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Private univs turn deaf ear to law

Mohiuddin Alamgir

Majority of private universities seem to have turned a deaf ear to the Private University Act provision which requires them to move to their own campus in seven years after establishment as only 11 of the 52 private universities have done so.
There are now 77 private universities running in the country and 52 of them have completed seven years in operation. Twenty-five of the 77 universities obtained approval in 2012 and 2013.
Many of them are running outer campuses that the law prohibits; some are mired in ownership conflicts, which if not resolved could invite presidential intervention; and only a handful of them are into research, which is mandatory under the law, according to the University Grants Commission report of 2012 published on January 9.
In all such breaches, the commission earlier warned authorities of such universities several times but the owners have yet to resolve the problems.
Commission officials said that the 52 universities were set up as non-profit organisations between 1992 and 2006 and have legal obligations to shift to their own campus.
The Private University Act 2010 stipulates that a university must own a permanent campus on an acre of land in the capital and two acres outside of the capital seven years into its operation. Eleven universities have so far moved to their own campus.
Two universities are in operation on court orders after being banned by the commission. Four are running illegal outer campus and six are mired in a tussle over ownership, the UGC report said.
Fifteen universities spent nothing on research in 2012, according to the report.
The officials said that there were widespread allegations of corruption against the universities. Many of them are running illegal outer campuses and are engaged in ‘selling graduation and post-graduation certificates.’
Private universities are also increasing fees every year, causing sufferings to students.
The commission chair, AK Azad Chowdhury, said that they would take action against universities breaching the law.
Abul Quasem Haider, vice-chairman of the Association of Private Universities Bangladesh, also said that many universities were breaching the law but ‘the government is not enforcing the law as many of the errant universities belong to ruling party men.’
In January 2012, the government gave private universities one more year to move to their own, permanent campuses for the second time.
The government issued the first ultimatum to errant universities in December 2010 saying that they would not be allowed to enrol students from October 2011 onwards if they failed to move to their own campuses.
The universities that had moved to their own campus are the North South University, the University of Science and Technology Chittagong, the Independent University Bangladesh, East West University, BRAC University, International University of Business and Agriculture and Technology, Ahsanullah Science and Technology University, the Premier University, Stamford University, the City University, Bangladesh University of Business and Technology, the International Islami University Chittagong and the BGC Trust University Bangladesh.
UGC officials said that eight universities were building their own campus. Five more have bought land and have their building designs approved but have yet to begin construction.
Six universities have bought land and waiting for Rajuk approval of their designs. Seven universities have bought land but have yet to finalise building designs.
Five of the universities have pieces of land smaller that what they are required to have by the law.
The report said that some still running outer campuses illegally were the International Islami University Chittagong, the BGC Trust University Bangladesh, the Northern University and the Southern University.
The officials said that although the education ministry and the commission had banned academic activities on outer campuses in 2007, Darul Ihsan University, the People’s University, the Prime University, the Asian University of Bangladesh and Atish Dipankar University of Science and Technology were running illegal outer campus.
Atish Dipankar University of Science and Technology, Darul Ihsan University, Dhaka International University, the Prime University, the IBAIS University and the Asian University of Bangladesh are mired in ownership conflicts, the officials said.
The Association of Private Universities vice-chairman, Abul Quasem Haider, said that most of the universities had either bought land or were waiting for Rajuk approval of the buildings.
‘Because of the problems in six or seven universities, people are becoming suspicious about all private universities. We want a resolution to such disputes and the government must take action to discipline these private universities in keeping with the law,’ he said.
‘Some universities are running outer campus under the influence of ruling party men and they are engaged in selling certificates,’ Quasem said. ‘Our association also resents laws being flouted.’
Azad Chowdhury said that they were not giving approval to any new subjects in  universities which have failed to shift to their own campus.
‘Whenever we initiate anything, authorities of universities take legal steps and operate with court orders. Legal procedures are time consuming We are in talks with the government about shifting all private university related cases to one bench of the Appellate Division so that time could be saved,’ he said.

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