The move will come following meetings with the stakeholders
The government has decided to amend the “Foreign university, its branches or study centres operating Rule 2014” after experts and stakeholders raised concerns that it contradicted the Private University Act 2010.
A six-member University Grants Commission (UGC) committee, led by Prof Biswajit Chanda, has been tasked with reviewing the rules to bring a balance that will serve the spirit of higher education in Bangladesh.
Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel recently told Dhaka Tribune that the discrepancies regarding this matter would be resolved soon following consultations with all stakeholders.
The issue came to light after the government decided a few months ago to permit Monash College, Australia, to set up a study centre in Bangladesh.
Experts and private university owners have since protested the move and urged the government not to allow any study centres to be run as profitable institutions under a different set of rules.
APUB wants private higher education under one law
The Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) has demanded amendments to the rules in place for foreign universities wishing to operate in Bangladesh.
They observed that the recent government decision had caused great concern and anxiety in the country’s growing higher education sector.
However, APUB said that it would welcome any higher education institution in the country provided it was established and run under the same laws in place for local private institutions.
Contacted by Dhaka Tribune, APUB Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain said: “Approval for such study centres will lead to discrimination. Private universities are operating as non-profitable higher educational institutions under the Trust Act 1882.
“But the Education Ministry approved foreign university study centers under the Company Act 1994 as profitable organizations, which conflicts with the Private University Act 2010.”
The Private University Act 2010
Under the Private University Act 2010, private universities are established and operated as not-for-profit organizations.
However, foreign institutions are allowed to operate as profitable organizations as per the “Foreign university, its branches or study centres operating Rule 2014.”
Private universities are not permitted to spend the funds accumulated in the form of savings for any purposes other than the development of the institutions, whereas the surplus [profit] of the foreign universities/study centers can be distributed among their founders, local representatives and the foreign universities concerned as in corporate entities.
Additionally, the Act makes it mandatory for private universities to establish a campus with laid out specifications, setting up quality assurance cells, and maintaining quota for some categories of students. But foreign universities/study centers do not have these obligations.
Earlier in February 2015, APUB sent letters to the ministry and UGC, requesting a formulation of rules consistent with a uniform policy and the Private Universities Act 2010 regarding a setting up of foreign university study centres in the country.
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At the time the Education Ministry had assured APUB that it would not permit any amendment of the “Foreign university its branches or study centres operating policy-2014.”
UGC Chairman Prof Kazi Shahidullah said the UGC would withhold permission to conduct academic activities under a study centre if it conflicted with existing laws.
“We want foreign university campuses, not study centres, which will promote a healthy competition between local and foreign universities to make a highly skilled generation,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Seeking anonymity, one of the members of the UGC review committee said that the committee would propose the establishment of foreign university campuses, not study centres.
“I believe this will bring an end to the controversy,” he added.
‘Different rules necessary’
Deputy Minister for Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel has said that a foreign university operates as a non-profit institution in its home country “but won’t do the same in other countries.”
“Though this doesn’t mean that a famous international university would come here [Bangladesh] to only make money.”
Referring to a study centre of the London School of Economics operated under the British Council in Bangladesh and across the world, he explained: “Such an institution can’t do certificate business. Its academic policy doesn’t allow it to do so.”
“A famous Australian university wants to conduct academic activities here through a study centre and you can’t regulate it 100% by a single law,” he said.
“Private universities are non-profit but they do make a surplus and there is nothing wrong with it.
“But a foreign university will not come here under the same provisions no matter if it makes a profit or incurs losses,” the deputy minister added.
He said that was why the government had formulated a different set of rules to bring the permitted foreign universities under proper monitoring.