Happy days are apparently over for the country’s mushrooming private universities with around 57 per cent of the seats remaining vacant due to high tuition fees, but failing to ensure quality education.
Statistics available at the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex body to supervise country’s higher educational institutions, show that 57 per cent seats remained vacant at the private universities in 2018.UGC data show that a total of 122,283 students—-1,88,630 in graduation level and 95,638 in Masters level—-were enrolled against 2,84,268 vacant seats in 91 private universities in 2018.
Some 52 per cent seats remained vacant at the graduation level with 68 per cent seats in Masters level at these institutions, according to the UGC figures.
Academics said the private universities are failing to attract students mainly due to high tuition fees and lack of residential facilities, suitable campus and absence of skilled teachers resulting in poor education quality.
They appealed to the government to formulate a comprehensive policy for the private universities to ensure proper facilities in these institutions.
Talking to the Daily Sun, former Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof. AAMS Arefin Siddique said, “Poor academic quality, high tuition fees and lack of residential facility are the key reasons for the decline in the number of students at private universities.”
“They (private universities) charge high tuition fees without considering the financial capability of the students while the different facilities like own campus and residential facilities are absence at most of the private universities,” he observed.Prof Siddique proposed that the government should restructure the tuition fees of the private universities considering the socio-economical conditions of the majority students and ensuring quality education to overcome the current siatuation.
“Most of the students come from the poor and middle-class family and sinjce they cannot afford the high tuition fees, they are losing interest in getting enrolled in the private universities,” he added. Even the renowned private universities like the North South University (NSU), American International University of Bangladesh (AIUB), Independent University IUB), United International University (UIU) and the Brac University failed to ensure hundred percent enrollment in 2018.
UGC data shows that in 2018, NSU could enrol 5,714 students for graduate and post-graduate programmes against its total seat capacity of 9,393, Brac university got 3664 students against 9,490 seats, the AIUB got 3,809 students against 6,120 seats, East West University got 3417 students against 6,630 seats, Asa university got only 791 students against 2450 seats, UIU got 4140 against 14119 seats, IUB got 2,360 students against 3,905 seats, Dhaka International University got 2,010 students against 6510 seats, The Millennium University got 141 students against 1275 seats, Asian University of Bangladesh got only 3,235 against 29,800 seat capacity, Central Women’s University got only 226 students against 3,000 seats, Bangladesh Islami University got 1,227 students against 3000 seats, Uttara University got 3,189 students against 9,000 seats and the University of South Asia got 698 students against the capacity of 3270 seats.
Prof. M. M. Shahidul Hassan, Vice-chancellor of East West University, told Daily Sun that “We are enrolling a fixed number of students every year at our university to ensure quality education.”
Blaming the high tuition fees for the poor students at renowned private universities, the educationist said: “Most of the students are coming from the middle-class families and they cannot afford the cost of the education at these varsities.”
Prof Hassan also said, “We should pay attention to proper monitoring system at our universities like the foreign universities for ensuring the quality of education in the country.”
A UGC official said when the country’s top-ranked private universities are failing to ensure hundred percent enrollment every year, the condition of the low-ranked universities is deteriorating due crisis in getting students.
“The low-quality private universities are surviving by running different easy going courses. Students are admitting there for only getting certificates,” the official said.
However, according to the latest UGC report, the number of total students increased slightly at the private universities as the number of total students was 3,61,792 in 2018 at 91 private universities against 3,54,333 students in the previous year.
UGC said the total number of students increased at the universities in 2018 but the rate of increase was very low.