THE University of Dhaka, the oldest and premier seat of higher learning in Bangladesh, will complete a hundred years of its existence in July, yet the institution still appears to have been plagued by a horde of problems. The university has failed to make an honourable mark in global ranking apparently for failing to keep pace with the time in teaching and curriculums and in the absence of required efforts for knowledge creation. The university, which began its journey with 60 teachers teaching 877 students in 12 departments, now has 1,992 teachers teaching 37,018 students in 83 departments and 12 institutes. But its efforts to create knowledge, teach students and carry out research have failed to be in commensurate with the growth. The quality of both academic and administrative functions and the university’s impact on society seems to have gradually declined, especially after the 1990s. Poor fund allocation, the recruitment of teachers on the political line of the ruling party of the day, lack of research facility, declining facilities for students and teachers and a shrinking democratic space within the university seem to have been major reasons for the decline. A continued accommodation problem for both students and teachers has also added to the university woes.
A century is time enough for a university to come of age, yet the University of Dhaka appears to have failed to do so. Teacher recruitment has increasingly toed the partisan line of the ruling party of the day. A situation like this that has let in incompetence and inefficiency has not only brought down the teaching standards but has also harmed the learning of students and affected the academic environment. Teachers largely appear more keen on gratifying their political patrons rather than teaching students better and creating knowledge. The university has 56 research centres but none can be credited with any research worth their salt. The University of Dhaka ranked in the 1000+ category among 1,396 universities in the 2020 edition of the Times Higher Education, which evaluates a university based on teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income; the university ranked in the category 600–800 in the 2016 ranking. Partisan politics has also reared its head among the students, who themselves toe or are forced to toe the line of the ruling party by joining its students wing in fears, for security or for accommodation. All this together holds back the authorities from effectively running and managing university affairs independent of partisan politics much to the detriment of an institution that is a hundred years old.
When the progress of a university depends on its teaching of students, efforts for knowledge creation and research that makes a mark on the international scene, the University of Dhaka appears to continue to be melee of problems, both academic and administrative, caused primarily by partisan politics. While the university authorities must to be bold enough to keep off pressure from outside the process and manage all the university affairs on their own, the government must also understand that it should lay its political hands off the university administration and, rather, empower the authorities more so that the university truly becomes a university worth the name.
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