Dhaka University completes century
An icon of higher seat of learning with rich legacy steps into second century
The Dhaka University, country's premier seat of higher studies, also regarded as the main inspiration behind the creation of the independent Bangladesh and the historical hub of political, cultural and educational movements in the country, has stepped into the second century of its existence following its establishment in 1921.
Despite several lacking and criticism, the university is still an icon to ensure higher studies and research. It has its rich legacy to shape the country's history and it remains as a leading institution contributing to the development in almost all the aspects of the country.
It has played a vital role in the country's history. Its students and teachers sacrificed their lives in the 1952 language movement, 1962 education movement, 1969 mass upsurge and during the 1971 Liberation War and anti-autocracy movement in 1990.
Over the last nine decades, DU has produced many scholars, presidents, prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, political leaders, scientists, teachers, and millions of graduates. They have contributed in various important sectors at home and abroad.
At the beginning of its creation, DU faced various adversities. The process of establishing the University of Dhaka began in the second decade of the 20th century with the purpose of developing independent nationhood during the British colonial rule. The university is the result of the protests of the people of East Bengal against the unjust decision of the then rulers in British India. The Nathan Committee's positive report was published in 1913 and was approved in December of that year.
DU has determined the free opportunities and course of non-communal intellectual development in the development of nationalism of the people of East Bengal.
DU has played a pioneering role in the social, political, and cultural life of the Bengalis. The university is deeply involved in everything that has been achieved at the national level. The university has played a direct leadership role in establishing a separate nation-state.
The campus of DU has served as the foundation of awakening in every moment of national need. The students and teachers of DU were the pioneers in every
movement. The university which has been shining as a beacon of light for decades has successfully completed its 100th year.
The recognition of Bangla as the state language created a glorious history. This is a rare instance in the history of the world. The origin, spread, and success of this successful movement were centred on DU. The formation of the Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad and the movement behind its success were all centred on DU. The University of Dhaka can be termed as 'the birthplace' of the independence movement and the foothold of its success.
Undoubtedly, DU has done a lot of good research, innovation, and creative work in the last 99 years. In this case, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the world-famous Scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, Muhammad Shahidullah, FC Turner, W Jenkins, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Hara Prasad Shastri, Political Scientist and National Professor Abdur Razzak, Tajuddin Ahmad, Dr Ahmed Sharif, Sardar Fazlul Karim, Ahmed Sofa, Poet Shamsur Rahman, Humayun Azad, Muhammad Yunus, Dr Anisuzzaman, Dr Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, and many other outstanding researchers-scholars and poets-writers can be named.
Research centres and budget: The research centre is one of the affiliates of the university. Although there are 56 research bureau and centres at DU, it goes without saying that there is no basic research. None of them has enough manpower and office. It's important for DU to increase its quality through teachers engaging in more research.
The university is losing its place in the world rankings due to the lack of basic research in these centres for improving the quality of the higher education system as well as formal education. According to the 2019-20 fiscal year, out of the budget of Tk 810 crore, only Tk 16 crores has been allocated to research, which is only 2 per cent of the non-development budget.
Education advancements: Sustainable steps need to be taken to ensure the quality of higher education. In addition, the achievement of seven out of 17 of the sustainable development goals depends directly or indirectly on the education sector. Hopefully DU will play a leading role in establishing a developed and prosperous Bangladesh.
Accommodation at DU: The accommodation crisis at DU, the country's leading institution for higher studies, has been more acute in recent years, seriously hampering academic activities. At present, the university consists of 13 faculties, 83 departments, 12 institutes, 20 residential halls, and three hostels.
There are resources and budget constraints, but our first priority should be allocating our resources for the betterment of our students. Only legal students should be allowed to stay at the halls as per the rules of dormitories.
DU publications: According to the bureau, the university has published only 180 books in the 99 years since its establishment in 1921. DU publication's dismal condition is nothing new, as the university had published only three books last year, two in 2018, one in 2017, four in 2016, and none in 2015 and 2014, according to the catalogue of DU Publications Bureau. This sad situation indicates the waning impact of the university.
University ranking: DU's ranking among universities around the world is going down every year. This is mainly due to inadequate academic, inadequate budgets for research, and research initiatives.
