The country's private universities are going to introduce a semester (six-month term) system instead of the existing trimester (four-month term) system from 1 July this year to scale up research and extra-curricular activities of teachers and students.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has already sent letters to all the private universities to take necessary preparation for implementing this system and received positive response from them in this regard, said officials concerned.
Most of the universities in the world, including those in the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, India and Sri Lanka, follow the semester system. All the public universities in Bangladesh also follow this system.
However, most of the private universities in the country have been following a trimester system for bagging extra money as the students have to pay for admission and other fees thrice a year.
The private university students do not have any time for research and other extracurricular activities as they remain busy throughout the year under the current system, the officials said.
Md Omar Farooq, director (private university) at UGC, told The Business Standard that the semester system will help the private universities in Bangladesh to revise their undergraduate curricula in favour of Outcome Based Education (OBE) – a system of restructuring the syllabi around contents that directly increase students' skill and knowledge in particular areas.
"The UGC believes that every graduate must be creative, highly skilled, flexible, and innovative. Besides, they have to think critically and possess the entrepreneurial spirit to tackle the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. The OBE system is crucial for producing such graduates and introducing a semester system is necessary for that," he added.
In the trimester system, the students get 14 weeks for completing a term. That means, they need at least 42 weeks for completing the syllabus, so they get only 10 weeks left in a year for anything else.
The semester system will keep the students and teachers busy for only 36 weeks – 18 weeks per term – in a year, and they will be able to spend the remaining 16 weeks for research, seminars, writing papers, relaxation and extracurricular activities.
The UGC will not give permission for new courses or revise the courses if the private universities do not reshuffle their academic activities under the semester system.
Professor Dr Biswajit Chanda, member of UGC, told TBS that the commission is introducing the semester system to bring discipline to the academic activities at the private universities.
"We have talked with the stakeholders of the private universities and they agreed with our initiative," he said.
Professor Dr Atiqul Islam, vice-chancellor of North South University, told TBS that they will follow the UGC's direction. "We have already revised our academic calendar and submitted our syllabus to the UGC," he said.
East West University Vice-chancellor MM Shahidul Hassan, told TBS that under the semester system, they will have to take more students in a single term in order to match the amount of revenue they earned in a trimester system.
"We are not against the semester system, but I urge the policymakers to talk to the stakeholders and education experts before implementing a new system," he said.
He said universities in the USA and the UK have a long summer vacation, but the academics there do not have any vacation in reality during this period as they have to attend conferences or conduct research for PhD.
"But in the private universities of Bangladesh, the notion of providing such extra time for academics for research is not viable as these universities are restricted from offering PhD or MPhil degrees; hence the impetus of academics for knowledge generation is usually restrained," he added.
There are 108 private universities with more than 3.5 lakh students in the country.