The Dhaka University opened 18 new departments, about 22 per cent of its 83 departments, in the past eight years and a half, during incumbent vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique.
Senior Dhaka University teachers said that many of these new departments opened by Arefin Siddique, also a leader of the ruling Awami League-backed blue panel teachers, were ‘unnecessary’ and some were opened ‘without infrastructure’ only to recruit teachers to concentrate his strength.
They said that the mushrooming departments put an extra pressure on budget of the university, which was facing budget crunch.
Arefin Siddique, however, said that increasing national and international demands and technological advancements raised continuous demands for skilled and proficient graduates leading the authorities to introduce relevant new departments.
Sources at the registrar building said that since January 2009, when Arefin assumed the office, 18 departments––television, film and photography studies, printing and publication studies, Japanese studies, criminology, communication disorder, dance, applied mathematics, theoretical and computational chemistry, organisation strategy and leadership, educational and counselling psychology, public health, pharmacy, oceanography, disaster science and management, meteorology, nuclear engineering, robotics and mechatronics engineering and history of arts.
Pharmacy department was revived in 2014 following a High Court order after its closure in 2003.
The university also established four of its 12 institutes–– Institute of Energy, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, Institute of Leather Engineering and Technology and Confucius Institute––during the same period.
‘Unfortunately, the target of opening new department and institutes was not spreading of educational rather it was political gain,’ said history department supernumerary professor Syed Anwar Husain.
‘Many of these new departments are unnecessary; I do not know what is the use of printings and publication studies, or having an institute and another department on disaster management,’ said Institute of Social Welfare and Research professor Muhammad Samad.
Sociology professor Sadeka Halim echoed Samad, adding that there was no Bangladesh studies department but the university opened Japanese studies department and Confucius Institute. How many universities in the world have these subjects, she asked.
The sources said that former vice-chancellors SMA Faiz in his seven-year tenure opened seven new departments, AK Azad Chowdhury in his tenure opened seven, Emajuddin Ahamed in his four-year tenure introduced three and Maniruzzaman Miah in his two-year tenure opened two departments.
The university started its journey in 1921 with 12 departments under three faculties. Now it has 83 departments under 13 faculties and 12 institutes.
Communication disorders chairman Hakim Arif said that his department had no own classroom and teachers’ room. ‘Students are sent to find out vacant classrooms of other departments to take their classes,’ he added.
In the beginning, newly introduced departments face different challenges as the authority cannot always open a department with all the convenient facilities, said nuclear engineering department teacher Rafiqul Islam.
‘We are trying to overcome the obstacles and the authority is also concerned about the issues,’ he added.
Television, film and photography department has a small lab and office at the garage in Social Science faculty building and the students need to look for classrooms to take classes.
Students said that departments like oceanography, disaster science and management, meteorology, nuclear engineering, robotics and mechatronics engineering do not have well equipped laboratories.
SMA Faiz said that opening of new department was a regular process but ‘if these new department is opened only for recruitment of teachers then it is objectionable.’
He also said that infrastructure and facilities should be arranged before beginning of new a department.
AK Azad Chowdhury said that if these new departments did not have highly skilled manpower, exposure and applicability in the society, these steps would bring no good for the society.
Arefin Siddique said that it was true that pressure on university budget was increasing but we could not sit idle.
It is a reality that it will not be possible to open a department with infrastructure due to budget crunch, space constraint, he said, adding that in the past new departments were opened without full-fledged infrastructure.
‘We welcome any criticism,’ he said.
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