But nowadays, according to former and current students and teachers, Dhaka University could not advance to the aspired level of excellence in research, teaching and knowledge. In some cases, the university has moved backward. The politics of the teachers and students have failed to rise above party politics. The number of teachers and students has increased but in terms quality it has regressed. There are recurring allegations of nepotism and irregularities in recruiting teachers.
The university is suffering from acute scarcity of classrooms and accommodation in the students halls. The quality of food served in the halls is constantly declining. The ruling party’s student body controls the halls. The are long-standing allegations of general students being by the students affiliated to the ruling party. These problems have not been resolved and no initiatives to resolve them are visible.
However, studying at the university is very inexpensive. This university is a sanctuary for scholarly students from low income families both from the cities and villages.
Speaking to Prothom Alo on the eve of Dhaka University's centennial , vice chancellor Md. Akhtaruzzaman said, “The Dhaka University administration has been seriously feeling the necessity of research and the culture of knowledge. We undeniably fall short of global standards on developing knowledge.”
“It is difficult to expect original and applied research of global standards before ensuring the required facilities,” he added.
Currently, the Dhaka University authorities have not taken up any special programme to celebrate the centenary of the university due to the Covid-19 situation in the country. The university has organised a virtual discussion today (Thursday) where language veteran Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury would present a keynote speech. However, the main programme of the centenary celebrations would be organised at the university’s central playground on 1 November. The university administration hopes president Md Abdul Hamid, also the chancellor of the university, would be present as chief guest at the function.
Though the university was established in 1921, there had been talk about setting it up since the dissolution of the Partition of Bengal. Professor Muntassir Mamoon has written that Dhaka University was established as a compensation to the dissolution of the Partition of Bengal.
At the time of its inception in 1921, the university had three faculties – humanities, science and law - and there were 12 departments – Sanskrit, Bangla, English, Education, History, Arabic and Islamic Studies, Persian and Urdu, Philosophy, Economics and Politics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Law.
The university began with 60 teachers and 877 students. Currently, the university has 84 departments, 13 institutes, 1992 teachers and 37,018 students and 56 research centres. However, the university faces flak about its lack of research.
The size of Dhaka University has grown in the last two decades. In 2000, the number of departments was 47 which have grown to 84 now. The number of teachers has grown to almost double in that time while the number of students has crossed 37,000 which was around 22,500 in 2000.
A number of departments have opened evening courses which mainly is a commercial initiative. The irregularities and nepotism in recruitment of teachers and the ulterior politics of the teachers and students, have mainly emerged in the last three decades.
Though according to the law the university is an “autonomous” body, it is run in consideration of party politics. The VC is appointed according to government choice. Other posts are also filled from the teachers who support the party that forms the government. Currently, all the administrative posts are filled by teachers who support the ruling Awami League. During the ruling of the BNP-Jamaat alliance, the posts were filled by teachers who supported that government. There are allegations that many departments were opened just to recruit teachers to form a majority.
Some of the teachers of Dhaka University think the deterioration of the university is just a part of the general overall degradation in all spheres of Bangladesh. However, Dhaka University still remains at the top in the country, in the of number of its publications and global ranking. Then there are those who think that while there is general deterioration all around, Dhaka University should lead the way out of this degradation.
Former teacher of Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Dhaka University and UGC professor Hasina Khan, who recently discovered a bacteria in jute that could produce a new type of antibiotic, said, “The beginning of the university was very good but we are lost midway.”
She thinks there are a number of high-quality researchers and teachers at Dhaka University but emphasis should be given on research. What the university is giving to the world through teaching, is important.
* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for English edition by Shameem Reza