Foreign students: DU is not getting foreign students as expected, as the centennial of its founding approaches. Currently, the university has 49 foreign students studying in different departments and institutes. The absence of standard accommodation and complex admission system along with other limitations are the key hurdles to attract overseas students.
Learning environment: A proper environment to study and a place to sleep should be ensured first. The words 'learning environment' are much broader in the university. In this case, it includes the living environment, the learning environment on campus and with it the safety of the student.
The environment of the university halls is unhealthy. Eight people have to stay in a room with four seats. It goes without saying that there is no reading environment in the room. Many students spend the first two years on the porch or floor of a mosque. Many meritorious students have lost interest due to this environment.
DUCSU: After nearly three decades, the long-awaited Dhaka University Central Students' Union (DUCSU) election is also a milestone in the democratic tradition. For better or for worse and the credit for it goes to those involved in the process, including the vice-chancellor.
The closure of its activities for a long time also had an adverse effect on the overall environment of the university. As DUCSU helps the students nurture, through a democratic process and bargain with the authorities for their due rights.
Commemorating the centenary, the university will construct a memorial monument, Monument of Infinity Reflecting Vastness, Inclusiveness and Magnanimity, at the Mal Chattar on the campus.
On the other hand, the university has planned to redesign its curriculum to include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to mark the centenary. Besides, to strengthen the field of practical and basic research and produce skilled human resources, it has adopted some 255 research projects under the supervision of different departments, research centres and institutions. At the same time, several departments and institutes will publish more than fifty publications focusing on their respective academic disciplines under their own management.
On the grand function, the university will publish a chronicle based on the history of the university which will include the significant events that took place since 1921 till 2021. Another book titled, 'The University of Dhaka and the Making and Shaping of Bangladesh' will be published on the occasion.
Other than this, a book consisting six volumes will be published on the themes - the History of the University of Dhaka and Higher Education in Bangladesh, Sciences for Society, Arts, Literature and Culture, Business for Sustainability, Social Sciences for Life and Living and Future of Higher Education.
However, the university started its academic activities with 12 departments, 3 faculties, 60 teachers, 877 students, and 3 residential halls on about 600 acres of land. At present, the numbers have increased so many times.
Now, the university consists of 13 Faculties, 83 Departments, 16 Institutes, 55 Research Centres, 19 halls and 4 hostels. The number of students and teachers has risen to about 39,496 and 2,156 respectively.
The main purpose of the university was to create new areas of knowledge, and disseminate this knowledge to society through its students. Since its inception, the university has a distinct character of having distinguished scholars as faculties who have enriched the global pool of knowledge by making notable contributions to the fields of teaching and research.
This highest echelon of academic excellence of the country has played a vital role many times in the national history and in all the critical junctures in making of this nation.
The teachers and students of this university played central role and sacrificed their lives in the Language Movement of 1952 that ultimately culminated in the recognition of Bangla as the State Language. They played vital roles in 1969 mass upsurge, laid their lives down for the independence of the country in 1971 and took part in the anti-autocracy movement in 1990.
Vice Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman, said the centenary of the establishment of Dhaka University, the heart of education and culture and the symbol and nurture of national aspirations, has come to an end.
"Our beloved educational institution has passed a hundred years with the glory of acquiring and distributing knowledge. We are moving forward with the objective of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by meeting the multifaceted global challenges in the Covid-19 epidemic situation, building a university suitable for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and building skilled human resources. Dhaka University has special initiatives and educational activities to achieve 'SDG 2030' and to implement 'Vision-2041,'" Prof Akhtaruzzaman added.
Stressing over the significance of Dhaka University Central Students' Union (DUCSU), the Vice Chancellor said, "Nearly three decades later, the DUCSU and Hall Union elections on March 11 in 2019 provided an opportunity to create new leadership for the nation. In order to maintain its continuity, it is very important to achieve national excellence in the practice of democratic customs and values along with the dedicated cooperation of all quarters."
Regarding the Master Plan of the university, he said they took the plan with the aim of improving the quality of education and environment and expanding the scope of research, adding that international standards of education and research have been taken into consideration in that case.
