Govt mulls amending the foreign university rules after concerns were raised by experts and stakeholders
Experts and stakeholders have raised concerns about the “study centres” of foreign universities operating in Bangladesh in conflict with the Private University Act and discriminatory to the private universities of Bangladesh as these centres are making profits.
As per the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh, Bangladesh has 108 private universities, 50 public universities, and three international universities in Bangladesh and experts think these are enough for the Bangladeshi students who want to pursue higher studies.
Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain told Dhaka Tribune that approving study centres under the name of foreign universities go against the existing Private University Act 2010. Such decisions send a misleading message to students that they can get university level education from these study centres.
However, foreign institutions are allowed to operate as profitable organizations as per the “Foreign University, Its Branches or Study Centres Operating Rule 2014.”
The APUB chairman told the correspondent that these study centres were making profits and operated like universities at the same time.
“Private universities are non-profit institutions but some study centres are making profits. This is discriminatory,” he said.
The UGC said that they had found some unauthorized study centres.
Later, the UGC issued a notification by blacklisting about 56 study centres as they were issuing certificates illegally.
The regulator also formulated a rule for operating study centres.
After the rule were formulated, 14 foreign higher education institutions applied to start educational activities in the country.
Educo Bangladesh Limited applied for the study centre of Monash College, Australia while BAC International applied in the name of the University of Derby in London.
There were a few others including Bhuiyan Academy, Hikma Limited, NUB International Study Center, Daffodil International Academy, Cambrian International Study Center, BSB Foundation, Bangladesh Institute of Management Studies, Insight Institute of Learning Limited, Asia University Study Centre in Bangladesh, Lincoln University College and Masha University (Malaysia) Study Centre.
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, according to officials concerned.
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, the APUB sent letters to the ministry and the 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.
The government 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 UGC committee, led by Prof Biswajit Chanda, was tasked with reviewing the rules to bring a balance that will serve the spirit of higher education in Bangladesh.
On February 25, the Ministry of Education approved the Monash College pre-university to operate in Bangladesh. Monash College is an affiliate of Monash University in Australia.
Prof Imran Rahman, vice chancellor (VC) of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) said the Monash College pre-university was providing a pathway to Monash University degrees from Bangladesh.
“They are offering two diploma degrees, one of which is to qualify for admission to Monash College,” he said.
Prof Serajul Islam Chowdhury, a renowned academic suggested that the government create different categories for the foreign universities. “But the government should establish more public universities across the country as well,” he added.