present.
The apex body for higher education finalized a directive with several guidelines including two alternative proposals for private universities for conducting online classes to finish their ongoing semesters.
“Universities can take exams and prepare the results only after confirming that at least 60% of students are participating in online classes,” said UGC Chairman Prof Kazi Shahidullah.
The directives were issued as per the demands placed during a virtual meeting among Education Minister Dipu Moni, UGC officials, and vice-chancellors of public and private universities on April 30.
At the virtual meeting, the Education Ministry and the UGC came up with six decisions to ensure that universities could properly run their academic activities online, including exams, and admissions.
The UGC chairman said: “Future may have many uncertainties, but difficult times demand quick and appropriate decisions. We must be optimistic that we can reinvent work again and engage the students in effective and constructive ways.”
The UGC has been engaged with this issue and contemplating measures to face the challenge of safeguarding the interests of the academic fraternity in general and students in particular, he said.
Expressing satisfaction, the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) President Sheikh Kabir Hossain said: “We are taking the decision positively to conduct all academic activities online. If we face any problem, we will discuss it with the UGC.”
The UGC has issued two proposals of directives under 14 directions.
Of which, a university is eligible to take one of the two alternative proposals if they have been conducting online classes with ensured quality as well as 60% class attendance by students.
However, in such a case where private universities could not run online classes and there are no plans to conduct online classes in the future, they must submit in writing how they will complete their incomplete semesters including, exams and evaluation procedures, by May 17.
The universities who fulfil the conditions would get the facility to take one of the alternative options and they must also submit a written proposal for approval by the commission about their respective choice.
a. As per the Commission's instructions, online classes on the unfinished syllabus of the courses will continue in the current semester as in the previous semesters, but practical classes for all laboratory-based courses will have to be completed in the classroom once the situation becomes normal. Regarding online classes, the respective universities will take necessary action with the help of any online platform suitable for the students according to their own capabilities.
b. Once the coronavirus situation gets back to normal, the university will conduct examinations and assessments at all levels as per the existing rules.
a. Same as First proposal’s subsection “a.”
b. If the universities could complete the unfinished syllabus (which is like 30%), they can run online classes and can publish results on the basis of marks of class attendance, performance, class tests, and mid-term examination which have already been completed. In addition, the universities can also add the marks of assignments, case studies, virtual vivas, and presentations to be published in the results. But the results of all subjects should be published on the basis of the recommendations of the academic councils of the respective universities.
4 instructions for admissions and upcoming semester
The UGC has placed four instructions regarding the admission of new students and the commencement of next semester.
The university can start admission procedures in June 2020, under the approval programs and maintaining the admission policy formulated by the UGC. However, no conditions of the approval program can be violated in any way.
Students in the current semester will automatically have the opportunity to register for the next semester.
Classes for the next semester will start on July 1, 2020.
If the current coronavirus situation remains, classes for the next semester can be conducted online, but if the situation turns normal, the educational activities will be conducted as before.
14 guidelines issued
The 14 guidelines that need to be followed for operating academic activities online are given below:
- Class lectures have to be uploaded regularly on the university website/online portal. In addition, if necessary, students need to take effective steps to receive other relevant study materials (audio, video, etc) including class lectures through e-mail or social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger group, etc). Teachers need to be in close contact with students and discuss course materials on a regular basis.
- Universities that do not have the capacity to take online classes will have the capacity to conduct educational activities in collaboration with UGC's BDREN, Bangladesh Computer Council, and A2I.
- During the coronavirus situation, the salaries and allowances of all the teachers/officers/employees of the university are to be paid regularly as before.
- Students who have fallen into financial difficulties due to the crisis should have the opportunity to pay the existing session’s tuition/other fees in reduced or instalment payments, keeping in view the humanitarian aspect.
- Considering the financial situation created by the coronavirus crisis, it is not appropriate to pressurize the students to pay fees at this time, so that should be totally avoided and students be treated humanely.
- Following Section 9 (4) of the Private Universities Act, 2010, the opportunity to study without pay should be implemented.
- If a student is unable to participate in an online class due to mental distress during the pandemic, extreme financial crises, or any other logical reason, they should be given the opportunity to participate in the examination after completing the unfinished course. In addition, if a student wants to improve their grade (obtained during the crisis period), they will have to be given that opportunity through special examinations in the upcoming semester and in both cases no additional fees can be charged.
- In all areas of education, it is important to ensure that students do not fail the exams.
- Reasonable decisions have to be taken by forming a member inter-committees consisting of three to four teachers from their respective departments or faculties regarding the existing coronavirus complexities and based on grievances of the students in each university.
- The academic calendar of the university needs to be revised to deal with the Covid-19 situation.
- Students must be notified regularly, at least five to seven days in advance, before taking any test.
- In order to meet similar challenges in the future, teachers need to be properly trained on the use of ICT and online teaching methods at the university's own initiative so that at least one-fourth of the classes can be taught online.
- Universities need to follow the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization and the government to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
- In addition, if any change or modification is required at any stage in this regard, the prior approval of the UGC must be taken.