THE continuation of evening courses in public universities with the University Grants Commission standing against it is worrying. The commission sent a 13-point instruction, seeking an early end to evening courses, to the 46 public universities on December 11, 2019. Public universities, however, have not so far been able to take any decisive action to end the offering of evening courses which has for long been demanded by students, teachers and educationalists as these courses harm regular activities of public universities. It is, however, welcome that four public universities — University of Dhaka, University of Rajshahi, Jagannath University and Comilla University — have set up committees to consider the rationality of evening courses. The prime minister, meanwhile on Wednesday, iterated in the parliament what the president, who termed such courses ‘business ventures’, said on December 9, 2019 that the commission and public university authorities should work together to end evening courses. The commission in its instructions has rightly observed that evening courses are irrelevant and contradictory to the basic principles that underlie the concept of a public university. Evening courses, as educationalists say, are mere money-making programmes run at the expense of teachers’ primary responsibilities regarding regular courses and knowledge creation.
The University of Dhaka first introduced evening courses in 2001, with other public universities soon following suit, to add to the income of the universities, but statistics show that only a tenth of the income from the courses go into the university accounts. The consequences of the evening courses have been a gradual decrease in the quality of education in public universities as teachers, as well as some members on the administrative staff, are more interested in evening courses that fetch more money. They give priority to such courses, neglecting their primary responsibilities of teaching regular students and doing research. It is, therefore, imperative that the public universities should comply with the commission instructions, which have also asked the universities not to run other income-generating activities. But the government and the commission should also see if the allocated budget of the universities adequately covers their expenses in view of the growing activities of the universities and an increasing number of students. It has for long been emphasised by educationalists that most of the allocated budget of public universities is spent on running the usual affairs and a little is left for education and research. While the commission should increase the allocation for the universities, it remains to be an issue too for both the commission and the universities to look into if corruption and irregularities gobble up, as is widely alleged, any portion of the budget and stop such corruption.
In such a situation, the University Grants Commission must mount pressure on public universities to immediately stop offering evening courses and to focus solely on the teaching of regular students and research. The government must also increase allocation for the universities so that they could smoothly run their affairs. The universities and the commission must also work together to stop any corruption that may have financially burdened the universities.
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