Vol. 5 Num 147 Tue. October 19, 2004  
Front Page

40-45 varsities way behind prerequisites
UGC chairman tells on performance of pvt institutions after probe

Most private universities in the country have miserably failed to serve the purposes for which they were set up, Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof M Asaduzzaman said yesterday.

The objectives of involving the private sector in the field of university education were to impart quality education, create scope for job-oriented education and facilitate more access to and bring competitiveness in higher education.

"But the most deplorable fact is that 40 to 45 such institutions out of 52 have not yet met fully the prerequisites laid down by the government under the Private University Act, 1992," Asaduzzaman told The Daily Star.

"We have found the performance of only a couple of institutions satisfactory," said Asaduzznman, who headed a high-powered evaluation committee that submitted its report to the prime minister on Sunday recommending closure of eight private universities for violating rules and regulations.

Sources pointed out that most private universities run primarily to serve commercial ends with flashy advertisements and alluring promises. In some cases, feuds between corrupt board of trustees and vice-chancellor damaged congenial academic atmosphere at the institutions.

On media reports mentioning a number of private universities as top performing ones, Asaduzzaman said, "We did not rate for any university in our evaluation report. We just examined overall academic atmosphere at the private universities on the basis of some basic criteria like number of full-time teachers, infrastructure, curriculum, examination system, grading system, and library and laboratory facilities."

It is true that most of the private universities have failed to attain the goals for which they were set up, said a member of the evaluation committee. "But a powerful political and trade lobby has been active to keep them running," he added seeking anonymity."

Many of the private universities function with an acute shortage of teachers, want of funds and lack a congenial academic atmosphere. A number of them have opened departments and outer campuses for which they neither have approval nor teachers, he said.

"Our impression is that these institutions should not be allowed to function as universities any longer. But the matter rests on the government."

Another committee member, Prof Wakil Ahmed, said anomalies in meeting the required criteria varied from university to university. "We have tried to ascertain the degree of irregularities as objectively as possible and made recommendations accordingly," he said.

Admitting commercial ends as a major reason behind malpractice at the private universities, Wakil said, "They have to comply with all the recommended prerequisites keeping in view different deadlines given to them."

The committee has issued a six-month deadline to six universities that have been functioning for several years to improve their performance and one-year and two-year deadlines to others.

It has even identified universities set up one year or two years ago but have taken students in fourth-year classes. Some have only two or three teachers, one source said.

Seven of the eight universities the committee recommended shutting down are Central Women's University, Comilla University, Queens University, America-Bangladesh University, Southern University, Pundra University of Science and Technology and Green University of Bangladesh, committee sources said.

The name of the other university could not be known.