Staff Correspondent: Seventeen of the 25 public universities that got approval since 2008 have yet to establish permanent campuses. As a result, educational activities continue to take place in rented buildings, posing complexities for students concluding their academic journeys.
For the establishment of a public university, the draft law must be passed in parliament after approval by the cabinet. However, the government does not provide a specific time-frame for setting up a permanent campus or offer directives on initiating educational programmes post-approval.
Consequently, universities typically commence educational programmes upon the appointment of their vice-chancellors and other officials by the education ministry, with final approval from the University Grants Commission (UGC).
University authorities argue that delays in obtaining approval for development plans, such as the detailed project proposals (DPPs) and land acquisition impede progress toward establishing permanent campuses. Consequently, they resort to conducting classes in rented buildings at government or private educational institutions.
Educationists recommend that the government consider these factors before granting approval to new universities. They observe that while students may obtain degrees by attending classes in rented buildings, the educational experience falls short of the ideal and does not align with the university’s ethos.
According to insiders, universities approved in the country after 2008 have been facing frequent revisions to their plans over the years and awaiting approval from different ministries.
Lack of funds further hinders the initiation of work for these universities.
The UGC reports that no public university has received funds for establishing new campuses after 2019.
Currently, the country has 56 public universities, with 17 established in the last decade. Of these, 11 are conducting educational programmes, but none have their own campuses. The remaining six include three yet to begin their academic programmes and three set to admit students this year.
Among the new universities conducting academic programmes in rented buildings are Rajshahi Medical University, Rabindra University, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University, Sheikh Hasina University, Islamic Arabic University, Khulna Agricultural University, Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University in Jamalpur, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aviation and Aerospace University in Lalmonirhat, Chandpur Science and Technology University, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University in Kishoreganj, and Habiganj Agricultural University.
Meanwhile, Kurigram Agricultural University, Sunamganj Science and Technology University, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University in Pirojpur will admit students this year.
Conversely, Sylhet Medical University, Sheikh Hasina Medical University, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University in Naogaon have yet to decide on starting academic activities.
Rajshahi Medical University
Rajshahi Medical University launched academic activities in the 2017-18 academic year, one year following its approval. Despite six years of academic programmes, the construction of the permanent campus has not yet commenced.
The university is now conducting classes and exams in two rented buildings in the Lakshmipur area of Rajshahi city, with the two buildings having a distance of approximately half a kilometer between them. Consequently, teachers and students have to commute daily for classes and other academic activities.
For the university, a project involving Tk2,400 core was approved in November last year. However, due to various complications, including land acquisition, the construction of the permanent campus for the university has not started.
Rabindra University, Rajshahi
Rabindra University initiated undergraduate programmes in three departments under two faculties in the 2017-2018 academic year.
Currently, the university has 800 students across four faculties. However, due to the lack of a permanent campus, classes are being conducted in Shahjadpur area, rented in Shahjadpur Women’s Degree College, Maulana Saifuddin Yahya Degree College, and the building of Bangabandhu Women’s College.
The university has to pay hundreds of thousands of taka annually for building rentals. The normal activities of the colleges concerned are also being disrupted.
Contacted, Rabindra University authorities said that the government has allocated 225 acres of Khas land from the Rabindranath Tagore’s Zamindari estate for the university. Development projects, including academic master plans, have been proposed and are under consideration by the Ministry of Education.
However, progress is slow, and as a result, students from two batches have completed their studies without a dedicated campus, they said, adding that the lack of a permanent campus has deprived students of the facilities available in a traditional university setting.
Regarding this situation, Professor Md Shah Azam, vice-chancellor of Rabindra University, told the that efforts are being made to expedite the construction of the permanent campus. Progress has been made in this regard in the past week in the ministry as well, he added.
Without a permanent campus, teachers and students of Rabindra University face various challenges in their daily academic activities.
Professor Shah Azam expressed concerns about the difficulties faced by students studying in rented buildings and the impact on their mental well-being. Despite these challenges, the university continues its regular academic activities, with two batches already completing their final exams.
Bangabandhu Digital University, Gazipur
In 2016, the law for the establishment of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University was passed. Since March 2019, the university has been operating in a rented building in Kaliakoir, Gazipur.
However, the university lacks sufficient lab and classroom facilities. As a result, students of the specialised university do not have all the necessary facilities.
Sheikh Hasina University
Sheikh Hasina University has been running classes in a local vocational training institution’s building since 2018. Although a project of Tk2,500 crore has been approved for the construction of the university infrastructures, there has been little progress.
