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Dhaka Tribune

Seven new private universities set for approval, educationists decry move

Update : 31 Aug 2013, 07:56 PM

At least seven new private universities with reported links to the ruling party are awaiting approval as the present government nears the end of its term, despite claims that most of the existing higher education institutions in the private sector are underperforming and struggling to attract students.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told the Dhaka Tribune Saturday that the process of approving the new private universities was under way.

Education ministry officials, meanwhile, said they had already sent a list of seven universities to the prime minister’s office for consent.

University Grants Commission (UGC) and education ministry sources claimed that some of the sponsors of the proposed universities have political links.

According to UGC officials, documents show that a state minister’s wife proposed the Global University in Jhalkathi, while a former Juba League leader is behind Sheikh Fazilatunnesa University in Jamalpur. Sponsors of the other five universities are mainly businessmen with political connections.

The proposed universities include Cox’s Bazar International University in Cox’s Bazar, Ranada Prasad Saha University in Tangail, North Bengal International University in Rajshahi, Rajshahi Science and Technology University in Natore, and Far East International University in Dhaka.

Educationists have termed the government move as “extremely dangerous”, saying more private universities would lower the standard of education in the country.

The government is moving to approve new universities at a time when many private universities continue to violate the Private University Act 2010 in the absence of adequate monitoring by the UGC and education ministry, they said.

They also said a number of universities had illegally established campuses violating regulations, while conflicts among owners were disrupting academic activities in some.

Nazrul Islam, a former UGC chairman, said more private universities will not help ensure the quality of higher education.

“More concentration is needed on the existing universities,” Nazrul said. He also said no more universities should be allowed in Dhaka, as the capital already has a lot.

Syed Manzoorul Islam, a professor at University of Dhaka, thought the move was “extremely dangerous”.

“Such a move is against the interest of the country, and it will only serve the interest of some businessmen,” Manzoorul said.

He also claimed that among the existing 71 private universities, only a dozen or so were performing well.

“The UGC and education ministry should concentrate on improving the quality of the remaining universities, rather than giving permission for new ones,” Manzoorul said.

He added that the UGC largely failed to supervise the existing universities, and it could not be expected to properly monitor new institutions.

“I fear it will contribute to further chaos, and will lower the quality of higher education,” he said.

However, the education minister said permission will be given to more private universities as part of the government’s plan to establish a university in each district.

Nahid said the new universities will only be approved after close scrutiny. He also said the universities will get permission on the basis of quality, and not on political grounds.

Out of the country’s 71 private universities, 19 were established during the present government’s tenure.

According to a UGC report, only 99,552 students were enrolled in the 200,399 seats available in 2011. In 2010, the total number of seats was 166,179, but only 87,766 were filled. 

The reports for 2012 and 2013 are yet to be released, but UGC officials estimated that the number of vacant seats will be higher than in previous years.   

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