- UGC has already completed 90% of the draft
- After approval, swift implementation will follow
- Govt to appoint vice-chancellors in such institutes
- At least 15 clauses of the act will be amended
- Consistent tuition and other fees will be set
- Academics on trustee boards to be mandatory
The University Grants Commission (UGC) seeks to bring about some major changes to the Private University Act 2010, which would pave the way for the government to appoint vice-chancellors in private universities – a move not endorsed by higher education entrepreneurs.
At least 15 clauses of the act will be amended to bring about consistency in tuition and other fees in such institutions, and to integrate academics on trustee boards. This will ensure discipline in the sector, and facilitate quality higher education at the private universities, UGC sources have said.
Providing more details, a UGC member and convener of the Private University Act 2010 Amendment Committee, Prof Dr Biswajit Chanda, said, "We have already completed 90% of the draft, and just need two-three more meetings to finalise it.
"We will then send the draft to the education ministry for approval, and its implementation will follow soon. Our focus is to ensure quality education, and help the private universities run more smoothly."
The amendment will also allow the government to appoint VCs at private universities, which is an existing rule in all public universities across the country, except the four autonomous ones – Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, Chattogram University and Jahangirnagar University.
Dr Chanda added, "The government will seek a three-member panel from each private university to facilitate the appointment process. A VC will be appointed either from within or outside this particular panel.
"This appointment process will empower the VCs and help bring about discipline in these institutions."
Commenting on the UGC initiative, Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain said, "Allowing the government to appoint VCs in private universities will not be a logical move because these are being run by the private sector.
"Instead, the UGC itself should be modernised."
Private universities currently charge fees as they see fit, regardless of available facilities and infrastructure, and without any regulations. The proposed amendment seeks to fix this issue by allowing the UGC to set fees that are consistent across different institutions.
Moreover, appointing academics on the board of trustees is not mandatory in the existing act. The new draft proposes forming trustee boards with at least 33% of the members coming from academia, and recommends increasing the number of broad members from nine to fifteen.
It also empowers VCs to become chiefs of teachers' recruitment, finance committees and any other committees for academic development.
The UGC will formulate a common guideline for recruiting teachers and staff at private universities. The draft defines rule violations, and outlines what action will be taken against the institutions at fault.
Currently, a private university can secure the UGC's approval for having at least a 25,000 square feet rented building, but the criterion has been increased to 35,000 square feet in the draft act.
Commenting on the matter, APUB Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain said, "There is no need to amend the law right now; instead the ministry can add some rules to it. We are running the private universities, so the government should speak with us before moving forward."
According to UGC sources, parliament passed the existing Private University Act in 2010. The Parliamentary Standing Committee had taken an initiative to amend the act in 2015, but it was not fruitful in the face of protests by APUB leaders.
In August last year, the ministry asked the UGC to take new steps towards making a draft to amend the act.
What is the situation of private universities?
The Private University Act 2010 dictates that a private university must have at least six departments, but 13 of the 91 such active institutions lack the required minimum number of departments.
Most private universities also appear reluctant to move their campuses from rented buildings to permanent premises of their own, insiders have said.
According to a UGC report released last year, only 24 private universities are carrying out their academic activities on permanent campuses, while 17 are operating on partially developed permanent campuses.
Nine universities are setting up their own campuses, while 20 others have bought land but are yet to take any initiative towards building permanent campuses. The rest of the private universities continue to carry out their academic activities in rented buildings.
There are 106 approved private universities in the country, and 94 of them are now active. But only 12 of those active institutions currently have all the required top officials. Of the rest, 79 have vice-chancellors, 24 have pro-vice-chancellors and 53 have treasurers, according to the UGC's 45th annual report.
Meetings of the board of trustees, syndicate, academic council and finance committee are mandatory for every university.
But four universities did not hold any meeting of their board of trustees, nine did not hold meetings of the syndicate, six did not hold academic council meetings and 14 did not hold finance committee meetings.