Khulna Agricultural University
Khulna Agricultural University received approval in 2015 and started its academic activities in 2019. Despite four years of academic activities, the permanent campus is still under construction, and the university is operating from Daulatpur College and another rented school building.
Mohammad Abul Kashem Chowdhury, vice-chancellor of Khulna Agricultural University, expressed the need for a permanent campus, saying that when the university received approval, it was expected to have a permanent building within this time frame, however, that has not happened yet.
“We’ve finalised the DPP after I assumed office and the plan has got approvals at different phases. I hope that the process will be completed soon,” he told.
Bangamata Science and Technology University, Jamalpur
Jamalpur’s Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University has been conducting educational programmes since the 2018-19 academic year. Students are studying in seven departments under four faculties.
As there is no permanent campus, the university’s activities are temporarily being carried out in the building of Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Fisheries College in Melandaha, Jamalpur. Additionally, 50 tin sheds have been constructed in the college premises for conducting classes and examinations for the students.
Despite the absence of a permanent campus, two batches of students have completed their academic journey at the university over the past five years.
The file for the permanent campus has been pending at the Ministry of Education for a long time.
Sylhet Medical University
Although approval was obtained in 2018, Sylhet Medical University could not initiate its academic programs within the last five years.
Initially named Sylhet Medical University, it has changed its name to Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Medical University this year.
Temporary activities are ongoing in a campus in the Chauhatta area of Sylhet city.
A project of Tk2,036 crore was approved on 18 July this year to construct the permanent campus, with the goal of completing the work by June 2027 in the South Surma area of Sylhet. However, construction has not yet commenced. In the meantime, there have been changes in the positions of vice-chancellor and registrar.
Sheikh Hasina Medical University
The Sheikh Hasina Medical University Law was passed in 2021, following which appointment was made for the vice-chancellor position.
Despite the passage of two years, land acquisition for the permanent campus has not been finalised. No students have been enrolled in this university, and the construction of the permanent campus has not started.
Chandpur Science and Technology University
The university admitted students for the academic year 2021-22 in its first batch. However, it does not have a permanent campus yet, and classes for students are being conducted in a college in Khalishahar area of Chandpur municipality.
Habiganj Agriculture University
The university started its academic journey through an informal campus on 27 February 2022 by renting two buildings in the Bhadai area of Gopaya Union in Habiganj Sadar upazila.
No land has yet been allotted for the university, and a proposal has been sent to the ministry for the acquisition of space for the permanent campus.
Despite the lack of proper infrastructure, the university has commenced student admission and aims to start classes promptly.
M Abdul Baset, vice-chancellor of the university, told those facilities such as accommodation, laboratories, and a canteen will be introduced gradually for the students.
A university must have its own campus before starting educational activities
Educationists say that conducting regular classes and examinations is not the only responsibility of a university. The main task of a university is to foster global citizenship in students. In order to do that, a student must be given the opportunity to grow within a particular educational setting. In addition to academic studies, students should also be given the opportunity to acquire world-class knowledge. But the new universities are unable to provide any of these. As a result, students are deprived of a complete education despite getting a degree. This is not consistent with the character of the university.
In this regard, Professor Abdul Mannan, former chairman of UGC, told the that the new universities are embarking on a journey with many crises. We have no choice but to accept this reality. However, a student will not develop into an ideal citizen if he or she is not given the minimum facilities. Therefore, the government will have to think about these issues before giving approval to a new university.
The former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, Prof. AMS Arefin Siddique, told, “No matter whether it is a private or public university, a university must have its own campus before starting educational activities. A university campus must have a library, sports grounds, academic, residential, and administrative buildings. Universities must admit students after ensuring these facilities. A university student must get the opportunity to enjoy the essence of campus life. Therefore, whether it is private or public, it is important for a university to have its own campus. A university cannot run in rented houses and shopping malls. If this is the case, students’ minds and, consequently, their personalities will not develop. These things need to be ensured when the government approves a new university.”
What does the UGC say?
The UGC has requested the Ministry of Education to take the necessary steps so that no new public university can start educational programmes on temporary campuses without having minimum infrastructure.
UGC Chairman (Additional Charge) Professor Muhammad Alamgir Hossain told “We want new public universities not to start educational programmes in rented houses or temporary structures. At present, several public universities have yet to move to permanent campuses. A crisis has developed centred on these universities, and that is why the UGC wants the respective universities to acquire the land within a certain period after approval. Then, after the construction of the minimum infrastructure, education activities will start. We have already informed the Ministry of Education to take necessary measures in this regard.
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