Authorities of private universities are worried that the education ministry's announcement for keeping all universities shut and postponing exams until 24 May will seriously hamper their academic activities.
They say complying with this directive will hamper academic activities to a great extent as there will be delays in holding the final exams.
Some private universities are holding semester exams now and some planned to hold the semester final exams in April – before the summer semester begins in May, but now these exams cannot be held.
The vice-chancellors of these universities say stopping the exams now would result in losses of both time and money for them.
When contacted, Professor Chowdhury Mofizur Rahman, vice-chancellor of the United International University, told The Business Standard that there is no logic to stopping ongoing exams and such a move will create a lot of complications in running academic activities.
"The ministry directive came at a time when we were holding online exams smoothly. If ongoing exams are stopped, we will lose both money and time," he added.
Professor Atiqul Islam, vice-chancellor of North South University, said they had a plan to hold semester final exams from the last week of April as summer semester would start in May. But this will now be delayed due to the education minister's directive, he said.
"We are holding online classes. We set up the whole system to hold online examinations. Now we have to hold in-person tests in line with health guidelines. It will be difficult for us," he explained.
Meanwhile, a group of private university students are preparing to launch protests – like the pupils of the National University and the seven colleges affiliated with Dhaka University – demanding exams be held online.
Wishing anonymity, a student of a reputed private university said students are waiting for official notifications both from the government and the UGC in this regard.
When contacted, Omar Farukh, director for Private University Division at the University Grants Commission (UGC), told TBS that private universities had not been informed officially yet to implement the education minister's directive.
"We will issue a notice on Sunday [28 February] in this regard. Every university must follow that," he said.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, private universities held semester final exams online in May and December last year complying with a UGC directive.
They said they had not faced any problem in holding exams online even though it was the first time they had done so. They also said online exams had saved private university students from facing session jams.
There are 106 private universities in the country where about three lakh students study.
Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University, said private universities are holding examinations efficiently, but the unplanned announcement of the education minister will severely hamper their academic activities.
"The education ministry should have made the decision after consulting with universities. Students will be impacted badly if the ongoing exams are stopped," he said.
On 7 May last year, the UGC permitted private universities to hold online examinations in order to complete the ongoing semester. At the time, 70% of the semester syllabus had already been completed with at least 60% student attendance.
Later on 24 October, the commission allowed private universities to hold practical tests under special considerations.
Apart from this, the UGC also asked private universities to follow 14 guidelines to run academic activities online.
On 16 March last year, the education ministry issued a press release announcing the government's decision to keep all educational institutions and coaching centres closed from 18 to 31 March considering students' safety amid the global pandemic.
The closure was later extended several times and is still in force.