The existence of private universities in Bangladesh today proves an established fact and a visual reality. There lies no room for doubt about it. However, debate lies in its running strategy, offering education, political consideration and its quality. In addition, a great difference lies between public and private universities in terms of educational expenditure, quality of imparting education, teacher recruitment etc. In a middle grade, private university students have to spend money 19 times than that of a public university. The renowned universities such as North South and BRAC University entail further greater amount. Residential expenditure, food cost, tuition fee show a gulf of difference between public and private universities. On an average monthly expenditure stand Tk 837 in a public university, that is 15-thousand and 835 taka in private university for each pupil. Does it talk about higher education friendly cost or environment? Time is ripe enough to review this situation.
The latest UGC report 2017 shows that one lac sixty thousand taka is spent against per public university student. This amount is greater in scientific, technological , medicinal and agricultural universities. In that year per head expenditure of Bangabandhu Shiekh Mijibur Rahamn Maritime University was four lac 67thousand and 788 taka .In Agricultural University per student cost was 3 lac, 96 thousand 53taka, Dhaka University one lac 94thousand 390 taka, BUET one lac 95 thousand 110 taka, Jahangirnagar University one lac 35thouans taka. The government bears all these expenses. On the other hand, UGC report says that in 2017 per student expenditure on an average in each student studying in private university was 81thousand 182taka. In the North South University per student cost was 92thouasand 744taka, Independent University of Bangladesh two lac 13thousand 450 taka, Ahsanullah Science and Technological University 83thouand 34taka, East West University 87thousand 283taka, BRAC University one lac 49 thousand 23 taka, Stamford University one lac 9 thousand 575t taka. This money was totally spent by the guardians, not a single penny from the state treasury was spent.
A student of Dhaka University is to pay three thousand 825taka in his/her six-month long semester including hall fee, tuition fee. He/she can manage well enough visiting the library regularly and attending the classes. His/her monthly expenditure is 916taka and ten thousand 992taka a year. UGC shows that the government gives one lac 83 thousand 398tka subsidy for each student of this university. The students of Jahangirnar is to pay taka 14 as tuition fee, examination form fill-up takes another taka 50 to 100, residential hall fee taka 20, institutional expenditure is not more than taka 200 a month that means Tk2400 a year, government gives taka one lac 32thosuand 600 subsidy to each student of this university. One student of civil engineering department of Stamford University says he needs to pay 6 lac 90 thousand taka as his course fee. He had to give 20 thousand taka as admission fee while 4500 taka per semester though this fee is much higher in other private universities. Moreover, he has to buy books and scripts and has to spend some more money for photocopy and transportation purpose. His course fee per month is 14 thousand 375 taka and yearly one lac 72 thousand 500. In addition, the total amount is borne by the family. Similarly, a student of East West University says he is to spend taka 17 thousand 295taka per month that is also totally borne by the family.
In 2018 HSC and equivalent examination eight lac 58 thousand 801 students came out successful with 29 thousand 262 GPA-5 holders. 38 running public universities out of 42 have 48 thousand seats and in government medical and dental colleges see another four thousand seats. That means, the students who do not want to study in the colleges under National University get admission in 103 private universities. It does not necessarily mean that they get admission in the private universities because of their having strong financial background. They want to avoid colleges under NU and to get somewhat quality education.
The situation of technical education in Bangladesh does not show a sound shape in terms of social status and managing good jobs still. This is another reason for which students aspiring after higher education crowd in the private universities at the cost of their parents’ toil and moil. And it is not an exaggeration that some of the private universities are offering’ global level’ education that directly and indirectly contributes to boosting the economy of the country. Students passing out of these universities manage lucrative jobs in the multinational companies at home or go abroad either with taking far better jobs or for further education. In some cases, their performances show better than those of public university students do and we need to encourage and support such kind of private universities.
However, many private universities are running with some common weaknesses such as having no playground, no permanent campus, no big library to facilitate broader education for the pupils and no permeant teachers. They borrow or hire teachers from public universities. Job status of the teachers still stands on a fragile footing. In this situation, the authorities are releasing permission to open private universities one after another without giving a second or proper thought whether we need such kind of universities housed on the top of a building that also accommodates kitchen market or fish market on the ground and first floor. In the name of providing higher education should we allow them to sell the certificates only? It’s not that its negative impact will have to be faced by these universities only, it will exert combine negative effect on the higher education of the country and the entire gamut of education. The individual, family, society and the country at large will have to bear its brunt heavily. When a pupil does not achieve the expected skills but gets a certificate that tells he/she has achieved the skills, doesn’t it mean seriously undermining higher education? Who will take its responsibility? Why do we make higher education a farce allowing establishing a private university just like coaching centers?
University education is hall based—students’ identify, card, voting rights, certificate everything is issued on the basis of their attachment to a hall but our private universities stand far away from this necessary element of university. Students coming to study in private universities from different parts of the country and even different parts of the city need to reside in halls. It will give a solid shape of a university and give students relief. It’s an imperative to establish residential halls in private universities to fulfill one of the significant components of a fully-fledged university.
Many countries of the world give subsidy to education sector, as it’s a profitable investment. Our SAARC member country Sri Lanka gives hundred percent subsidy to higher education. India gives less subsidy to this sector than that of us and in Pakistan tuition and other fees are determined on the basis of guardians’ income level that must be reasonable system we can follow it both in our private and public universities. In our country, the student fee that was determined many years back still goes on in the same manner that needs to be revised for the sake of quality education and welfare of the students and it will help narrow the gap lying between the private and public universities. In the same territory, two streams of students pursuing higher education are growing up with the sign of big difference that must not be entertained. This discrepancy will exert negative effective in other tiers of the society.
The greatest and most famous universities like Harvard and Cambridge run privately but they enjoy state financial support. A ceiling of tuition fee is fixed. Our private university started its journey in 1992 and since then no state financial support has touched it. That definitely tells two ununiformed stories. The state must not harbor a notion that two streams of pupils will come out from higher education with two different style, attitude and feeling for the country. The government must not allow the big difference the private and public universities expose today. A brilliant student having better performance must be given scholarship/stipend/ state support even though he/she pursues education in a private university. The prevailing exception clandestinely tells us depriving the private university students of their rights though they will have to play the same role in the national level after getting out of the institution and stand in one line to serve the country. Can the state afford to show such discriminatory treatment that surfaces today?
Writer: Education specialist in BRAC Education Program and formerly taught in Cadet Colleges and Rjauk College