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     Volume 10 |Issue 06 | February 11, 2011 |


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A Model University turns Twenty

Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) is going to celebrate 2 decades (20 years) of its foundation on Pahela Phalgun (February 13, 2011). It has now become one of the largest Science and Technology Universities in Asia. The Daily Star Correspondent SUBRATA DAS takes a look at the achievements of this reputed institution.

To keep pace with the rest of the world as well as to ensure quality education for the nation, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) was established in Sylhet in 1987. According to Dr Sadaruddin Ahmed, founding Vice-chancellor of SUST, the only university of its kind at that time, started its journey on the February 14, 1991 with only three departments– Physics, Chemistry and Economics–and with 13 teachers and 205 students.

By the end of 2011, it has expanded to seven schools, 25 departments with one institute to be launched soon. The number of teachers has grown to 424 and the students to 9,262. “Besides this, the University has six affiliated medical colleges under the School of Medical Sciences with 2,744 students,” says Md Ishfaqul Hossain, registrar of the university. The SUST is now one of the largest science and technology universities in Asia.

The University currently has departments as diverse as the Department of Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Industrial and Production Engineering, Department of Petroleum and Georesources Engineering and Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. There is also a School of Management and Business Administration as well as School of Social Sciences that have departments of English, political science, Bangla, Anthropology and so on. The SUST is also affiliated with a number of medical colleges.

The main gate of SUST that is one kilomitre away from the main campus. Photo: Subrata Das

The semester system, introduced from 1996-7, has resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of education. Every student from the SUST has to take two language courses, one in Bangla and the other in English as well as two computer courses, one for computer literacy and the other for learning computer language. The computer centre of the university offers courses to every employee and one can say without any hesitation that the SUST is the most IT savvy university in this country.

Elected Syndicate member of the university Md Younus says that the fund is too small for such a large student body. Another elected Syndicate member Mohammed Morad emphasises the growing need for equipment, resources and accommodation facilities for the teachers. At present, says an elected academic council member, there are only 14 flats from the 24 allotted for 424 teachers. Lack of proper living facilities has been a major bone of contention for the teachers. Indeed, it is difficult to start a world-class research programme without a well-funded graduate school.

'Research Adda' (talking about research) has been one of SUST's most innovative initiatives. The host and guest teachers, analysts and researchers take part in this informal exchange focusing on their area of research. Two research journals are published regularly from the SUST, one in Bangla and the other in English where a few hundred research papers are submitted every year.

“Our Physics Department has a fund of three crore taka for postgraduate research programme such as Masters, MPhil and PhD,” says Dr Yasmeen Haque, Head of the Physics Department.

Dr Amita B Deb, a scientist of Clarendon Lab (UK) and NIST (US), is one of the most talented and successful students of the SUST. With a 4.0 CGPA Dr Deb completed his PhD from Oxford University, UK after which he joined as a scientist in NASA, US.

Last year Dr Deb attended a seminar at his alma mater.

A landmark occasion for this university has been the introduction of the "SMS Based Automated Registration of Admission Test" procedure for the first time in Bangladesh. This is a 24/7service innovated by eminent computer scientist Dr Mohammed Zafar Iqbal, Head of CSE as well as EEE Department. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the milestone admission process on September 13, 2009. All candidates have to do is send their HSC information from any Teletalk prepaid mobile phone. Their information will then be verified by the results collected from the Education Boards. Eligible candidates will have a confirmation message as a reply SMS on his/her mobile phone instantly. Finally the application fees of admission test will be deducted from applicant's mobile phone and will be notified via an SMS with Admission Test Roll Number. The CSE Department teacher and member of the technical committee Abu Awal Md Shoib states that this has significantly eased the hassle of coming to the university, filling up application forms, and thus saves a lot of time as it takes a couple of minutes to complete the whole registration process.