He further said, "There are plans to develop physical infrastructure, but at the heart of this master plan is the modernization of various educational research collaborative elements, including the development of laboratories, libraries, environmental nature, examination halls and classrooms."
Further uttering the achievements of the university, Prof Akhtaruzzaman said, "With the special direction of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 'Bangabandhu Overseas Scholarship' has been re-introduced for higher education abroad for the teachers under governmental fund."
For the first time, all the students of the university have been brought under health insurance. As a result, as responsible graduates, they will be able to acquire the skills to play a leading role in the overall development of the society and the country, including their own health care.
Dhaka University has always led in all the movements and struggles of the masses including the great state language movement and the glorious Liberation War. It has made a unique contribution to the establishment of the nation and service to the country, he added.
Pro VC (Administration) Prof Muhammad Samad, said the university has been constantly shedding light on the country by creating and distributing new knowledge through relentless practice and research in all the spheres of life.
Prof Samad said, "Dhaka University is the abode of famous politicians, poets, writers, artists, journalists, businessmen, industrialists and successful people of almost all professions. Since its inception, the university has created an educated middle class whose intelligence accelerates the political, socio-economic and cultural emancipation of the people of the region."
"Standing on the threshold of the centenary, we have to carry the tradition of knowledge, research, political and cultural heritage. We have already begun to think anew about our subjects, curriculum, teaching, research and new innovations in terms of the advancement of science and technology and the needs of the age," the Pro VC added.
He also mentioned some other issues such as introducing unplanned Honours and Masters courses in some department-institutes, unplanned department-institute opened despite space crisis in academic buildings, and to teach Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit, Pali and Buddhist Studies in Bengali instead of the native languages.
Prof Samad said their curriculum demands a review of current society's needs, relevance, and opportunities and possibilities for entry into the workplace. In addition, he also criticized the evening courses including unplanned Honours and Masters.
He remarked that the only way to overcome this is through the cooperative liberal attitude, courageous initiative of the university including the teacher's knowledge, professional craftsmanship, interest in research, human qualities and moral strength.
Mahmudur Rahman Manna, former DUCSU Vice President, said although the university is autonomous, all the stages in the university have been put under government control.
"Despite these chains, the students of this university will break all the shackles to build a democratic and knowledge-based educational institution," Manna added.
However, he pleaded that no like anti-government former student leaders of this university have not been invited in the centenary programme.
Nurul Haque Nur, Member Secretary of Gana Odhikar Parishad and immediate past DUCSU VP, said, "Bangladesh would not be created if there was not a university like Dhaka University. This university played the paramount role in all the historic movements of the people of this region and in overcoming all the national crises at many points of the time of our history."
"It also contributed to building a political background in the country. It is now seen that almost all of the successful people in all the sectors including academic and administrative in the country are from this university," Nur added.
He urged the university administration to take measures to keep the educational and political environment peaceful, adding that the DUCSU election is a must for this.
Al-Nahean Khan Joy, President of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), said the contribution of this university in building the country is undeniable.
"Not only the Liberation War but also in all the rational movements, this university including student organizations such as Bangladesh Chhatra League played the utmost role," Joy added.
He also asked the concerned authorities to take steps to continue the DUCSU election.
Lekhak Bhattacharjee, General Secretary of this organization, said, "We are observing the Mujib Centenary and golden jubilee of the independence of the country now. At that moment, the celebration of the hundredth founding anniversary of the highest academic institution which played the utmost role in all the national achievements added a new dimension."
Echoing the same as Joy, he further said, "We expect the continuity of the DUCSU poll to practice democratic values as it was held breaking the stagnation of around twenty-eight years in 2019."
Rakibul Islam Rakib, Convener of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, also expressed the same regarding DUCSU poll.
Bin Yamin Mollah, President of Bangladesh Students' Right Council, said the glory the university held in the past has faded in the recent time. Although there are lots of complaints against the university, it is still the torch bearer and a breeding ground of human resources in the country.
Regarding the DUCSU poll, he said the centenary programme is incomplete without students' representatives, adding, "I am appealing to our chancellor and President Abdul Hamid to announce the date of next DUCSU election in his speech."