Most private universities fail to follow the law as the government fails to tighten its grip

Private universities have mushroomed in the country over the past 30 years since the institution of the Private Universities Act in 1992, but most of them have carried out academic activities, flouting the rules and regulations in the lack of appropriate punitive measures on the part of the government.

Those concerned say that some of these universities do not follow the law and are run according to the whims of their authorities.

For example, it is compulsory for private universities to obtain a permanent certificate from the government within 12 years of starting their activities. But only 5 private universities out of 51 created before 2008 obtained the documentation by fulfilling all the conditions, including the presence of permanent campuses.

Moreover, most private universities are even reluctant to submit their annual audit reports to the relevant authorities.

Only 11 of the 104 private universities currently operating in the country have all the required senior officials. Of the rest, 73 have vice-chancellors, 22 have pro-vice chancellors and 54 have treasurers, according to the University Grants Commission’s 47th Annual Report, released last year.

The law also requires each private university to hold regular board, union, academic council, and finance committee meetings, but 12 universities held no board meetings, 24 did not. held the union meeting, 19 did not hold an academic council meeting, and 22 did not hold a finance committee meeting in 2021, the UCG report said.

In addition, most private universities, including reputable ones, have hired a greater number of temporary professors compared to permanent faculties, ignoring the condition set by law.

In addition to this, UGC reported the names of 13 private universities that operate unapproved campuses and programs.

Educators said it will be difficult to ensure quality education and end irregularities in private universities, if the government does not take punitive action against educational institutions that have broken the law.

Curiously, the Ministry of Education has yet to take any action against non-compliant private universities. The UGC also apparently did not play its part in the discipline of private universities.

Professor Dr. Syed Anwar Husain, a former professor in the Department of History at the University of Dhaka, told TBS that the government does not want to streamline the country’s education system, that is why the current situation of private universities does not is not good at all.

Running without permanent certificates

According to the Private Universities Act 2010, a private university receives temporary permission to conduct its academic activities.

Within seven years of obtaining temporary approval with a grace period of five years, the university should have its permanent campus and meet other conditions to continue its academic and administrative activities. Otherwise, academic activities, including the registration of new students, will be automatically closed. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has the power to take punitive action against institutions that have failed to comply with the law.

Thus, according to the law, 46 private universities that have not obtained the permanent certificate within 12 years of their establishment are carrying out academic activities illegally. Currently, there are 108 private universities in the country and 57 of them were established in the last 10 years.

Universities that have permanent certificates are Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, City University, AtishDipankar University of Science and Technology, East West University and BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology .

Meanwhile, the temporary approval mandate has ended for 18 universities, including Brac University and Prime Asia University.

When questioned, Professor Biswajit Chandra, member of the UGC, told the SCT that the commission is working to draw up a list of private universities that have already lost their temporary accreditation. The UGC will take stern action against them, including shutting down their operations, in accordance with the law, he added.

Sources from UGC’s private university wing told TBS that about 35 universities have started operations on their permanent campuses, in whole or in part.

Omar Farooq, director of the private universities division of UGC, told TBS that he will advise the Ministry of Education to provide permanent certificates to universities if the commission is satisfied with the documents they have provided.

Reluctance to submit audit reports

According to the Private Universities Law, each university must submit the financial report for the previous year to the UGC and the Ministry of Education by September 30 each year. They are also expected to submit financial reports prepared by an audit firm appointed by the ministry to the UGC and the ministry annually.

But no university submitted its financial report on time last year.

UGC officials said that universities are still hesitant to submit their financial reports and audit reports, as relevant authorities have not yet taken punitive action against them.

According to the 47th annual report of the UGC, only 24 private universities had their finances audited for the year 2019-2020 by an audit firm appointed by the ministry.

Prof Selim Raihan, executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem), told TBS that an audit report is essential to ensure transparency and accountability in an institution and, therefore, private universities. who break the law must be held accountable.

Nine officials to oversee 108 universities

The Private University Division of the UGC suffers from an acute manpower crisis, which translates into laziness in its activities. Only nine officials work to monitor and provide guidelines to private universities.

With only nine officials to oversee 108 private universities, UGC’s private university arm is struggling to carry out its routine work and can hardly have time to take new initiatives, concerned officials said, adding, ” This is why many private universities remain intact even though allegations of massive impropriety are brought against them.”

UGC senior management said they have a plan to increase the division’s workforce.

According to UGC’s 47th annual report, the Private Universities Division is to work in 13 areas, including ensuring academic, administrative and financial discipline, ensuring quality education, inquiring about terms and conditions of proposed universities, approving curriculum and the program of each program. , and perform regular physical inspections.

Dr. Manzoor Ahmed, Professor Emeritus at the University of Brac, told TBS that the UGC was basically created to control and monitor public universities. Later, he started working to monitor private universities.

But the government has taken no initiative to increase its capacity, he observed.

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