A vice-chancellor, pro-vice-chancellor and treasurer are indispensable for administering a university, but not all private universities in the country have all three of them. The picture is bleak. Only nine of the 91 private universities in the country are running with all such top officials in place.
Among the rest of the private universities, 73 have vice-chancellors, 22 have pro-vice-chancellors and 42 have treasurers, according to the 45th annual report of the Bangladesh University Grants Commission (UGC)
But this is not the only shortcoming of the private universities. The recent UGC report points out many other irregularities in private universities.
According to the Private University Act 2010, a private university must have at least six departments. But 13 of the 91 operating private universities lack the required minimum number of departments.
Meanwhile, most private universities appear reluctant to move their campuses from rented buildings to permanent premises of their own.
According to the UGC report, only 21 private universities are conducting their academic activities on permanent campuses, while 18 private universities are operating on partially developed permanent campuses. Five universities are setting up their own campuses, while seven others have bought land but have taken no initiative to construct permanent campuses. The rest of the universities have continued to conduct academic activities in rented buildings.
UGC officials have noted that the deadline for private universities to shift to permanent campuses ended on 31 December 2017. But the university authorities have continued to operate through exercising an influence on some officials of the education ministry and the UGC and so managed to skirt around the deadline.
Besides, the average teacher-student ratio in private universities is 1:23. But the teacher-student ratio in some universities is very high, which affects the quality of education.
The teacher-student ratio at University of Science and Technology Chittagong is 1:85, at University of Information Technology and Sciences it is 1:66, at European University of Bangladesh it is 1:51, at Fareast International University it is 1:40 and at First Capital University of Bangladesh the ratio is 1:43.
The irregularities in the universities are reflected in the fall in the number of foreign students, with the figures declining from 1,977 in 2017 to 1,386 in 2018 in these universities.
A total of 48 universities sent their financial audit reports to the UGC in 2018. But only 14 of them followed the procedure of the Private University Financial Report.
In its report, the UGC said the private universities are reluctant to send their audit reports, but it is necessary for ensuring transparency in their activities.
'Education ministry must act to implement regulation'
The country's educationists have held the Education Ministry and the UGC responsible for the continued disarray in the private universities.
In the view of the noted intellectual and Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury, "Most private universities aim only at business studies instead of dissemination of knowledge. Students are charged excessively for admission and other academic activities. But this is not justifiable as only a small portion of this is spent on teaching, infrastructure development and extracurricular activities."
"A good number of universities are operating without paying any heed to government rules. How do the universities continue to operate when the authorities concerned are fully aware of the situation?" he asked.
Former vice-chancellor of the Dhaka University Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique said the Education Ministry should take steps if private universities violate rules.
"We cannot give such educational institutions the responsibility of preparing our students for the future. They are operating just to make a profit. The government should closely monitor the private universities," he said.
Dr Fakhrul Islam, director, private university division of the UGC, told The Business Standard that the UGC had recommended that the ministry take stern action against the universities which did not comply with the Private University Act 2010.
He said, "We can do nothing but place recommendations. It is the ministry's job to take action against universities indulging in irregularities."
"We will definitely implement the Education Ministry's order if it takes any decision against the universities which violate regulations," he added.
Md Abdullah Al Hasan Chowdhury, Additional Secretary (Secondary and Higher Education Division) of the Education Ministry, told The Business Standard, "We have just received the UGC's report. We will take an initiative following the UGC's recommendation on ensuring a world standard higher education in the country."