THE University Grants Commission and the education ministry are at loggerheads over permission for the operation of study centres of foreign universities in Bangladesh. The commission believes that ‘the so-called study centres’, run by businesses for years, should be given permission only after their compliance with the laws, rules and regulations while the education secretary says that the ministry in February conditionally allowed a study centre to run and is considering applications of several such study centres for permission after having been convinced about the performances that the centres have done and the documents that they have provided. The commission is reported to have heard of the ministry’s permission for the study centre of an Australia-based institution but not to have received the permission letter from the ministry. What is worrying in all this is the ministry’s somewhat overstepping its bounds into those of the commission. The ministry’s move also appears, as the commission says, unethical as the ministry is reviewing the conditions that such centres need to comply with to make the centres more accountable and to improve on the governance and management of educational institutions.
With a few dozen study centres, said to have affiliation with foreign universities, having been in operation since the 1990s offering courses in business management, computer science and law, the commission made a list of such centres and, purportedly under pressure from the quarters concerned, the Private University Act 2010 included a provision for the operation of such centres under a set of rules. When rules were being framed in 2014, more than a dozen such centres sought permission but the ministry in 2016 decided to amend the rules, again purportedly, under pressure from private universities. The commission, however, recommended permission for a few study centres, with private universities opposing the move. The education ministry in January 2020 decided to amend the rules to apply conditions of mandatory permanent campuses, academic councils and the relevant universities to be among top 500 in global ranking for running study centres. The commission seeks to say that it would not consider such centres for permission without permission for the courses that they would offer. While the tussle between the commission and the ministry is not welcome at all, it is more than welcome that the ministry is reviewing the rules for the permission of study centres of foreign universities.
Foreign universities could be allowed to offer their full educational services in Bangladesh, but it would be wise for the government not to allow them to run the so-called study centres, which stand chances to become certificate vendors without adding any value or making any contribution to the education sector. The government must, in such a situation, allow foreign universities to offer their services the same way private universities need to do —to go by the laws and comply with all the provisions so that the field remains level for all such private entities to play.
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