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Can we make DU great again?

  • Published at 06:53 pm July 13th, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:00 pm July 13th, 2017
Can we make DU great again?

Dhaka University, established in 1921, has always played a central role in various critical political and social situations in the country, most notably the Language Movement in 1952, the Independence Movement in 1971, and the Movement for Democracy in 1990.

It’s not too outlandish to say that the progress made by the university runs parallel to the development of the nation itself.

In the last few years, many infrastructural developments have been made at DU, including the construction of a few new buildings and the renovation of some older ones, all of which have been equipped with modern facilities.

Apart from this physical expansion and improvement, progress has been made in the form of increased MoUs being signed with various internationally reputed educational institutes, making the university more visible in the international stage.

One such example is how the VC has regularly invited international guests including professors and researchers and how he has tried to establish good relations with them.

Also, it was found that the VC has not taken any sitting allowances in the last seven years, a value that amounts to Tk 1.25 crore. Such actions show a shift in mentality on the part of the administration.

However, despite such efforts the university has struggled to raise its position in the global context.

We seemed to cover more horizontal ground than vertical ground, in the sense that we’ve grown in terms of size and monetary worth, but, in terms of international accreditation, have remained stagnant.

So, what is hindering our growth in this aspect? Why haven’t we been able to make the shift to providing an international standard of quality higher education?

A failure to educate

Considering DU’s reputed faculty as well as the tough admission process, the university hosts the best teachers and students of the country. Despite this, DU is unable to provide these students with the quality of education they deserve.

Many of the teachers don’t study regularly themselves, articles aren’t published in reputed journals more frequently, and we do not participate in as many international conferences and seminars as we should.

Many of the senior faculty members have not even published any research articles in the last 5-10 years, despite every single member being capable of producing high quality work.

We need to revise our methods and figure out how we can take our university up to a certain height in-terms of quality

Many people complain that the method of promoting teachers in the university is quite outdated.

Publishing an article in n SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) journal and publishing one in any other local journal is viewed in the same vein and given equal credit, thereby discouraging young teachers from writing articles for international journals, which requires hard work and research.

Our younger faculty members have been going abroad to complete their higher education and research, and have been coming back with innovative ideas to get them implemented here, thereby keeping the university at pace with the global standard of education.

These teachers, who hold more global perspectives and local insights, have a greater capacity to contribute and rebuild the image of the university. However, in the long run, unfortunately, many of these teachers gradually get frustrated or very consciously or sub-consciously take upon different paths for success.

The researchers

During my time at a university in Australia, I remember once attending a planning committee meeting, where the university authorities were asking each department to report on how many international conferences they had organised; the number of international conferences where their faculty members and post-graduate students had attended and presented papers; and how many books, journal articles, and international conference proceedings they had and how many research grants they had received.

The best performing students, teachers and departments were selected for special funding from the university, while the poor-performing departments were asked to free some office space.

This indicates that the university gave importance to both teaching and research. They believed the responsibility of a teacher is not only to read books and give lectures but also to produce knowledge by doing their own research.

We need to revise our methods and figure out how we can take our university up to a certain height in-terms of quality.

I strongly believe that it is not just the responsibility of the VC or his other co-administrators, but the responsibility of all faculty to put their hands together and unite in holding our university up to global standards.

Saifur Rashid is Professor of Anthropology, University of Dhaka.