SUST VC Professor Dr Saleh Uddin receiving the National Award from the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for tree plantation in 2010. Photo: Star File

The Registrar section just approves the student by a single click from its own terminal and then three separate admission certificates are printed for the student, the department and the registrar section respectively. No attestation is required and the photo of the each student is scanned earlier and printed on the certificate. “From 2010 the university has introduced the screening inside and outside the admission centre for the students as well as their guardians in the admission process,” says admission committee chairman Dr Yasmeen Haque.

SUST VC Dr Saleh Uddin is delighted with the system: “About eight public universities of Bangladesh are following this technique from 2010 with the assistance of the SUST.”

SUST has achieved the “Ambillion Award” in 2010 for paperless admission in a competition of South Asian countries titled “Application of mobile system in South Asia”. “Some Indian universities were highly impressed with the SUST. They were interested to get assistance from SUST to introduce it to their own campuses,” says Abu Awal Md. Shoib.

The whole campus of SUST is under the internet connection. This is regulated by the Office of the Director of Computer and Information Centre and its director is Dr Mohammad Zafar Iqbal.

The Centre launched the first ever fibre optic backbone campus networking in Bangladesh in 1998. It has high bandwidth (8Mbps) internet services, SUST domain (SUST.EDU), mail server, and web server.

“Extension of that network with wireless networking was launched on May, 2007 while academic building A was taken under the WIFI connection,” says Khairul Akther Chowdhury, system and network engineering of the centre. Other buildings and halls were also brought under the Wifi zone.

The government has allotted taka 34 crore for 'Institute of Information and Communi-cation Technology', the first institute of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology established in 2007. The institute will promote and provide facilities for post graduate study in ICT for graduates from various disciplines and to actively pursue advanced research in ICT in order to develop knowledge based products and services. The institute will also provide consulting and advisory services to public and private organisations.

There are only three halls for the 9,262 students: two for male students and one for female students. A comparison of the budget allotted in 2009-2010 fiscal year to 11 public universities shows that the number of residential students as well as per head student expenditure is the lowest among those universities. (Source: 36th annual report 2009, University Grant Commission).

Shahporan Hall was established in 1991 for male students. The first Provost of the hall was appointed in 1992. “The hall has 446 students along with around 30 foreigners,” says Provost Sayed Hasanuzzaman. Assistant Provost Md Anwar Hossain informs that they consider merit and seniority while allotting the seats.

“The first ladies' hall started its journey with 40 students in 1993,” says hall provost Dr Nazia Chowdhury. Now it accommodates 1500 female students with 550 in the first ladies' hall and 950 in six other affiliated (rented) buildings out of the campus. “We take the responsibility of all the female students. I even monitor the cooking myself to maintain the quality of the food,” she adds.

“The construction of first block of second ladies’ hall will be completed on February 15, 2011 and first block of third student hall will be completed within six months,” says SUST VC Dr Salehuddin while talking about solving the housing crisis.

The Central Library of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, which started its journey in 1990 with only 4 rooms in the Academic Building 'A' has now been housed in its own four-storied Central Library Building. The library provides 12 hours non-stop services from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, on all working days.

“Starting with a very meagre collection, the library has now more than 60,000 books, 6,000 hard copy journals/ periodicals and 23 dailies and some international magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Economist, Readers Digest etc. for its users,” says Librarian Abdul Hayee Sameni. “It also serves with more than 5 thousand electronic journals/ resources, which are being subscribed through Bangladesh-INASP-PERI network. As the campus has a LAN, these e-journals/ resources can be accessed from all the PCs of each and every department of the University.”

The 'Muktijudha Corner' is the most fascinating and attractive part the library where there are around 8000 books, pictures, magazines and CDs based on the liberation war, says Dr Yasmeen Haque. This was founded with the private funding of Dr Mohammed Zafar Iqbal,Yasmeen Haque and some other teachers as well as the financial assistance of SUST authority.

“Stage dramas, musical programmes, film shows, debate competitions, poetry recitation, and photo , sculpture and cartoon exhibitions are regularly held in the campus in a grand manner to create a festive mood throughout the year,” says SUST VC Dr Saleh Uddin.

The writer is The Daily Star's SUST correspondent


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