The sorry state of private universities
Coronavirus has already triggered a great blow to the education sector across the country and educational institutions have been experiencing the shutdown since the start of the pandemic. For nearly one and half a year, this shut down has been taking serious toll on students, teachers, guardians and concerned persons.Virtual education is ongoing, but how long this new normal trend of teaching and learning would tackle the setbackin education, merits precise debate.
Experts are of the opinion that online education has failed to make teaching and learning live up to expectations. Rather it has laid bare our gross failure to ensure equal access of all in education.Undeniably, over the years,Bangladesh has achieved a significant success in education. The number of students receiving education at different levels has increased manifolds. Because of facilitating and subsidizing the secondary and higher secondary level of education, the demand for higher education has increased dramatically.
To meet the demand of higher education, private universities are playing a crucial role. In our country, there are 107 private universities where nearly 5 lakh undergraduate and graduate students are studying. Around 16,000 teachers and 13,000 employees are working here. These universities contribute to expanding higher education in the country. Not only that, they have helped the country by reducing the number of students going abroad to save foreign currency as well as brain drain.
Sadly, these private universities, hit by the pandemic are facing numerous challenges too. Though they are continuing online classes, since the announcement of government,they are undergoing a great economic hardship. Due to uncertain closure induced decline in student enrollment, their collection of tuition fees from the existing students has decreased dramatically which truly poses an economic threat to them. Due to the delay in admission test at public universities, private universities are not finding any scope to manage students which is putting them into struggles. Not only that, dropout rate of private universities has increased amid the uncertain shutdown.
Unfortunately, many guardians who would meet their sons and daughters educationexpensesat these universities have lost their jobs and in some cases many have counted loss in business. Such situation is forcing many students to discontinue theireducation and find the way to help their families.
Certainly, this situation is very hard to be acknowledged by many as to why private universities will fall in financial crisis as students of these institutions come of affluent families. Obviously, there are a few number of private universities in the country where access to higher education is limited only for the students coming of the families of high officials and affluent businessmen. But in general, the data shows that the students from middle class, even lower middle class are entering private universities for higher study.
It is obvious that the most vulnerable are the teachers and staffsworking at private universities as they are undergoing unpaid and in many cases ill paid as long as the pandemic engulfs us. But we cannot deny that there are a few universities who have strong financial base enough to support their teachers and staffs.
Amid such uncertainty of private universities,the proposal of imposing 15% tax on the private universities would be a double blow for them with many likely to face the verge of extinction. Undoubtedly, if this proposal is approved in the budget 2021-2022, all the stakeholders including students and their guardians and the concerned will bear the heavy brunt of it.
Many education experts opine that this pandemic has made many private universities vulnerable. It has been a challenge for them to survive providing teachers and staffsalariesalong with a huge burden of house rent. They claim that some newly-approved universities may face permanent closure for enduring the tax. According to university owners' association, the proposed tax is contradictory to the Private University Act, 2010.
However, the sitting government is doing many things to ensure quality education for the nation. With Prime minister Sheikh Hasina'sprudent leadership, the country has achieved many acclamations in the international arena.She is committed to upholdour education to the global standard. As a part of putting emphasison the knowledge of science and technology, a number of science and technology universities have been established by this government. On top of that, to accelerate the desirous outcome in education, private investment in higher education has been highly encouraged.
But it is unfortunate that universities have not retained their past glories, rather teachers' recruitment using unfair means, false research, examination fraud, and fake degrees have been rampant. In recent years, it is common to hear from media reports that vice chancellors of majority of the universities remain associated with many irregularities but hardly have they got punishment except disposal from the deputed post. Such unexpected activities badly affect our achievement in higher education.
To promote a quality higher education, there is no alternative to make competitive education atmosphere. Allowing private universities to go with public ones undoubtedly, maximizes our outcomes in the field of education. To ensure sustainable education, we hardly have any scope to overlookthe sorry state of private universities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The writer is a teacher, Prime University and a research scholar, IBS