Some Salient Features of Public and Private Universities
Md. Masum Billah
The emergence of private universities in our educational arena responds to the needs of the time. The limited seats of public universities in comparison to the increasing number of students seeking higher education, unavoidable session jam, lengthy academic year and above all serious political turmoil in the campus led the authorities concerned and the government to give rise to private universities. Every opportunity has its loopholes and taking this advantage many private universities have mushroomed hither and thither of the country seriously undermining the standard of higher education. The situation also casts a slur on the spur and reputation of already established private universities.
A roundtable discussion on corruption in the public universities by Transparency International Bangladesh on February 8, 2007 in Dhaka, attracted wide public attention and added a new dimension to the critical observations on the state of affairs in the public universities. The discussion revealed the inefficient management in most private universities. Mismanagement, abuse of autonomy given to major public universities under the 1973 university ordinance, corruption, teachers' and students' politics are posing threat to quality higher education. Because of low tuition fees and rich infrastructure and qualified teaching staff the rush in public universities is still strong.
Political parties still wrongly consider the public universities as some sort of power base because of student and teacher politics. Public universities are almost fully dependent on government grants. Hence, the party in power exercises evil and illegal influence in the universities. Students also exercise evil power and the campuses turn into political play ground forgetting the place of receiving education and conducting quality research. Private universities don't harbour any politics and hence political chaos does not prevail in these campuses. Of course, students engaged in politics may have some scopes to learn something extra if we could have scrapped its dark side.
Library facilities are mostly not available to the pupils of private universities which is the prerequisite of a highest seat of learning. These phenomena keep the private universities far away from being matched with the public universities. Again, for mental nourishment of the learners open space and outdoor games prove to be the integral part which private universities fail to cater. Without ensuring these essential facilities, healthy and quality education cannot be expected to impart. Education cannot be bought for money only though it's a commodity. Huge tuition fees of private universities indicate the fact of selling this commodity mostly for money where commoners don't have access. Public universities offer open rooms for all financial classes So, a serious vacuum lies in the sector of higher education having two dimensions.
Important professional journals published by different foreign universities which used to be available earlier times are disappearing now. Books and manuscripts are poorly maintained and rarely updated. This picture is discerned mostly in public universities though huge library rooms and buildings exist.
Public universities usually boast of residential halls for students. Once the famous professor and ex- Vice-Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University Zillur Rahman Siddique told the audience in a huge student and teacher gathering “ Living in the university dormitories and campus is a kind of education which books cannot give”. Really it is an important fact that the students living in the university halls gather very important and life orientated learning and experience. The students of private universities are devoid of this phenomenon. It tends to prove a little bit imperfection in receiving education from private universities. Almost all our twenty seven public universities boast of residential halls except Open University and National University ( as their functions and mode of operation are different).
Brilliant teachers of public universities don't dedicate themselves to field based research due to lack of availability of suitable amount of financial package. Moreover, the increasing scope to earn outside, them work outside and in private universities.
Students of these universities get deprived of embracing the good teaching from their competent teachers. It again proves the weakness of private universities which cannot afford to employ these teachers permanently to run their departments very smoothly.
“Professionalism requires that carry out original research and publish their findings in well known and recognized journals. This trend appears to have declined. In some public universities it is negligible and inferior quality. One way to enhance the importance of original research ( not on the basis of cut and paste) might be to link publications ( subject to scrutiny by the Academic Council) with promotion of teachers.-------says Muhammad Zamir, former Secretary and Ambassador and a renowned columnist.
The pupils studying in private universities usually hail from affluent section of the society. A portion of them remained untouched by the chill penury so far. Definitely their views about the society and the real scenario and challenge of life tend to be a little bit impractical. Hence, their dedication to learning registers very thin. Whenever I happen to visit any private university I closely observe the behaviour of the pupils of private universities who seem to be not bothered about the fate, culture, future and problems of this land. Some of them just wait to cross the border of the country as soon as possible. Many students express their intense desire to transfer their credit and go to foreign universities just to cross the border of this country. They want to escape the poverty and fulfil their colourful dreams to go abroad lead them to remain in a joyful mood. Many of them don't seem they concentrate on their syllabus. In most cases most of the private universities ( with some possible exceptions) cannot afford to employ genuinely qualified teachers.
In spite of these facts and figures the fast expanding body of private universities is a reality. To give it a good and healthy shape these aspects must be taken into serious consideration by the authorities concerned as well as University Grants Commission and above all the Ministry of Education. The product of highest seats of learning must be leak proof and competent enough to face the challenge of the twenty first century in the real sense of the term.
The writer works for Post Primary Basic And Continuing Education ( PACE) Programme, BRAC Head Office.