Dhaka University has always been known for providing higher education at a very low cost, but this has changed in the last two decades, when many departments at the university started offering evening courses at high costs. Apparently, these departments are more interested in earning money than in expanding the scope of higher education in the country.
Evening courses are so lucrative in the Business Studies Faculty's nine departments that they enroll nearly twice the number of students in evening courses than students in the regular programmes and offer four professional courses three times a year, according to the office of the Registrar at the university.
Each Masters of Business Administration or MBA (Evening) student at Dhaka University has to pay Tk5,000 as semester enrolment fee, Tk10,000 as development fee, Tk10,000 as registration fee and Tk3,500 for each credit hour.
Depending on the waiver on fees and duration of a course, the total cost for completing MBA might vary from Tk190, 000 to Tk295,000.
Dhaka University's business studies faculty introduced the first-ever evening course in 2001 "to develop skills of professionals", which later witnessed an exponential growth over the past 19 years.
Now, 10 out of 12 institutions and 36 out of 84 departments at the university offer dozens of evening postgraduate, certificate, diploma and other professional courses alongside regular courses.
According to university sources, a total of 3,660 students take admission every year in the evening courses, with each student paying around Tk2 lakh to complete the course.
Recently a Dhaka University committee, formed to evaluate the legitimacy of evening programmes at the university, recommended that the departments temporarily stop enrolling students under these programmes.
The committee found massive irregularities. including certificate business, unethical practices in evaluating answer sheets and negligence in taking classes.
The committee also suggested preparing a central policy to conduct the evening courses if the university wishes to continue them.
The committee also found that some departments are running evening courses despite a teacher shortage, while some departments are offering courses that are not related to their fields of study.
Professor Sadeka Halim, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and a member of the committee, said, "Actually the evening courses are tarnishing the image of the university. Some departments are giving out masters certificates after only 16 to 18 months of starting the class. They run academic activities whimsically."
Requesting anonymity, another member of the committee said that every department must send its regular students' result sheets to the controller's office once a semester has been completed. But the departments send their evening courses' results after completing all the semesters in a course, which contravenes the university's system.
"The departments run evening courses mainly for the money, not for imparting knowledge," he said.
At a meeting of the Dhaka University Senate last year, DU Treasurer Prof Kamal Uddin criticised the evening courses saying, "In the name of evening courses many public universities, including DU, are producing under-qualified graduates."
"A section of teachers of our university are playing an active role in introducing and continuing these sub-standard evening courses for their personal benefits. But they should bear in mind that the university is not a money-making machine," he stated at the meeting.
"They (a section of teachers) are also ruining the image of Dhaka University with the evening courses and making the situation more difficult for the regular students in the job market, he had alleged in June last year.
As per university rules, teachers get 60 per cent of the income while 30 per cent goes to the university fund, with 10 percent being spent on running the courses. However, the university committee alleged that some of the departments do not give 30 per cent of their income to the university authorities.
Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury told The Business Standard on Thursday that some departments have been doing business in the name of higher education. "Education is turned into commodities through evening courses," he said.
"The university is a place for pursuing higher education and creating new knowledge. Dhaka University is not a commercial entity and so business cannot go on in the name of education," he added.
Following President Abdul Hamid's criticism of evening courses on December 11 last year, the University Grants Commission issued directives to all public universities requiring that they stop conducting evening courses on the ground that such courses harm the image and characteristics of the universities.
Academic council meeting over evening courses on Monday
Meanwhile, the academic council of Dhaka University will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the future of evening courses following the evaluation committee's report.
Professor Dr Akhtaruzzaman, Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, told The Business Standard that his administration has always been working towards ensuring an imparting of higher quality education. "We will not tolerate any sub-standard education at Dhaka University," he said.
"We will discuss and try to reach a unanimous decision on evening courses at Monday's academic council meeting. We will do everything in the greater interest of the people of the country and higher education," he said.
Professor Sadeka Halim said, "We have investigated fairly and attached priority to the university's interest and dignity. I hope the teachers will take a decision which is good for the university."