The character and features of specialised universities are different from general universities around the world. The purpose of these educational institutions is to create skilled manpower along with creating in related subjects.
Specialised universities in Bangladesh had different features once. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and Bangladesh Agricultural University are examples. Degree holders of these two universities were and still are highly respected in the country as well as abroad.
There are currently 53 public universities in the country. Of these 13 are specialised science and technology universities. But the universities that have been established in the last two and a half decades have not been able to maintain that reputation.
According to Prothom Alo, although science and technology universities were established in the country with the notion to create specialised skilled graduates, subjects such as humanities, sociology and business are now being taught there. At some universities, half the students are of non-science courses. As a result, it has become difficult to distinguish it from a regular university.
There is a debate over the responsibility of erasing the specialised character of specialised universities. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has given permission to open new departments, according to the university authorities concerned. Again UGC claimed it has been forced to give permission under pressure. According to Prothom Alo report, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University of Science and Technology was launched in 2011 in Gopalganj. History department was opened in this university in the academic year 2017-18 without the approval of UGC. When the UGC raised objections, there were protests. Later the UGC was forced to grant approval.
Acting chairman of UGC (Member, Public University) Dil Afroza Begum told Prothom Alo, "I did not allow a single department to open after taking charge. How can I take responsibility of what has been done by my predecessors? I believe that science and technology universities should not be ordinary universities in any way.” It is not just a matter of wanting or not wanting a new department. Through this specialised universities have been fallen into chaos.
Another concern is the appointment of teachers from non-science background as vice-chancellors in these specialised universities. There is certainly no dearth of experienced science and technology teachers in the country that can lead to appointing teachers of non-science background as vice-chancellors. This is done for the political interests of individuals and groups negelecting the quality of education. Several such vice-chancellors had to leave humiliatingly in the face of the students' movement.
Education minister Dipu Moni has urged the higher education institutions to have 'Academic Master Plan'. We would expect, while making the master plan, it should be ensured that the specialised university does not enroll students except in relevant courses. Students who are already admitted, should be given an opportunity to complete their studies. No new enrollment should be made.
Specialised universities will restore their distinct character and features only if the matter is included in the academic plan proposed by the education minister.