How Private Universities Contribute to Tertiary Education

Private universities help the country to improve the situation of tertiary education. Image source: Top 10 BD
Private universities help the country to improve the situation of tertiary education. Image source: Top 10 BD
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

The private university now occupies a significant space in the sphere of tertiary education in Bangladesh upholding a reality. over the years these institutions moved from being a filler in the vacuum created by the dearth of seats in public universities. Still ‘private university education is frowned upon. Dr. Nurul Islam, VC, Eastern University says, ‘there is no education as private education, no invidious distinction per se between private and public university education. Some people say private university students are self-centred, have no social commitment or higher motivation outside their worldly-wise pursuit of knowledge.

This is not correct. They have their own sense of social responsibilities. People pay taxes and from their money the government subsidies the education of students of public universities. But an overwhelming number of students now study in private universities who like the same taxpayer’s children -also deserve an equal share of the government’s education grants, subsidies, scholarships and other facilities. They get neither of them. Dr. Carmen Z Lamana, the Vice-Chancellor of AIUB comments on the private university thus, “We have to update our draft curriculum to UGC for approval. It takes five to six months to get them to approach thanks to all the bureaucratic tangles and red tape. So by the time a curriculum is approved, another updating in quick succession becomes necessary. Such a booming sector cannot be left ignored and unattended.” Some two lakh students are currently studying in the private universities of Bangladesh. Some foreign students are also enrolled here.

Several misconceptions exist regarding private university. Private universities of Bangladesh are not a substitute for the public ones and they stand by their own credentials now. There was a time when students opted for private universities in case of their failure to get enrolled in public universities but things have changed now proving the growing significance and standard of private universities.  Private universities with their state of the art infrastructure and modern curricula can produce world-class professionals.

This sector is saving 100 thousand crore taka in terms of foreign exchange which is nearly 60 per cent of our annual budget. (Prof Neaz Ahmed AIUB, Daily Sun Dec 4, 2011). Now a private university is conditioned to have a permanent campus of its own. But procuring land, arranging the finance and completing construction work needs time. Moving towards a permanent campus in five years does not seem practical and sound. The country is losing much of the cultivable land every year. In consideration of this fact, establishing individual campus for each university means losing more cultivated land. However, to ensure quality and impart sound education, we should have big campuses for private universities. How we can do it considering the minimum loss of our already scanty land should be our national concern. 

There should be an accreditation council to check the performance of private universities and ensure quality education. Government should play an enabling role rather than a regulatory one in dealing with private universities. 100 per cent O and A level students don’t go abroad. 63 per cent stay in the country and 40 per cent get enrolled in private universities. Private universities are blamed for not doing adequate research work as is mandatory for a university. This is not actually done in public universities as well due to the lack of fund and for not getting positive support from the authorities concerned.

Many private universities don’t have permanent faculty members standing as a barrier to offering quality education. This is a case that should be considered by private university authorities and we are sure that things are changing now positively in this regard. The teaching of humanities subjects, history and pure science should be introduced in private universities to give this entity an ideal one and exemption from the subject of criticism.

There lies a tradition that private university students are good in English but poor in Bengali whereas public university students are good in Bengali but poor in English which should be changed and they must be good both in English and Bengali. As 40 per cent of English medium students find their place in private universities, things have come to this site. Both the groups are the future leaders and assets of the country and so they should be trained and developed to face the growing challenges of the years to come. Still, eighty-five per cent of students of Bangladesh don’t receive a university education. So, we should try to open the doors of tertiary education for more and more students without compromising the quality.

When we would be able to ensure real quality education, it can be a good source of income for us as the students from neighbouring countries will come to get tertiary education here. To keep this point in mind the government may think of establishing a separate body like University Grants Commission to ensure research and quality of higher education in private universities. Definitely, it must not be an agency of bossing or controlling or centre of education policies. It will be a world-class organization to enhance the research and quality of tertiary education.  

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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