Country’s private universities are fighting for existence as the number of new students has declined sharply amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a negative impact on most of the socioeconomic sectors but educational institutions, especially private universities, are worst affected.“At least 90 percent universities are facing serious crisis amid the pandemic as they cannot bear the operational expenses, including houses rents and salaries of teachers and staff,” said Sheikh Kabir Hossain, president of Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB).
Talking to the Daily Sun, Sheikh Kabir Hossain, also chairman of Board of Trustees at Fareast International University, said the student admission to the private universities declined to 30 percent while they are also not getting tuition fees from the students as the institutions remained closed since March 17.
Mentioning that at present there is no income of most of the universities, he said, “We have sought loan from the government while we have also submitted application to the UGC seeking money from our deposit of Tk 5 crore but there is no response till now.”
Currently, 97 out of total 107 private universities are operating academic activities. The universities enrol students in three semesters -- spring, summer and fall -- every year.
Usually, 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.
Analysing the data of student admission in summer semester of 25 private universities,the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) recently made a report comparing the two years’ data.
The report shows that the number of students has declined sharply at 22 out of the surveyed 25 universities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 741 students enrolled at BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology (BUFT) at summer semester in 2019 but it got only 82 students at the same semester in 2020 due to the impact of corona.
The Manarat International University got only 91 students at summer semester in 2020 against 186 students in 2019 while Prime University got 76 students last year against 332 in 2019, Shanto-Mariam University of Creative Technology got 189 students in 2020 against 411 in previous year, Metropolitan University got 36 students against 155 in 2019, Royal University of Dhaka got 187 students against 287 in 2019, European University of Bangladesh got 483 against 1,306 students in 2019, Daffodil International University got 438 students in 2020 against 1,648 in previous year, Asian University of Bangladesh got 275 students last year against 504 in 2019, The Millennium University got only 8 students in 2020 against 22 in previous year, Northern University Bangladesh got 67 students in 2020 against 267 in 2019, Uttara University got 404 students last year against 812 in 2019 and International Islamic University Chittagong got 1,567 students in 2020 against 1,824 in previous year.
The report, however, showed that the number students increased at only two universities despite the pandemic. BRAC University got 1,055 students at the summer semester in 2020 against 976 at the same semester in 2019 while 543 students took admission to Bangladesh University of Business & Technology (BUBT) in 2020 against 418 in previous year.
Professor Dr Abdul Mannan Choudhury, vice-chancellor of World University, told the Daily Sun that they are facing serious crisis of students in the last two semesters due to the impact of coronavirus pandemic while they are also facing financial problem as they have no income.
He said, “We are also not getting the desired number of students in the ongoing spring semester despite publication of the HSC results as the students will try to take admission to public universities first and then enrol at the private institutions.”
“The admission process of public institutions will end in May-June. So, we will have to wait till the end of admission test at public universities for getting students,” said the educationist.
“We had sought loan from the government so that the private universities can survive the pandemic but there is no response,” he said, urging the government to pay special attention to the universities.
University sources said the universities are not getting the desired number of new students due to the delay in announcing the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and equivalent results due to the pandemic.
Although the HSC result was published on January 30, the universities will have to wait further as the students at first will try to take admission to public universities.
The public universities plan to hold admission tests by July, so the private universities will have to wait until summer semester, which usually begins in May-June, for getting new students.
Most of the universities have been facing serious financial crises since March last year as they cannot get tuition and other fees from the students while student crisis is adding extra salt to their wounds.
Sufferings of the teachers and employees will also mount 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 severe in the days to come.
According to the University Grants Commission (UGC) latest annual report, 1.20 lakh students took admission to private universities in 2019 against 2.78 lakh seats.