Stalemate at RUET: Appoint VC immediately

Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET) has been running without a Vice-Chancellor for a year. This is in Bangladesh, the land where everything is possible. A university has students, teachers, administration, but the main guardian - the Vice-Chancellor - is absent. That post has been left vacant by the concerned government policy makers for long.

The Ministry of Education did the bare minimum by instructing a teacher to run the day-to-day administrative. Then when the teacher in charge also resigned, the administrative and academic activities of the university were disrupted.

The matter made headlines in Prothom Alo on Thursday - ‘RUET at a standstill, no vice-chancellor for a year’. The examinations of students, as well as the promotion of teachers, is currently at a standstill. Even the necessary clearance for students planning to go abroad for higher education or medical treatment are not being met. One might question whether the officials of the Ministry of Education and UGC are addressing this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

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There is a looming concern of session jam as the examinations for students have been delayed. Like many other universities, RUET also experienced delays in exams and classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a situation beyond anyone’s control. However, the government and relevant authorities’ irresponsibility is evident in leaving the post of vice-chancellor vacant for a year in a public university.

Despite repeated pleas and demands from the students to appoint a new VC, their requests have gone unheeded. As a result, the students of the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department of RUET staged a human chain on the campus, demanding the examination and appointment of the Vice-Chancellor.

The absence of a Vice-Chancellor has not only disrupted academic activities but also halted the development work of the university. The Acting University Registrar, Selim Hossain, informed Prothom Alo that this deadlock is adversely affecting both teachers and students. The Ministry of Education was informed about this situation on 18 June.

According to university sources, vice-chancellor Rafiqul Islam’s term expired at the end of July last year. Following this, on 3 August, the Ministry of Education appointed Senior Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Humanities, Sazzad Hossain, to handle the daily activities of the Vice-Chancellor.

However, on 28 May this year, he resigned due to teachers’ agitation demanding promotion. He cited the reason for his resignation as not being given the power to promote teachers during his appointment. As a consequence, academic examinations and result processes have been suspended since then.

Such arbitrariness cannot continue with the academic life of 5,650 students in 18 departments in the university. According to a report by Prothom Alo, names have been sent three times for the appointment of Vice-Chancellor to the Ministry of Education. But the government has not yet appointed anyone. The government appoints the person they want in this position. So why an eligible VC is not found yet?

While the government is establishing new universities, it seems to be overlooking the proper management of existing ones. The recent events at RUET have highlighted the government’s negligence and apathy towards higher education and the welfare of university teachers and students.

In various cases, the government points fingers at opposition parties and political opponents, attributing them as obstacles to development. Nonetheless, this rationale does not hold true for the current stalemate at RUET. The problem is of their own making. The most suitable way to end the impasse at RUET is to promptly appoint a Vice-Chancellor.