Public universities without land or buildings need their own campuses

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The government has forced private universities into shifting to their own campuses by pressurising them in different ways and that is a positive thing. In fact the UGC guidelines also states that these educational institutes are obligated to move into their own campus within seven years of their establishment.

But there are no such obligations or much of a control from UGC when it comes to public universities. As a result, many of the public universities are running out of rented houses or some school and college buildings year after years.

According to University Grants Commission (UGC) data, the number of public universities not having their own campuses is 18, most of which are specialised universities for science and technology, digital and agricultural studies.

The government made acts to set up these universities in 2013 and then in several other years after that. Teachers have been appointed and students have been given admission yet, there have been no arrangements of setting up permanent campuses for them all.

While construction of the permanent campuses of only three is underway, things are uncertain for the rest of them. As many as 14 of them don’t even have any land, how would the buildings be constructed?

On 8 May, Prothom Alo reported on public universities without land and building. The picture that has been found while visiting some universities is extremely frustrating.

Some universities run their administrative activities out of one rented house while the students attend classes in one or several rented houses or in some other institute far from there. Since there is no residential facility, students have to live in hostels for a high rent.

Some of the universities are running like this for year after years. Till now, there has been no land acquisition for Rabindra University, the law for establishing which had already been passed in 2016. The same goes for Khulna Agricultural University also. The academic activities of this university started in 2018.  

Currently, the administrative and academic activities of this university are being run out of several rented houses that too are located far from one another. The first vice-chancellors in both of these universities have completed their terms and left with accusations of corruption and irregularities.

Meanwhile, Gazipur’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University has its own land plot but the building has not been constructed yet. So, they just have to rely on rented houses.

Nobody has got any clue about when the 18 public universities including the three mentioned above that are running out of rented houses, are going to have their own campus. The guardians of our education complete their duties just by announcing newer universities and starting academic activities there in a whatsoever manner.

From where the huge amount of money that will be required to acquire land and construct building for the university will be coming from isn’t clear either. A lot of the educationalists do not agree with government’s plan of establishing universities in every other district.

In their opinion what’s more important than establishing universities in every district is to strengthen the base of primary and secondary education even further and at the same time paying more attention towards technical education.

There are endless complaints about the quality of higher education in colleges running under the National University. It cannot be said that the quality of education in many of the new generation public universities is that much ahead of them.

And how will it be, there are no experienced and talented teachers, there’s no infrastructure or indispensible educational materials there either. Already the universities are failing to supply the workforce based on the sort of demand there is in the labour market of Bangladesh.

We would like to hope that before establishing any more new university, the government will give a roadmap for the existing universities to establish their own campuses as well as take proper and sustainable steps for its implementation.

The sooner the public universities lose their ill reputation for not having their own land or building, the better.

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