Vol. 5 Num 371 Mon. June 13, 2005  

Another university of science and technology in the offing

Founding a university in Bangladesh no longer surprises its citizens as there are more than 20 in the public sector and over 50 in the private. But founding a science and technology university in a coastal terrain like Noakhali, is significant. A newly accrued coastal system may render this university a versatile field station to study the pattern of changes in the seashore and harness its opportunities.

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia laid the foundation stone of Noakhali University of Science and Technology (NUST) in October 2003. It is the fourth in the row of twelve such universities. The government decided in 1998 that they would establish universities in the twelve erstwhile greater districts where there was none. Academic activities have already started in the first three -- Patuakhali University of Science and Technology, Hajee Mohammad Danesh University of Science and Technology at Dinajpur and Moulana Bhashani University of Science and Technology at Tangail.

The aim of founding a science and technology university as defined in the project programme is to mould merit into strong work force and to develop centre of excellence to create and disseminate knowledge.

Noakhali University of Science and Technology is being built at Sonapur, eight kilometre South-West of Maijdee. Its construction work was formally inaugurated on 24 March, 2005. Law minister Barrister Moudud Ahmed graced the occasion as the chief guest. Education minister Dr. M Osman Farruk, local MP Mr. Md. Shahjahan, UGC chairman Prof. Dr. M Asaduzzaman and member Prof. Monirul Hoque attended as special guests.

The site of the university is part of the land of a vast Char that stretches on the south to Char Jabbar, Char Bata, Char Wapda and Char Clark before it reaches the feebly flowing Bhulua river beyond which continues Hatiya and then the Nijhum Dweep. Like the district itself Sonapur has a long history of erosion and accretion caused by the mighty Meghna on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the south.

The landscape here is amazing particularly because of thin population and thin plantation. The area is not fertile as a result of salinity. Paddy fields bear the signs of poor harvest. Trees are new and not grown as robust as they should be. Tall trees do not mark the horizon. Ponds appear in large numbers but most of them dry up during the summer. Poor harvest and low vegetation growth is related to non-availability of nutrients in the sandy soil. Low or high tech methods including indigenous measures may turn these arid fields to rich farmlands. It will be appropriate for this university to watch all these factors along with also many other issues on academic foundations.

Noakhali University of Science and Technology will follow the semester system for its four-year undergraduate programme. A student would take 160 credit hours at least or 170 at most. The four-year degree will be completed in eight semesters -- each will be over twenty weeks. The first sixteen weeks will be engaged for lectures, lab or field works. Students will use the next eighteen days for reading preparatory to examinations. These will be held and the results declared within the next ten days. Semester-1 will begin on 2 January and end on 21 May. The university will go for a break from 22 May to 4 June. Semester-2 starts from 5 June and finishes on 22 October.

A long vacation for 71 days will be effective from 23 October to 1 January while the teachers may go for an eight-week holiday. For a fraction of the community the first nine weeks of this vacation will be employed to run a short but intensive semester in which students will repeat a failed course or take a course anew to remain in access of the 160 credit hours. Courses will be run in this semester on demand and supply basis. The number of classes per week for a course here will be doubled. Exams and results will be completed in the last week. During this long vacation admission for Semester-1 will also be finalised.

An ongoing course in a semester will be emphasised by quizzes, mid term tests, internship, fieldwork and term final examination. The courses will be graded on the gains of these evaluation components. Three to four books will be prescribed as the texts for any course although the teacher will follow one in toto. The lecture schedule will show the length of materials to be covered in each lecture. A lecture not given due to a valid reason will be given on a weekend day to makeup. A three credit hour course will have three deliberations, lectures or lab exercises, per week. The duration of a lab period will be twice as much of a lecture period and that for a fieldwork will be four times as much. Thursday and Friday will make the weekend although offices will remain open on Thursdays. Everything will be raised in and approved by proper bodies in the course of time.

A number of subjects are named to be included in the inaugural list in which the prominent ones are Coastal Engineering and Management, Fisheries and Marine Science, Soil Science and Agro Technology, Forestry and Wood technology, Garments and Textile Technology, Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering, Pharmacy, Nursing Science, Leather and Footwear Technology and Management and Information System.

The University will equally be an a place of opportunity for all the students. They will find opportunities to develop their cultural abilities and sportive feats. Job or studentship like teaching and research assistance or lab demonstration may be available for meritorious students. Initially the university will run a research centre to cover the research facilities for the inaugurated departments. Adaptive research may be carried out through this centre based on some burning issues related to the coastal system.

The construction work of the university at Sonapur is going on in full swing under the supervision of Education Engineering Department. The BRTC of BUET has been appointed as the consultants. Precautionary measures against the calamities such as tidal surge, earthquake, Tsunami, cyclone, flood and salinity are being considered in depth. The Head of the Department of Architecture, BUET has developed a master plan having a profound theme and thought of a modern university.

Prof. Dr. Abul Khair is Project Director, Noakhali University of Science and Technology.