Any need to open up more foreign campuses?

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Wednesday, 12 June 2019

After closing down foreign university campuses few years back, the government is again contemplating on opening up branches of those in the country. Such a move has raised questions about the wisdom of doing so.

The country's education ministry framed regulations for running foreign university branches or study centres in the country back in 2014. Following approval of the regulations by the government, over 20 foreign universities had applied to open campuses in Bangladesh. But these universities failed to get approval. The regulations are now reportedly being made stricter than before.

According to the newly-framed regulations, foreign universities will be required to have their own premises or leased premises comprising at least 25,000 sq ft and enough space to accommodate classrooms for all students, like the rules applicable to local private universities. Study centres will have to have premises with at least 10,000 sq ft.

While it is hard to get required land in the country, it is also difficult to get qualified teachers. Admission to such universities will be too costly for the students. Only the richer section of the society will be able to afford the high cost of studies.

Mention may be made that there was once a lucrative business of private universities churning out certificates. With the government taking stricter measures, that practice could be curbed somewhat, but not totally halted.

The new regulations suggest that foreign universities can open branches here either on their own or with a local representative or jointly with local or foreign participation. It will be most likely that politically influential quarters will open foreign universities in the name of local representatives, just as they have done in the case of private universities.

The government has already formed a three-member committee to look into the opening of the foreign university branches in the country. The decisions to be taken in this regard will be based on the committee's recommendations, according to reports.

There are more than 50 public universities in the country as well as 104 private ones. With so many universities operating in Bangladesh, many question the wisdom behind opening up doors to the foreign universities?

Analysts, however, say most of the private universities are failing to maintain a proper standard of education and not even adhering to the government rules and regulations. In fact, a recent survey showed that of the 104 private universities, only 20 were actually maintaining minimum standard.

A few years ago the University Grants Commission (UGC) had blacklisted 56 branches of foreign educational institutions and even published the list in the media. While there are no foreign university campuses in the country now, some are still running their programmes here in a clandestine manner.

According to experts, foreign universities must not be opened just for the business of issuing certificates. The education standards of public and private universities of the country are not satisfactory. There are branches of foreign universities in many countries, but it is important to determine what sort of universities are to be opened here.

The Ministry of Education claimed that strict rules and regulations would be imposed in this regard. True, the regulations regarding private universities are strict, but those are not diligently enforced. Owners of these universities are, in most cases, allegedly connected with those at the helm of the country's administration. So, many of them remain beyond the reach of rules and regulations. It is feared that the same might be the case with foreign university branches in the country.

It is true that none will raise question about opening up campuses of world renowned universities here. But lowly-rated foreign universities will do nothing to improve the standard of education. They will simply rake in big bucks in exchange of meting out certificates. As such, the matter must be given serious thought before a final decision is taken.

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