Admission seekers at public universities for the 2020-21 academic session might have to take exams in person as the University Grants Commission (UGC) thinks Bangladesh lacks the capacity to take those tests online using existing software.
The admission tests cannot be held properly using the existing remote proctoring system, and there is also a possibility of faulty evaluation due to network and technical difficulties, UGC experts said at a meeting on Tuesday.
On 17 October, the vice-chancellors of public universities decided to hold online admission tests after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Digital University's VC Munaz Ahmed Noor assured them of providing software of this kind.
But at Tuesday's meeting, Prof Munaz said the universities will only be able to hold their internal exams with this software – not the admission tests.
As the VCs currently have no other software that can do the job, the universities might not have any options left but to hold the admission tests with the physical presence of the students.
However, leaders of the Bangladesh Bishwabidyalaya Parishad (Bangladesh University Council) said they will try to hold the admission tests using both online and in-person methods.
Speaking with The Business Standard, the council's President Prof Mohammad Rafiqul Alam said, "We learned about the software from Prof Munaz. We had relied on him, but now, we are really helpless as his software will not work for online admission tests.
"We will make the final decision in our next meeting, which will hopefully be held soon."
Shahjalal University of Engineering and Technology's Vice-Chancellor Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed said they will discuss the matter in the next internal meeting of VCs.
Meanwhile, many public university heads opined that since they have no practical experience of holding admission tests online, it is impossible for them to make such arrangements now.
They added that it is also not possible to conduct the university admission tests before January next year, given the education minister's earlier declaration that the HSC results will be published on the basis of JSC and SSC results in December 2020, and the universities would require at least one month to make the preparations.
Jahangirnagar University's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Administration) Prof Dr Md Amir Hussain said the university must organise the admission tests, and the students will have to take them in person.
"We have no experience of conducting such tests online," he said.
Reiterating the opinion, Pro VC (Academic) of Dhaka University Prof ASM Maksud Kamal said there is no alternative to holding in-person entrance tests for university admission.
According to the UGC sources, the admission tests will be organised in four phases.
The admission tests of engineering, agricultural and general universities will be held in three phases, while Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University and Chattogram University will hold their entrance tests for admission at a later time.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni on 1 November urged the universities' authorities to organise the admission tests under a combined method.
Supporting the education minister, Prof Mohammad Rafiqul Alam, also the VC of Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology, said, "The country has no atmosphere to allow admission tests to be held through the in-person method."
"The situation will worsen if combined admission tests are not organised."
There are currently 60,000 available seats in 39 public universities across the country.
This year, all 13 lakh HSC examinees will pass for the first time, and the country will witness a 100% pass rate in HSC without any examinations.