Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University in Jamalpur started its academic activities in the academic year of 2018-19. Prof Dr Syed Samsuddin Ahmed, a renowned teacher of Geology and Mining at Rajshahi University, has been appointed as its first Vice Chancellor in mid November of that year. Within two months of taking charge, he has successfully initiated the process of student enrollment, integrated Fisheries College with the university in a short period of time, and ensured modern facilities for students despite having limited resources.
Even during the time of coronavirus pandemic when academic activities are postponed, the nascent university has conducted online classes and stood by helpless people on humanitarian ground. It is the dream of the honourable Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Syed Samsuddin Ahmed that the graduates of the university will lead in the ICT-enabled job market during fourth industrial revolution. With that goal, research activities have been prioritised right from the beginning in its academic curriculum.It is noteworthy that this year the admission test of the university will be held under cluster system. In spite of the chaos of coronavirus pandemic, the university authorities managed to construct an academic building of the university. More than 500 students are studying and conducting research at the university in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mathematics, Fisheries, Management and Social Work. Necessary steps have also been taken to meet the residential needs of the students. In a recent interview with the Daily Sun, the Vice Chancellor of the university Professor Dr Syed Samsuddin Ahmed talked about his dream, plans and initiatives for the university.
Question: Taking charge of a new university is always challenging. You have already completed two years as a Vice Chancellor of this university. What progress did the university achieve during this time?
VC: Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University Act was enacted in the parliament in 2017. I took the helm in 2018. Soon after taking charge, I started the process of students’ enrollment in 2018-19 session. Already, students are studying in two academic sessions.
Initially we started our operation in a rented building in Jamalpur city. But in January this year we moved to our permanent campus. An academic building has already been set up there. Since the university is located in sub-urban area, we are taking the issue of students’ accommodation facility seriously. So, construction work of two residential halls is underway.
Starting a university from scratch is a big challenge. How are you tackling those challenges?
VC: Conducting academic activities and constructing infrastructure facilities was a challenge. But after coming here I faced a different challenge. Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Fisheries College was established in Melandah in 2000. Students of this institution were used to be awarded degrees from Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU). Students-teachers and local representatives have long been demanding this college to be transformed into a university. But the issue was not addressed in Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University Act 2017. As a result, it created a problem.There was an injunction from Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about incorporating this college with the university. Following proper procedures, I communicated with the UGC and Education Ministry regarding the matter. Local Member of Parliament (MP) Alhaj Mirza Azam too extended necessary cooperation in this regard. Later the Ministry formed a committee to look into the matter. The committee was formed consisting of delegates from the university, UGC and the Ministry. After holding several talks and field visit, the committee recommended affiliating the college with the university. Subsequently, the teachers, officers and staffers of the Fisheries College have been recruited in the university in accordance with their qualification.
What steps did you take so far to improve the quality of education and research in the university?
VC: Look, I’ve been saying one thing from the beginning that we have to build up the university, named after Bangamata, in such a way that other science and technology universities look up to it as role model of providing quality higher education in this field. So, after taking responsibility, I emphasised the need for increasing teachers’ skills. As part of this, I have arranged training for them with the participation of local and foreign experts.
At the same time students and teachers are being encouraged to take up more research projects as well as to increase the standard of their research work. Strict monitoring is in place to maintain the quality of research and education. Besides, workshops are being held on a regular basis to improve the standard of education. Research articles of our teachers are being published in important journals. Students too are getting involved in research with their teachers. We are collecting fund for research from government and various private organisations. Although ours is a new university, necessary steps are being taken to create high quality labs for research and to develop the existing labs.
Besides, we have also declared zero tolerance to issues like ragging, drug addiction, militancy and sexual harassment. Internal scholarships are being provided to encourage students to study sincerely.
Could you please tell us about the progress in the development of the university’s infrastructure facility and the establishment of a fully-fledged campus?
VC: We have moved to our main campus on January 1 this year. An academic building has been built up there consisted of fifty rooms, of them 25 rooms have already been fully furnished. Construction and renovation work of residential halls for students are going on. The Administrative building is also being repaired. A DPP is being prepared for the university project. Once Ecnec approves the project, 500 acres of land will be acquired near the main university campus. There we will build dormitories for students, new academic building, and residential buildings for teachers, officers and other employees. We are committed to building a modern, spectacular campus which will preserve local biodiversity as well as maintain international standard.
You are the founding Vice Chancellor of the university. Where would you like to see the university in future?
VC: I want to develop it as an internationally acclaimed research university. I would like to see that in future the university will become a role model for other universities for quality education, research and other activities. I want to develop our students in such a way that they can lead in the ICT-oriented job market, innovation and start-up.
The university is closed due to coronavirus pandemic. Would you like to convey any message to students and their guardians?
VC: The only thing I want to say to the parents is that they should pay special attention to their children so that they do not get depressed during the time of pandemic. We are conducting online classes. They should take part in these classes and study regularly. Teachers of different departments are communicating with the students. And we have provided financial assistance to disadvantaged students so that they can purchase device to participate in online classes.
What is your thought about holding exams amidst the pandemic?
VC: Earlier we have maintained a sound academic calendar by starting and ending classes timely, holdings exams and publishing results on specified times. But corona crisis has disrupted the calendar. But meanwhile in a meeting of academic council, a decision has been taken to hold exams of 4th year students of Fisheries Department. If situation becomes normal gradually, exams of other sessions will also be taken.
From 2020-21 Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University is going to hold admission test under cluster system. Do you think it will lessen admission seekers’ sufferings?
VC: Students interested to pursue higher education in 19 universities that are taking admission test under cluster system will have to take part in MCQ examination of 100 marks. There will be three separate examinations for Science, Humanities and Business Education (Commerce) based on the syllabus of the higher secondary. But unlike previous years, there will be no separate test for group change. Admission seekers will get a chance to sit for the test twice.