No move must harm autonomy of public universities

Published: 00:00, Sep 07,2019 | Updated: 23:36, Sep 06,2019


PUBLIC university teachers have started standing up against the University Grants Commission’s move for a uniform policy on teacher recruitment and their promotion, prepared in 2017 but put into its final form on August 25 this year. About 300 teachers of different public universities, banded together as Bangladesh Shikkhak Forum, held protests on the campus of the University of Dhaka on Thursday. Teacher of other public universities also held protests on their respective campuses against the commission’s move. The commission’s move, if implemented, could amount to a ploy to interfere with the autonomy of public universities, which in many ways could bring about evil in the academic function and administration of the universities, many of which have already been faced with problems. Public universities, as autonomous institutions of higher learning, are expected to work in their functions, both academic — which may include the curriculum, the syllabus, the way of teaching, student assessment methods and even how teachers should select their students during admission — and administrative — which may include the criteria for teacher recruitment, their promotion and punishment in cases of aberration and the need for teachers — on their own. Any interference in the processes could amount to an affront to the autonomy of the universities.

The University Grants Commission, which itself is an autonomous body, is expected to do what it is mandated to do — to allocate funds for the universities, to facilitate the development of higher educational system with aims to upgrade the quality of teaching and learning at the tertiary level, to encourage innovative research and development and to improve governance issue at the universities. The commission is also responsible for formulating the higher education policy and working on quality assurance to meet international standards. But for all such issues, the commission should in no way interfere with the academic and administrative functions of public universities. In view of this, the government’s efforts for the introduction of a uniform admission process for all public universities, which is yet to be implemented though, are not acceptable. Still there are a few issues for both the universities and the commission to attend to on their own. The protests at hand question the commission’s move for the contractual appointment of Bangladeshi teachers in public universities who work in universities in other countries. A move such as this suggests that this is an issue that the universities have largely ignored. Why would Bangladeshi teachers still working in public universities here work simultaneously in universities in other countries? This appears to be an unethical, and unlawful, issue which the universities themselves should have adequately dealt with much before the issue rolled into the commission’s hand. The commission should, remaining within its mandated authority, have warned and even recommended punitive measures against public universities that behaved wrongly in this issue.

But such a proposition, which can be effectively dealt with in other ways, should not get the University Grants Commission into the academic and administrative functions of public universities and harm their autonomy. And this relates to not only the case of teacher recruitment but also all other issues that, effectively maintained, make public universities autonomous.

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