Two very disturbing news articles related to higher education admissions and of a job circular recently caught my attention.
One was for PhD and MPhil admissions at one of Bangladesh’s oldest publicly-funded universities, and the other for a job at one of Bangladesh’s largest national armed forces.
A tale of two programs
In the first one, it has been explicitly mentioned that students who have finished their undergraduate and graduate degrees from a private university in the country cannot directly apply for the PhD program at the public university (on the contrary, public university honours graduates can apply directly), but have to do an MPhil there first. For MPhil, their degree must first be validated by a committee of the university.
In the second one, in a job circular for an officer in one of the armed forces, it is explicitly mentioned that “only graduates from public/government universities can apply.”
These two despicable acts by the two government entities mentioned above are in direct contradiction to the Private University Act of Bangladesh Government of 1992.
The government decided to introduce private universities in the country, degree-granting institutions owned by private entities and not funded by the government.
This was done to meet the ever-increasing demand for higher education because of the increasing population and fast-growing economy.
Each of these universities have to go through a rigorous process of getting approval from the government administered University Grants Commission (UGC). Each new degree and course has to be approved by the UGC first.
Graduates of private universities should, by no means, be deprived of higher education and/or job opportunities in the government sector
The UGC also monitors the quality and standard of education at these institutes, and, if found unsatisfactory, they hold the right to take action, including closing down that university in extreme cases.
I do not wish to claim or prove that private university graduates are better (or worse) than public university graduates. None of them are necessarily superior or inferior.
Two wildly different institutions … or not
Yes, it is true that there are faults in how some private universities are administered poorly -- there have been instances of corruption, nepotism, and mismanagement in some of them. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all private (and public) universities are performing well, as they should.
Most public universities themselves have had their share of problems too, including session jams, political violence, corruption, nepotism (a recurring issue), and many others.
One might wonder that, if private university graduates were of such inferior quality, how are they successfully finishing PhDs in some of the world’s top universities?
How are they having successful careers in different sectors in Bangladesh and overseas, in multinationals and major corporations?
OK, in this modern day and age no one believes anyone, opting instead to Google the truth. Try Googling “Bangladesh’s first nanosatellite” and see where it takes you.
Currently, there are over 35 public universities and over 80 private universities in Bangladesh. According to one source, 454,530 students study in public or state-funded universities, while 398,737 study in private universities.
An unforgivable sin
Although it is true that getting admission into some of our top public universities is tougher compared to most of the private universities, because of the tuition fee difference and the prestige associated with the former, graduates of private universities should, by no means, be deprived of higher education and/or job opportunities in the government sector.
Why exactly are private university graduates being looked down upon by the government entities? What exactly is their sin? The fact that they covered their tuition cost with their (or their parents’) hard-earned money?
I have no idea who takes these prejudiced decisions, or what compels them to do so, but decisions like these are plain unacceptable in a democratic country, and the ministries concerned should immediately look into this matter.
These kinds of decisions further segregate a country, which is already deeply segregated because of many other reasons.
Mahdin Mahboob is a PhD Candidate at Stony Brook University, New York.