NU failing to deliver

Academic activities is being severely hampered in colleges under National University which is plagued by a myriad of problems like teacher recruitment on political consideration, irregularities, regional centres turning dysfunctional, lack of infrastructure and centrally developed curriculum with scant input from key stakeholders, educationists have said. The NU was expected to play the most significant role in providing opportunities of higher education for the students living especially in rural and semi-urban areas, but it was failing to meet the nation’s expectations due to various reasons, they said.

The NU, established in 1992, took over the affiliating functions of the public universities with an aim to reduce their burden and ease session jam in tertiary education, but things did not change for the better, rather worsened in some respects, they viewed. Against this backdrop, government is planning to hand over affiliation of about 280 public colleges under the university to other public universities aiming to decentralise the NU. A section of college teachers protested at the move terming it a return to the past. Academics said that such changes would neither remove irregularities from the university nor rid the students of a prolonged academic life. The NU is several times larger than all the public and private universities combined in terms of enrolment in Bangladesh. There are about 15 lakh students enrolled in 2000 colleges, of them 279 are government colleges. ‘National University it is failing to deliver at a desirable level… it has failed to create and disseminate knowledge,’

Rajshahi University vice-chancellor Muhammad Mizanuddin said. Poor supervision and monitoring of the affiliated colleges by the university, delays in the publication of examination results and other factors have created two to three years of session jam. Academics said that the administration of the university was entirely corrupt. Political recruitment of teachers and officials at the university and its affiliated colleges, absence of research work, shrinking libraries and inadequate laboratories have contributed to the fall of education standard at NU. Many NU colleges in the outlying districts do not attract a good number of students because of poor standards of education while seats in many colleges remain vacant as most students are eager to make it to well-known educational institutions in Dhaka and other cities. The university’s curriculum is centrally developed with scant input from key stakeholders while, curriculum review and renewal does not take place in a regular, systematic manner, said college teachers. Teacher appointment on political consideration at colleges has worsened the situation at the colleges, said Bangladesh Council of Principals president Majharul Hannan. He also said that NU regional offices had become almost dysfunctional because of the current situation of the university. A World Bank study on the National University conducted in January this year said that the NU lacked the capability to carry out responsibilities such as academic supervision or provide much-needed direction and professional, technical support for the colleges. ‘Serious concerns exist with regard to the internal governance of many affiliated colleges. Existing accountability and monitoring mechanisms are weak and ineffective,’ it said. The survey done on 301 colleges said that undertrained teachers performing in environment that lacked infrastructure, left a negatively impact on student performance.

The University Grants Commission in its latest report also questioned the quality of university graduates and expressed concern over the overall education at the NU. ‘The situation of higher education at the National University-affiliated colleges is alarming,’ it said. Monitoring of academic activities at the colleges is urgently needed for development of the standard of education, the report said. Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique said NU in the past did not have administrative and infrastructural capacity to run a university, but now they were trying to change things. Against this backdrop, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on August 31 directed that all government colleges be affiliated with the public universities. Subsequently education secretary Nazrul Islam Khan sent a note to the university section of the ministry asking them to take necessary action in line with the prime minister’s direction. The ministry and University Grants Commission are in touch with public universities, including Dhaka, Rajshahi and Chittagong universities, about handing over affiliation. ‘As the number of colleges in the country is increasing, some complications have emerged in the functioning of the university. To reduce the growing pressure on the NU, decentralisation is needed,’ education minister Nurul Islam Nahid said. Rajshahi University VC Mizanuddin welcoming the move saying that RU would need more manpower and infrastructure if it get back affiliation authority. Many leaders of college teachers, including Bangladesh College Teachers Association president Quazi Faruque Ahmed and Majharul, however, opposed the move. ‘The affiliation of colleges was shifted from public universities due to their incapability to supervise colleges…The move is unrealistic as the position of public universities remains the same,’ said Faruque. NU vice-chancellor professor Harun-or-Rashid admitted that there were irregularities in the university and regional centers had become dysfunctional and said that they had taken a number of steps to improve the quality of education at the university. ‘Session jam and standard of education are two major challenges for us and we are going to undertake measures to meet the challenges,’ he said. He said they already had taken steps to make the regional centres functional by appointing directors adding that they would closely monitor the academic position of the colleges. ‘There are corruption and irregularities in all spheres of life and National University is not out of that. We take strong action whenever we receive allegations against any staff members of the university,’ he said. ‘We also discourage recruitment of teachers on political consideration,’ he said.

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