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4 February, 2020 11:19:20 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 February, 2020 11:23:54 AM

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PPP model for expansion of higher education in Bangladesh

Under the circumstances, the tuition fees of private universities need to be rationalised in accordance with the country's socio-economic conditions
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
PPP model for expansion of higher education in Bangladesh

The expansion and improvement of quality higher education in Bangladesh is a crying need of the day. In view of resource constraints, educationists, teachers, scholars and industrialists opine that the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model in setting up universities in the country can help expand and improve quality of higher education. As the country will become a member of middle-income group by 2021 and a member of rich countries by 2041, Bangladesh needs to invest heavily in primary and secondary education too. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has forecast 8.0 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for Bangladesh for the current fiscal year 2019-2020. This is one of the highest in Asia, as against the government's 8.2 percent projection based on buoyant exports and domestic consumption.
As per a report of the University Grants Commission (UGC), only 0.2 percent of GDP is spent in higher education of the country. An increasing number of students are pursuing higher education in the country with a steady economic development of it over the years. But whereas a total of 9,88,172 candidates passed in the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and its equivalent examinations in 2019 the public universities (except National University, Open University of Bangladesh) have a capacity of enrolling some 50,000 students only a year in honours courses. In the meanwhile, under the Ministry of Textiles & Jute, the National Institute of Textile Engineering and Research (NITER) is the first education institute running as a PPP organistion. It is located in its own campus at Nayarhat, Savar in Dhaka, adjacent to the Dhaka-Aricha highway. And it enjoys excellent communication facilities connecting important cities of the country. To meet the Vision 2021 Goal of the country, the PPP is a national policy initiated to accelerate the sub-sector's growth.

The government of Bangladesh, in August 2010, issued the Policy and Strategy for PPP to facilitate the development of the public infrastructure and services vital for the people of Bangladesh. Meanwhile, experts maintain that students from countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia and north-east India can come to Bangladesh if the country can set up quality universities with standard residential dormitories. Educationists, policy-makers and members of the civil society opine that if the country can set up higher educational institutions maintaining quality, a good number of foreign students can come to Bangladesh. With the size of GDP of Bangladesh is now over 300 billion US dollars, the economy has been growing at the rate of around 8.0 percent, second highest in Asia.

Bangladesh has now dreams of becoming an upper-middleclass economy in 2041, fuelled by vision 2021 and achieving Sustainable Development Growths (SDGs) 2030. A sizable number of leading businessmen of the country over the years have set up some reputed private universities in the country. But it is important that strict monitoring of the trustee board of the private universities is necessary in upgrading curriculums of the higher educational institutions. Some 400 foreign students are pursuing higher education in the country’s private universities at present. This number can easily be raised to 10,000 within five years, provided existing curriculums, faculty members and environment are improved with residential dormitories.

To raise the number of dormitories the government can mull over allocating lands in and around Dhaka city to entrepreneurs willing to setting up residential dormitories that can cater to foreign students. The price of land is too high in Dhaka and the government can give plots in and around Dhaka city to set up dormitories at reasonable costs. The government authorities can give plots at Tejgaon, Keraniganj and Savar to set up international standard dormitories. As per the UGC, students are being enrolled in the country’s 37 public and 86 private universities. A total of 9, 88,172 candidates among 13, 36,629 students cleared the HSC and equivalent tests. Most of these successful students are willing to pursue higher education. To accommodate such a big number of students seeking higher education, the UGC has suggested examining the introduction of double-shift in public universities against the backdrop of acute admission crisis in the country’s higher education institutions.

The University Grants Commission in its latest annual report, in addition, expressed concern at the growing expenditure of higher education in private universities. The country's private universities have a capacity of over 300,000 seats. But against the backdrop of high tuition fees only 120,000 students are admitted to such universities. Although only 120,000 students got themselves admitted to private universities, more than 80 percent of the private universities lack skilled, experienced, qualified teachers of their own, proper environment and their academic atmosphere is poor. Putting pressure on Dhaka city the number of students in public and private universities has been increasing over the years. The UGC reports that out of 117 public and private universities, 12 government and 45 private universities have been set up in Dhaka city and its surrounding areas. This indicates that the distribution of such universities are regionally discriminatory and a barrier to sound and healthy expansion of higher education in the country.

Under the circumstances, the tuition fees of private universities need to be rationalised in accordance with the country's socio-economic conditions. In most of the cases the tuition fees at private universities are higher and sometimes beyond the reach and means of the middle class families. Over 80 private universities have been set up in Dhaka city alone. Most of those private universities are on unhealthy conditions and violating the UGC’s rules. The town planners and the academicians as well suggest the construction of universities with full residential facilities in the divisional headquarters.

Apart from decentralisation of the universities from Dhaka, such measures will also expand wings of the higher education outside the capital. It is laudable that the present government has taken a decision to set up at least one university in each district to expand higher education.

 This will certainly go a long way in evenly spreading university education throughout the country. The private investors willing in setting up universities should follow suit in spreading higher education across the country in the greater interest of the nation.

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics and Vice Principal at Cumilla Women’s Government College, Cumilla.

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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