Jahangirnagar University (JU) has emerged as the country's most competitive higher education institution during the 2019-20 session – with 191 students competing for a single study place.
During the session, 359,962 students applied for 1,889 study places under six faculties and three institutes of the university. The Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences saw the highest number of applicants – 68,895.
JU was followed by the Noakhali Science and Technology University where 53 students vied for a single placement.
Teachers and students of JU said full residential facilities, the proximity to the capital, low expenses and the opportunity to take the entrance test twice are the reasons why such a large number of students apply for admission.
Professor Dr Md Amir Hussain, pro-vice-chancellor (administration) of the university, told The Business Standard JU is the country's only university offering full residential facilities to all students, including females.
"Another point is that science students have a lot of options here. They can sit admission tests for all units and faculties. Thus their chances of being accepted increases and they try their level best to get into JU," he said.
Dola Das, a master's student of government and politics, told The Business Standard, "My target was to study at a university located in Dhaka or on its outskirts. At Dhaka University, there is only one unit for science applicants, but at JU, science students have a lot more options."
She said she was lucky that she was accepted at JU despite high levels of competition.
She also said the JU campus is actually safe for female students as dormitory facilities are available for both genders.
"This is why many female students apply only to JU," added Dola.
A student can take the entrance test only once at Dhaka University and Jagannath University, which is not the case at JU. Students who fail to get into Dhaka University, Jagannath University and other universities take the JU admission test the following year.
Moreover, students who score less than GPA 4 on their Higher Secondary Certificate examination generally do not apply at Dhaka University and just prepare for the JU admission test. This results in an increased competition for being accepted to study at JU.
A botany student at JU said she could not qualify for Dhaka University admission after the first attempt, and that she did not try for Jagannath University as it has no residential facilities for female students.
"That is why I prepared for JU the next year and was accepted," she said.
JU has 13,230 students and 12,849 use residential facilities. Of them, 7,654 are male and 5,195 female.
Regarding the student acceptance rate based on gender, the university tries to maintain a 50:50 ratio every year.
Rahul M Yousuf, a master's student of the Faculty of Social Sciences, told The Business Standard, "I just prepared for the JU admission test. I was well-informed that a lot of students would apply but many would not prepare well for the test. I just took advantage of that."
"In fact, the cost of living at JU is lower than at any other university in Dhaka. Its residential facilities are attractive. That is why I was interested in getting into JU," he said.
In 2019, some 9.88 lakh students – including 250,000 from the science group – passed the Higher Secondary Certificate and equivalent examinations under 10 education boards. Of them, 47,286 scored GPA 5 while 5.07 lakh got GPA 3.5 and above.
Usually, a student scoring at least GPA 3.5 on the Higher Secondary Certificate is eligible to apply to university.
The number of university applicants has been rising for the last five years, reaching 322,946 in 2018-19 – up from 226,572 in 2015-16.