Corona pushes private varsities into trouble

Md Solamain Salman

7 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The country’s private universities have plunged into a deep crisis as most of the tertiary educational institutes are struggling to get new students due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

The student enrollment in summer semester at most of the universities has dropped by 50 to 80 percent due to the pandemic.

The problem would worsen in fall semester if the situation persists, said sources.

They added that the universities have already suffered financial burden as they cannot get tuition and other fees from the students amid the pandemic while student crisis is adding extra salt to their wounds.

The suffering of the teachers and employees out there would also be mounting as the tuition and other fees collected from the students have fallen which are the only sources of income for the educational institutions to bear their operational expenses.

Most of the universities are already facing problems to pay salaries and allowances to their teachers and employees due to lack of money and the problems would be grave in the days to come.

Currently, 97 out of total 106 private universities are operating academic activities. The private universities enroll students in three semesters--spring, summer and fall—every year.

The universities said about 50 percent of the students get enrolled in the spring semester, around 20 to 25 percent in the summer while the rest in the fall semester.

Only 10-12 renowned private universities got enough students but the rest got a very poor number of students in the summer semester due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the universities, Northern University Bangladesh offered 20 percent waiver on tuition fees along with 5GB mobile data per month and a laptop for those who need it for the new students.

Despite the offer, the university got only 300 students in summer semester against some 1,000 students during normal time.

Despite the offer of 25 percent waiver in tuition fees and 50 percent waiver on admission fees, the Southeast University got around 250 students in the summer semester, the number of which was around 700 in regular time.

Eastern University offered a 10-percent waiver on the admission fees for all new students and 50 percent for those with better results. Although, the university usually gets around 500 students in summer semester, the university gets only 100 students this time.

Primeasia University in the semester got about 225 students though the university usually got around 500 students during normal situation.

Despite the offered waiver in tuition fees, International Standard University is struggling to get student in their fall semester. The university was forced to set September for the start of their fall semester instead of July due to lack of students. The university enrolls students in two semesters—spring and fall -- every year. The university got around 250 students in spring semester which started in January but it got a very poor number of students in fall semester which started in July.

Among other universities, World University of Bangladesh, Green University of Bangladesh, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), and European University of Bangladesh got only 40 to 50 percent students less than their expectation for the summer semester.

Only 10-12 renowned and old private universities are running well amid the Covid-19 pandemic but the scenario of the other universities are almost the same.

World University Vice-Chancellor (VC) Professor Dr Abdul Mannan Choudhury said: “The country’s private universities are passing a hard time due to Covid-19.”

“The private universities except 10-12 old and renowned ones got only 40 to 50 percent students in the summer semester compared to the normal time in the semester,” he said.

Prof Mannan also said his university got around 50 percent students in the summer semester in comparison with the earlier semester.

Educationists said a large number of students at private universities meet their education expenses by doing part-time jobs or private tutoring. But they are now more thinking about their survival than about enrolling at universities.

They also said the rate of admission in the summer semester fell as the guardians of the students are struggling to bear their families’ livings coats as many of them have either lost their jobs or have salaries cut amid the pandemic.

Apart from this, many of them might not have confidence in online education offered by the private universities amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, since April, many private universities are reportedly failing to pay full or even partial salaries to their teachers and staffers, forcing them towards a severe financial burden.

Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) Chairman Sheikh Kabir Hossain said many private universities may face closure if the Covid-19 situation does not improve soon.

He said they sought loan without interest from the government so that the private universities can survive the pandemic and pay salaries to their faculty and staff members. But there is no progress till now.

Sheikh Kabir also said: “Almost all private universities, except a few reputed ones, are heading towards a catastrophic situation due to the lack of new students.”