of a University
I was talking to a prospective student who came to speak
to me as programme chair and to visit the university campus
where I teach/work. The student caught me totally off-guard
when he asked why the words 'Government Approved' were not
included in the ad published on that day's newspaper. Incidentally,
for lack of any professional help, I myself had written
the text for the ad the day before. It never occurred to
me that these two words would also be something that prospective
students would be looking for! It was really a shocker to
me, reminding me one more time that I have recently moved
to my beloved country!
are several issues regarding a private university. Private
universities do have very high tuition fees. Given the fact
that GoB (Government of Bangladesh) or any other entity
in the country generally does not complement the budget
of private universities with any kind of monetary funding,
the tuition will have to finance the overall development
budget of the university as well as cover the operating
costs. Now if you take for granted that the tuition paid
by the students will also pay for the development of a university,
it is hard to lower the tuition fees without compromising
the quality in the long term. So, take it for granted that
the tuition will be high. Now, would choosing a university
with high tuition fees guarantee good quality? Here comes
the reality check, the 'Government Approved' twist. That
prospective student whom I spoke about in the first paragraph
did not take for granted that all the universities operating
in Bangladesh are government approved. I assume that the
clientele is getting smarter, indicating the existence of
some present or previous universities operating without
proper government approval.
the same note, if money is not a problem for you, what should
you think before deciding in favour of 'top tier tuition'
universities? Is there any publicly available information
that says the university governing board is using the 'operational
margin' (i.e. profit) to improve the quality of education?
Is it actually a 'non-profit' entity in practice? More mundanely,
does the governing body act according to law of the land?
If there were many choices, I would have recommended that
you forget about those private universities that are operating
for some time now. They are probably still on top, because
they started earlier, but there is no indication that these
first generation universities have operated as professional
modern educational institutions or will operate in that
manner in the near future. One good way to address this
issue is to publish the university budget. It does not have
to be on newspaper, which costs a lot of money. Now-a-days,
almost all private universities have their own web presence.
They can easily post their yearly budget on the web for
I think the VC factor should be taken more seriously. Somebody
at the helm of a public or private university or some other
'august' public institution should not necessarily be the
best choice. In fact, sometimes the legacy of a previously
held public position could be damaging for a position as
challenging as the chief of a private university.
if you think a little harder, you would find out that none
of the universities in the public sector is working properly.
The inflexible management structure, borrowed from the colonial
era, does not work. For example, the post of Chancellor
is a full-time position in most of the renowned universities
of the world, whereas all fifty some private and twenty
some public universities have the President or the Prime
Minister of the country as their Chancellor. How ridiculous!
The country's political leaders are fully occupied with
their primary job at hand, how could they possibly be of
any help for the betterment of all these universities? Let
us say that the public sector universities do not have to
think about funding per se, since they are funded through
the country's public expenditure mechanism. That's why public
universities might perform without much contribution from
the Chancellor. But what about private universities? Who
strategizes the fund-raising as well as quality education
through teaching and research for a nascent private sector
university? The Vice-Chancellor? It's an improbable task
to perform all the duties being asked of one person. Universities
such as Stanford or Berkeley have one full time Chancellor,
supported by several Vice Chancellors. Are we expecting
that some ex-VC or director of a public sector institution
or a bureaucrat can do magic?
might say that what can a private university do, except
follow the management structure imposed by the government?
Here comes the role of the governing body. The governing
body of a private university has to acknowledge the challenges
mentioned and try their best to solve then given the state
imposed limitations. How? Innovation is the answer. Take
the Asian University of Women (AUW) which will open shortly
in Chittagong as an example. I saw an ad of AUW for hiring
'Chief Administrative Officer' for the university. How did
they find this position to appoint in a university, even
before they decide on the Vice Chancellor? Probably because
they recognise the fact that if AUW has to hire a renowned
VC, they should not burden him with the administrative responsibilities.
If this is the case, given the legal and administrative
structure we have, the Vice Chancellor will actually be
doing the job of Chancellor!
the moment, the students or their guardians probably will
have to be innovative while they are looking for a good
university, like the 'Flower-Pots' method. In the meantime,
the founders and members of the governing bodies of the
private sector universities will have to be innovative,
too, if they actually mean what they say!
writer is Head, Dept of ECE Presidency University. He can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)