THE University Grants Commission’s decision to investigate the financial audit reports of the private universities that have failed to move to permanent campuses in 12 years since the beginning of their operation is welcome. The Private University Act 2010 stipulates that private universities can run on rented campuses for a maximum of 12 years. But at least 24 out of the 99 private universities in operation are reported to have been running in rented buildings for more than 12 years. Many old, reputed private universities are also yet to move to permanent campuses while many are reported to have only partially shifted to permanent campuses. The commission thinks that the failure to relocate to permanent campuses may have been caused by profit sharing issues of the trustees although private universities are approved not as profit-making entities. Such a situation warrants, as a commission member says, that the commission should look into financial audit reports of all private universities.
The Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh, however, seeks to say that the commission does not need to get involved in cross-checking financial audit reports as they submit the reports developed and checked by firms enlisted by the government. The association, which acknowledges that the universities having run for more than 12 years must relocate to permanent campuses, is reported to have asked the commission to facilitate the relocation as many universities face problems in relocation. While the association seeking the commission’s help for relocation might be entertained, if the rule so allows, the commission should obviously and regularly examine financial audit reports of private universities as many of them are reportedly mired in financial irregularities. Permanent campuses, with full facilities for academic and extracurricular activities, are of utmost importance in ensuring quality education. Besides the failure in full relocation to permanent campuses, most private universities are reported not to have the full set of the top three academic and administrative officials — vice-chancellor, pro-vice-chancellor and treasurer — that is required by the law. The commission should also look into the issue.
The University Grants Commission must, therefore, use its authority to ensure that all private universities that have been in operation for more than 12 years relocate to permanent campuses. The commission must also attend to the issue of partial relocation that many private universities have undertaken, running their activities both on their permanent campuses, mostly located on the outskirts of cities, and in rented buildings, mostly in the city. In so doing, the commission must put an oversight mechanism in place to look into financial status of the universities.
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