Desk Report: The Ministry of Education has taken initiative to reduce the power of a group of owners to stop various administrative and financial irregularities and corruption in private universities. That is why the governing body of the private university, the Board of Trustees, is being decentralized. Syndicate members are also being increased from outside. In addition, the government will appoint vice-chancellors of private universities, such as public universities, to stop the process of appointing trustees as VCs.
By bringing these changes, the government is going to change the ‘Private University Act-2010’ to run private universities. It will soon be sent to the cabinet through the Ministry of Education. Such information has been known from the relevant sources.
According to the concerned, the highest authority of the private university is coming up with a provision to include academics in the board of trustees. It is being recommended to amend the existing private university law with the provision of having at least 5 academics instead of 9 in the perimeter of the board of trustees. The government will appoint vice chancellors of private universities like public universities. In other words, the recommendation of the Board of Trustees to give a panel to the Vice-Chancellor will be repealed. Like the public university, the government will appoint the vice chancellor and treasurer.
The amendment proposals to include UGC nominated academic members in the syndicate, to hold at least one syndicate meeting every two months, to inform the UGC about the determination of tuition fees, to prevent sexual harassment, etc.
The Board of Trustees (BOT) currently has a minimum of 9 members and a maximum of 21 members. The proposal calls for a minimum of 15 members and one-third or five academics. Besides, it has been proposed to form various committees for academic development including teacher recruitment and finance committee by amending the relevant section of the law. The Vice-Chancellor will be the head of these committees. The Vice-Chancellor has been proposed to be accountable to the Syndicate. It is learned that there is a proposal to increase the space of the temporary campus from 35,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet.
It is learned that the Ministry of Education took initiative to amend the Private University Act in August 2020 to ensure the quality of higher education. A committee was formed to recommend amendments, additions and modifications to the law to make it up-to-date. The committee was asked to make necessary recommendations to amend the law within a month. But even in the last one year, the committee has not been able to submit a recommendation report. The committee recently met and finalized the changes. There may be two more meetings to finalize the draft law. The committee will submit a report to the ministry recommending amendments to the law.
Biswajit Chand, a member of the University Grants Commission, the convener of the committee, said, “We are going to recommend several changes in the law governing private universities.” There have been several meetings on this. Two or three more meetings will be needed. The report will then be submitted to the Ministry of Education.
Concerned people said that after the recommendation of the committee for amending the law is submitted to the Ministry of Education, it will be sent to the cabinet after a meeting of the ministerial leadership. Once final approval is given by the cabinet, it will go to the parliament for final approval.
The private university association, an association of owners, believes that government and political interference in private universities will increase if the proposed recommendations include changes to the private university law. Vice-President of the organization and Vice-Chancellor of the World University of Bangladesh. Abdul Mannan Chowdhury said that the private universities are run entirely with private funding. Here is the difference between public and private. Now if the government comes to interfere in everything, it will be unexpected.
“We welcome any proposal for academic development, elimination of inequality and establishment of equality,” he said. However, it would be unexpected to add a provision to impose control on UGC or any other body for irregularities. Then there will be no difference between high school and university.
According to UGC sources, the first private university was allowed to be set up in 1991 but there was no law to monitor it. In 2010, the Private University Act was passed in Parliament for the first time. After that, various quarters demanded to amend the law. In view of this, an initiative was taken to modernize this law on the initiative of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Education in 2015. To this end, a five-member committee was formed in October of that year. Some of them were members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Ministry of Education and the UGC. The committee submitted its report long ago.
But the amendment fell into disrepair due to the opposition of a large section of BOT members of private universities. Later, on May 26, 2016, a meeting of the parliamentary committee was held with the representatives of the private university (owner) association on the amendment. It was attended by four members of the association and each of them vehemently opposed the proposed amendments to various sections. Due to this, the activities did not go ahead. The last meeting was held on August 4 and the draft law was almost finalized.