Academic and administrative activities are being hampered at many private universities as key posts, including vice-chancellor (VC), pro-vice chancellor and treasurer, are lying vacant for long time.
Educationists said the posts of vice-chancellor (VC), pro-vice chancellor and treasurer are important to ensure the proper functioning of universities and a higher educational institution can never be operated smoothly in the absence of these key persons.According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), all three top vital posts—VC, Pro-VC and Treasurer—are lying vacant at 13 private universities.
The 13 institutions are Gono Biswabidyalay, Sylhet International University, Bangladesh Islami University, Exim Bank Agricultural University, Britannia University, Bangladesh Army University of Science and Technology in Syedpur, Bangladesh Army University of Engineering and Technology in Natore, Bangladesh Army International University of Science and Technology in Cumilla, Varendra University, Royal University of Dhaka, South East University, Asian University of Bangladesh, and The International University of Scholars.
As per section 29 (1) of the Private Universities Act-2010, it is mandatory for the private universities to put persons in the top posts like the VC, pro-VC, treasurer, registrar, dean, exam controller and proctor on a permanent basis to ensure the smooth running of their administrative and academic activities.
UGC data show that a total of 95 private universities are now running academic activities across the country. But only 11 universities have officials in the three key posts (VC, Pro-VC and Treasurer).
Besides, the post of VC is lying vacant at 22 private universities; the post of Pro-VC is lying vacant at 73 universities and post of treasures is vacant in 53 universities.
Educationists and education ministry officials said questions have been raised about the quality of education being provided by these higher educational institutions.There are allegations that the authorities of these private varsities are keeping the key posts vacant only to save money, ignoring the interest of their academic activities.
Former VC of Dhaka University Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique told the daily sun that no university can duly function without a vice-chancellor because the person is the chief executive of a university.
Prof Siddique also called upon the education ministry to appoint qualified persons to the vacant posts of the private varsities quickly so that the institutions can run properly and provide quality education to the students.
The VC also said there is a scarcity of competent professionals who can take up top leadership roles at universities. “In many cases, the board of trustees doesn’t find candidates who would be loyal to them,” he added.
The Private University Act-2010 makes it mandatory for a university to recommend names to the president, also the chancellor of public and private universities, to pick one for the post of VC.
The law does not cover the appointments of acting VC, pro-VC and treasurer. But, many of the privately run institutions are functioning through appointing acting officials in key posts in violation of the law.
However, UGC officials say the universities are allowed to be run by acting VCs only when the VC’s tenure expires. On the expiry of the VC’s tenure, a university makes a teacher acting VC for an interim period until the next VC is appointed.
Getting the chancellor’s approval through the education ministry for the appointment of a VC should not take more than a month, said a UGC official, wishing not to be named.
But since the law does not stipulate any specific time limit, some universities take advantage of it and keep the acting VCs in their posts for a longer period of time, while others simply do not follow any rules, added the official.
Educationists and private university teachers said the board of trustees, in many cases, is reluctant to appoint vice-chancellor and pro-vice-chancellor to make sure it has control over the university administration.
This has been going on for too long with the education ministry and the UGC allegedly showing indifference. Experts said it is harmful both for the students and the universities.
Board of Trustees of some of these universities are operating activities of their institutions through appointing persons to key posts on an ad-hoc basis, but such a practice is completely illegal, said a UGC official.
Requesting anonymity, the vice-chancellor of a private university said, “This is not a normal situation. If the leader of an institution is not full-time staff, it would obviously disrupt its normal functioning.”
Universities without full-time VCs face problems in decision-making and development activities, he said.
Although the board members are supposed to give strategic directives, they often get involved in day-to-day activities of the universities and perform duties that are supposed to be carried out by the VCs and pro-VCs, the VC went on saying.
Private varsities skip vital meetings
A number of private universities have failed to hold important committee meetings such as the meetings of board of trustees, syndicate, academic council, and finance committee vital for ensuring transparency of the institutions.
In 2017, there were 95 private universities. Ten universities including University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Premier University, Britannia University and Sylhet International University did not hold the board of trustees meetings in 2017.
Sixteen universities including IBAIS University, ZH Sikder University of Science and Technology, The International University of Scholars, Times University and Feni University did not hold any syndicate meetings.
Fourteen universities including Presidency University, North East University Bangladesh, Britannia University, NPI University of Bangladesh skipped academic council meetings.
Nineteen universities including Premier University, State University of Bangladesh, Eximbank Agricultural University, Global University Bangladesh, and German University Bangladesh skipped the finance committee meetings.
As per the Private University Act 2010, the universities are supposed to hold these meetings, to ensure transparency in their activities, as these bodies perform the vital task of running the university.
According to the Private University Act 2010, a board of trustees oversees the work of the syndicate and other bodies involved with the management of the university.
While the syndicate functions as the board of management, the academic council is one of the authorities for management and the finance committee is one of the authorities of the university.
Experts said when a university skips these crucial meetings, it naturally raises questions about the university’s accountability and transparency in its administrative and academic activities.
Former UGC Chairman Prof Abdul Mannan said accountability and quality remain absent at a university if the institution functions without these key persons.
Prof Mannan, also former VC of Chittagong University, said it is the duty of the respective universities to ensure appointments of VC, pro-VC and treasurer as per the law.