RUET at a standstill, no vice-chancellor for a year

Students form a human chain in RUET on Wednesday afternoonProthom Alo

Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET) has been facing prolonged absence of a regular Vice-Chancellor, leading to serious disruptions in both academic and administrative affairs of the university. Consequently, despite regular classes, exams have been put on hold, raising concerns among students about potential session jams.

Furthermore, the absence of a Vice-Chancellor has not only impacted students but has also affected teachers in pursuing higher education and seeking medical treatment abroad. Additionally, several projects have encountered significant delays, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the university.

In an attempt to tackle the issue of delayed examinations, the Ministry of Education sent a letter to a dean on Monday, instructing the immediate holding of exams. However, the unavailability of department heads in certain departments has prevented a majority of students from appearing for their exams, despite the ministry's directive.

The students of the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department held a human chain in the campus yesterday afternoon, demanding the prompt conduct of examinations and the appointment of a vice-chancellor. They expressed their concern about not having a department head for a month, which has resulted in complications in taking exams and managing academic work.

An official from the Ministry of Education, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that they have submitted three proposals to the government for the appointment of a vice-chancellor at this university.

Senior professor and head of the Urban and Regional Planning department, Kamruzzaman, expressed his concern about the negative precedent set by the prolonged absence of a vice-chancellor. He stated that the consequences of this situation will be long-lasting, as every department in the university is facing significant challenges. Even if a vice-chancellor is appointed now, resolving all the issues will not happen overnight.

The university has 5,650 students in 18 departments. There are 347 teachers of different levels. All the teachers and students of the university are facing some sort of problems due to the current situation.

Additional Secretary (University) of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education of the Ministry of Education Abu Yusuf Miah told Prothom Alo that they have already sent the application to the government for the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor. He said he has no idea why it is being delayed.

How the complications started

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.

On 22 July, the students of the 17th Batch (2017) demonstrated, demanding the commencement of examinations. After discussions with various faculty deans, the teachers assured them that the exam routine will be provided by contacting the ministry before 2 August. Consequently, the students suspended their movement.

In the meantime, last Monday, the Ministry of Education issued a notification appointing Professor Niamul Bari, Dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, to take charge of academic activities. However, students from two departments are unable to participate in the exams alongside other departments due to the absence of department heads.

Promotion stalled

A teacher at RUET suffered a knee injury a few months ago. He needs to go to India for surgery. But he is not getting the no-objection certificate (NOC) to leave the country. He told Prothom Alo on the condition of anonymity that his condition might deteriorate if he did not undergo surgery soon. An student of another department is unable to go out of the country because of not receiving NOC.

There are 14 teachers who have been unable to travel abroad despite receiving scholarships. Additionally, the promotion of over a hundred teachers is currently on hold due to the absence of a regular vice-chancellor. Some of these promotions have been delayed for more than a year.

One of the teachers stated that the incumbent vice-chancellor lacked the authority to issue promotions, and many teachers were not aware of this. Subsequently, he resigned amidst the ongoing agitation. Now, until regular vice-chancellors are appointed, the promotions of these teachers will remain pending. Due to this, academic activities are also facing disruptions.

Students form human chain

The University is currently facing a situation where there are no heads for the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) and Industrial Production and Engineering (IPE). Furthermore, other departments are also expecting vacancies in the position of department head this month. This scenario has raised concerns that a significant number of students may not be able to participate in the examination despite the ministry’s letter. In response to this fear, the students of the CSE department organised a human chain in the campus yesterday.

The students further express their discontent, claiming that the ministry's appointment of a dean to handle academic activities doesn't consider the true complexities of RUET's situation. The dean lacks the authority to appoint department heads, and as a result, most of the RUET students might not have the opportunity to participate in the exams. They are urgently demanding the appointment of a vice-chancellor to resolve the situation.

Professor Selim Hossain, the acting registrar of RUET, emphasised the crucial need for a regular vice-chancellor at the university. He suggested that, at the very least, the ministry could designate someone to handle immediate administrative tasks.

Slow pace in development projects

Construction is currently underway for eleven 10-storey buildings as part of the RUET development project, with a fixed deadline set for completion by next year. However, progress has been hindered by the absence of a vice-chancellor, resulting in a slow pace of work. Contractors have not received their payments. Recently, the contractors visited the project director's office to request their dues. The RUET authorities stress the urgent need for funds to continue advancing the ongoing development projects. If the payments are not made promptly, there is a possibility that the work will come to a halt.

RUET project director, Amit Roy Chowdhury, told Prothom Alo that without a regular vice-chancellor, they are unable to proceed with the release of payments. During the acting Vice-Chancellor's tenure, they did not face significant difficulties, but since his resignation, the situation has become more complicated. The work progress has slowed down, and currently, only 30 per cent of the project has been completed.

Regarding the absence of a vice-chancellor for a year, the former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), Professor Nazrul Islam, told Prothom Alo, "In one word, it is unfortunate; it should not happen. The Ministry of Education and UGC also share responsibility in this regard. If they fail to fulfil their duties properly, it will cause damage. They should take appropriate action."

*This article, originally appeared in the Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat