Bangladesh UGC wants more power to discipline universities

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:09, Jan 02,2021 | Updated: 18:43, Jan 02,2021


The University Grants Commission has sought more power to control irregularities in expenditures and recruitments of teachers and general staff members at the 151 public and private universities.

Placing a 24-point recommendation in the 46th annual report of the commission, the UGC recommended an amendment to the President’s Order 10 of 1973, under which it was formed in 1973, for empowering it to increase its monitoring capacity and give it the authority to intervene directly, if required, in university affairs.

The annual report was handed over to president Abdul Hamid on Sunday.

‘The existing law does not empower the UGC to carry out proper monitoring activities of the 151 public and private universities. A new legal framework was needed as we get complaints about various irregularities,’ commission chairman Kazi Shahidullah told New Age on Thursday.

Because of a lack of power, the UGC cannot respond accordingly, Shahidullah said, adding, ‘For such inactions we sometimes face criticism.’

‘UGC’s intention was not to control activities of the universities but to help them function without controversy and develop skilled graduates capable of taking on the challenges of the 21st century, he added.

Under the President’s Order 10 of 1973, the UGC gives approval to the organogram, annual budget, development faculties and programmes as well as the number of students for any new discipline.

At present, after identifying irregularities following investigations at the education ministry’s request, the UGC recommends for actions by the president, who is also the chancellor of the universities.

The chancellor appoints the vice-chancellors, pro-VCs while the universities appoint teachers.

The UGC in its set of recommendations proposed that a uniform financial policy should be framed for all the public universities as there are allegations that many public universities are breaching financial rules and misappropriating funds.

It is for setting minimum qualifications for appointing teachers at 46 public universities, training of the teachers at the proposed University Teachers’ Training Academy, strictly controlling plagiarism in research works, enhancement of funds and facilities for research activities under the guideline of a proposed National Research Council.

The UGC recommended the abolishment of unapproved courses like evening courses and weekend courses at the public and private universities and holding admission tests in clusters at both public and private universities.

It further recommended the enactment of the uniform act for all universities developed after 1973 and an amendment to the Private University Act 2010 for regulating all the 105 private universities and ensuring appointments of vice-chancellors, pro-VCs and treasurers at all the 151 public and private universities.

‘Many public and private universities are continuously ignoring our requests for not continuing with their unapproved courses,’ UGC member Muhammad Alamgir said.

Ignoring UGC’s requests and breaching the existing financial framework, many public universities were using the research funds to pay gross salaries to their teachers, he said.

‘We respect the autonomy the public universities enjoy for conducting academic and administrative activities. But they don’t have autonomy in the financial sector as the government allocates the budget for them and their internal incomes are also part of their annual budget,’ Alamgir explained.

But it is alarming that the public universities allocate a budget for purchasing books of teachers and fixed different scales of remunerations for teachers against their additional responsibilities like holding the posts of provosts as well as preparing questions and checking answer scripts, etc, ignoring supervisions of the internal audit cells, budget assessment committees and even the comptroller general of audit, Alamgir said.

Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh in its audit objection report of 2013-2014 to the president in April 2019 also said that Tk 11.12 crore was misappropriated by 24 public universities during the period showing unauthorised payment sectors such as additional house rents for teachers, their recreation leave and even spending money generated from sales of admission forms.

UGC member Alamgir said that setting minimum qualities for appointing teachers was essential for ensuring transparency. ‘We get a lot of complaints regarding appointments of teachers and staff members, which must be stopped in the interest of the nation,’ he said, adding that some vice-chancellors are working as acting officials as the posts have been filled by under-qualified people of their choice.

He said that financial misconducts by the board of trustees and their complete control over the private universities must be stopped in the interest of ensuring quality education.

‘The appointment of teachers and VCs must be done in a transparent way and the teachers must have rules of services for their job securities,’ said Alamgir, explaining the necessity behind amending the Private University Act.

Like the public universities, the private universities should also hold admission tests in clusters.

He said that the UGC recommended that the number of quality research should be increased at the universities by increasing the budget to the sector and developing facilities by forming institutes like the Central Research Laboratory and the National Research Council.

‘What’s alarming is that most of the research conducted by the universities are not up to the mark and are not even contextual,’ he said, adding that accusations of plagiarism were brought against 20 per cent of such research works.

For controlling plagiarism, he said UGC recommended developing software for checking repetitions in both English and Bangla dissertation papers.

The UGC also recommended an increased budget for the universities to ensure quality technical education at the higher education level, making devices and data-packs available to all students at a cheap rate, developing modern ICT-based information centre, developing an online education system and informing parents about students’ performance.

For developing skilled manpower, it recommends introducing internships at the public and private organisations for developing graduates meeting the demands of the job market.

It also recommended increasing access to more disabled students at the universities and protecting quotas for children and grandchildren of the freedom fighters.

The University Council, a platform for the vice-chancellors of the country, president Muhammad Rafiqul Alam and Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain, however, expressed concern over the proposition of empowering the UGC as a monitoring authority.

They said that the UGC should rather increase its capacity for facilitating the universities and work as a mediator between the government and the educational institutions.

‘There are several other existing systems already in place to control corruptions and irregularities, said Rafiq, also vice-chancellor of Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology.

Kabir Hossain blamed the UGC for not supporting the private universities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

He claimed that the board of trustees did not possess all powers at the private universities. ‘Holding central admission tests for all private universities might be helpful as this would ensure that all the universities would receive a balanced intake of students,’ he said.

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