Chancellor’s realisation: Only advice won't help, the system requires change

In the 53rd convocation of Dhaka University, president and chancellor of the University Abdul Hamid said, respect of teachers is gradually shrinking due to the actions of some vice-chancellors and teachers. He also criticised the trend of appointing the children and relatives of some vice-chancellors to universities.

The real image of the country's public universities has been reflected in the president's speech. But it was not all. We do not need to listen to the president's convocation speech to understand the condition of universities. Almost all media, including Prothom Alo, have been carrying reports about the irregularities, corruption and arbitrariness of various public university vice-chancellors.

Recently, the teachers of Jamalpur's Bangmata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib University of Science and Technology went on strike against the vice-chancellor's irregularities and corruption. Earlier, the former vice-chancellor of Rajshahi University had amended the rules and appointed his daughter and son-in-law despite the objection of the education ministry.

The vice-chancellors whom the president spoke about have been appointed by him only. According to the law, the president or chancellor appoints them. But the president himself does not know who is being appointed to the position of vice chancellor? He appoints the VC from the names recommended by the executive department. Article 48 of the Constitution of Bangladesh states in subsection 3, "The President shall act on the advice of the Prime Minister in all his duties except in ​​appointing the prime minister and chief justice in accordance with Clause (1) of Article 95."

The government appoints those who are 100 per cent loyal to the ruling party as vice-chancellors of public universities. Qualification is not a criterion here. The problem is more systemic than of individual. A person who has academic excellence and administrative experience in running the institution should be the vice-chancellor of the University. Unfortunately, most vice-chancellors do not have these qualities in them. They became vice-chancellors by appeasing the rulers. Economist Anu Muhammad said on the same day in a seminar on education that a university heads towards it dooms on the very day of the appointment of the vice-chancellor.

It is widely accepted that the main reason for the declining quality of higher education in Bangladesh is its politicisation. Every government wants to keep the universities in their grasp, which is not only unwarranted but also suicidal for higher education. In many countries of the world, vice-chancellors are appointed through search committees. We could not make such arrangements.

According to the University Ordinance of 1973, the vice-chancellor is supposed to be appointed through the Senate. But in reality it often happens that the best one from the three-member panel that the Senate selects is not appointed as VC. Whoever has the most loyalty to the government gets appointed. Only four universities are included in this ordinance. In the rest of the universities only political consideration plays the vital role in appointing the VCs.

Many are appointed despite not having the minimum qualifications to be vice-chancellors. Even in many specialised universities, people who have no knowledge of the specialised subject are appointed as vice-chancellors. There is no alternative to reduce the sole authority of the government in appointing the vice-chancellor to overcome this crisis. If the system is not changed, the president's advice or remorse will be of no use. The president himself is part of this system of appointing the vice-chancellor.