With private universities “mushrooming”all
over Dhaka, the 48th one can hardly be seen as welcome. Those behind
the newly-founded Presidency University, however, have high hopes
for the institution which began its journey on August 24.
At the inaugural ceremony at Hotel
Sheraton on August 20, Chairperson of the Presidency University
Foundation, Rokia Afzal Rahman, answered the question in the minds
of many -- why another private university? “To offer quality education,”
she said, “so that our children do not have to go abroad for their
studies.” To educate in its full totality in order to secure a good
standing in life; to educate not only academically, but to set proper
standards and values, the value of human life, the value of others.
“We have come to give and not take,”
said Rahman, recognising the great opportunity of giving to others.
“This is a non-profit university,” she assured. “None of the board
members will make any profits out of this institution. Whatever
revenue we do get, we will put into other institutes.”
The current academic programmes of
the university include Civil Engineering and Electrical Engineering
under the Azimur Rahman School of Engineering; Business Administration
under the Moazzam Hossain School of Business; Economics and English
under the School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; and Computer
Science under the School of Information Technology and Applied Sciences.
Depending on facilities and revenue, the university also hopes to
open in the future a School of Medicine and Public Health and a
School of Law.
“When it comes to quantity,” said Muslehuddin
Ahmad, Vice Chancellor (Designate) of Presidency University, “we
have enough private universities in Bangladesh. Quality-wise, however,
we do not have enough.” This is where Presidency comes in. The Founder
President and former VC of North South University, the first private
university in Bangladesh, believes that Presidency University will
be different from all the others -- different in terms of quality
“as it has qualified faculty members and appropriate infrastructure
and laboratory facilities”.
At the ceremony, Muslehuddin Ahmad
expressed his satisfaction at being involved in launching the Private
University Movement back in 1988. Though people had doubts about
private universities back then, the establishment of so many since
obviously has positive connotations. There is no student politics
in private universities, said Ahmad, which allows students to pursue
their academic careers unhindered. The high fees, he believes, causes
students to take their studies more seriously than if they were
paying only nominal fees. Also, the high fees paid by those who
can afford them help provide financial assistance to those who are
financially disadvantaged, he pointed out.
Referring to his days at the California
Institute of Technology, Dr. Abdul Moyeen Khan, Minister for Science,
Information and Communication Technology, recalled how only 5 percent
of students paid for their education at one of the world's most
expensive schools while the remaining 95 percent went on scholarships.
In his address, Muslehuddin Ahmad suggested a system of educational
loans for deserving students from banks, insurance companies and
universities which the students can begin to repay upon entering
the job market. He also proposed an “Education Window” of the World
Bank by which an interest-free loan system could be set up.
The Presidency University Foundation
is comprised of 31 diversified board members, 54 percent of whom
are women. It also has an International Advisory Board with members
from various universities in the USA including Harvard and the University
of Illinois (Urbana Champaign).
Located in Gulshan 2, Presidency University,
so far, has academic collaborations with four US universities: the
University of Southern Indiana, the Embry-Riddle Aviation University,
the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign) -- Architecture, the
School of Economics and Business of Prairie View A&M University,
Texas. It also has collaborations with the Indian Institute of Technology,
Kharagpur and the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, while
efforts are being made to establish academic collaborations with
other universities in the USA, Europe, Australia, Canada, Pakistan,
India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.
At the inaugural ceremony Chief Guest, Dr. M. Osman Farruk, Minister
of Education spoke of being blamed by many members of the public
for allowing private universities to sprout like mushrooms. "I
can only say," said the Minister, "that the market will
decide." The universities need to have transparency, however,
he added, and must be held accountable financially as well as for
the quality of education they impart to students.
Presidency University has shown a promising beginning in the standards
it has set so far. If it can live up to them -- as one hopes it
will -- it will definitely benefit students seeking a well-rounded,
quality education in Bangladesh.