As the Covid-19 outbreak continues in Bangladesh, Dhaka University authorities have decided to conduct entrance tests to undergraduate courses in divisional cities in order to avoid mass gathering of aspirants in the capital.
Academics have welcomed the move but say that steps must be taken in advance to avoid paper leaks and cheating in the exams.
Unlike other public universities, DU authorities will conduct entrance exams to science, arts, and business studies streams from next year.
"It's a good decision to conduct a division-wise entry test amid Covid. But the main concern is to ensure steps to avoid question paper leaks," Emeritus Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury.
DU authorities, however, say that they will seek help from the national security forces to ensure fair conduct of exams.
"We will set up exams centres at universities or renowned colleges in divisions across the country. Our deans will oversee the exams. We will seek the help of the home ministry, police and intelligence agencies to ensure fair and cheating-free exams," Prof Maksud Kamal, DU's Pro-Vice-Chancellor (education), told UNB.
Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman added: "We have plans and the deans concerned will take necessary steps to take division-wise entry tests."
The University authorities have also slashed test marks to 100 from 200. The exam dates will be announced after the publication of Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exam results. The decision will be finalised after an approval from the university's academic council.
While students generally opt for public universities when it comes to higher education, the number of seats is much lower than that of admission seekers. Of the 46 public universities, excluding National University, Open University and medical universities, 39 have the capacity of enrolling around 65,000 first-year students.
This year, confusion surrounding the admission tests emerged after the government decided to award grades to an estimated 13.5 lakh HSC students without holding the final exams
amid the pandemic. Instead of the exams, candidates would be evaluated on their results in previous exams like the Junior School Certificate and SSC.
UGC directives over online education
On May 7, the University Grants Commission (UGC) published a guideline on conducting courses online in light of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic, including teaching, taking exams, their assessment as well as admission for private universities.
Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh reported 1,666 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours until early Sunday, pushing the country's infection tally to 477,545.
The health authority also recorded 31 more deaths from the disease during that time, bringing the fatalities to 6,838.
The mortality rate, however, is still 1.43%, said the Directorate General of Health Services.
Bangladesh is now the 26th worst-hit country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8. The infection number reached the 300,000-mark on August 26. The first death was reported on March 18, and the death toll exceeded 6,000 on November 4.