THE University Grants Commission leaving instructions for public universities to stop offering evening courses is welcome. Students, teachers and educationalists have for long demanded that such courses should be stopped as they harm regular activities of public universities. The president, attending the University of Dhaka convocation on Monday, also criticised public universities for having offered evening courses, which he said were merely ‘business ventures.’ The commission on Wednesday issued 13-point instructions for all public universities, with the prominent one seeking an end to evening courses which the commission says are irrelevant and contradictory to basic principles underlying the concept of public university. What the president has said also betrays the unpleasant truth that such courses in public universities are money-making programmes run at the expense of their primary responsibilities of teaching students in regular courses and creating knowledge. The University of Dhaka first introduced evening courses in 2001, with other public universities soon following in its footsteps, to add to the income of the universities, but experts now believe that only a tenth of the income from the courses go into the university accounts and the rest is shared between teachers and other stuff in the administration.
The consequences of the evening courses, as educationalists say, have been a gradual decrease in the quality of education in public universities as teachers, as well as some members on the administrative staff, are more interested in evening courses that fetch more money. They give priority to such courses, neglecting their primary responsibilities of teaching regular students and doing research. It is, therefore, imperative that the public universities should comply with the UGC instructions, which also asks the universities not to run income-generating activities. But the government and the commission should also see if the budget of the universities adequately covers their expenses. The University of Dhaka, for example, had a budget of Tk 8.10 billion in 2019, of Tk 7.41 billion in 2018 and of Tk 6.64 billion in 2017. Although the amount has gradually increased, it may not have been adequate in view of growing activities and an increasing number of students. Much of the amount is spent on running affairs and a little is left for education and research. While the commission should increase the allocation for the universities, it remains to be an issue for both the commission and the universities to look into if corruption and irregularities gobble up a portion of the budget and stop such corruption.
In such a situation, the public universities should immediately stop offering evening courses to improve on the teaching of regular students and creating knowledge. But the government must increase allocations for the universities so that they could smoothly run their affairs. The universities and the commission must also work together to stop any corruption that may have financially burdened the universities.
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