We have heard much discussions about introducing ‘unified’ or ‘cluster system’ admission test in our public universities over the last couple of years, but so far there has been little to no progress in this regard. In the absence of a ‘unified’ or ‘cluster system’ admission test, students have to buy forms of different universities, not being certain of getting admission to the university they want to study in. This puts a huge financial burden on the students, especially the poor meritorious ones living in remote parts of the country. I can remember the days of Ershad regime when frequent hartals and strikes had engulfed the whole country. My entrance into university took place during those turbulent days. I had to come to Dhaka and then Jahangirnagar many days by lunch, spending sleepless nights. Upon reaching the university, we heard that the admission test had been cancelled for an indefinite time but it was not circulated widely. Maybe it was limited to a small press release which escaped the attention of many admission seekers. Candidates used to come to Dhaka and move different parts of the country facing serious traffic, physical and mental problems to get admission. We then thought why the university authorities are not introducing ‘unified admission test’ to ease the burden and pains of the admission seekers. Since then several decades have passed, still things have not made much headway.
Seven years ago, an initiative was taken to introduce a uniform examination system for admission to public universities to reduce the trouble faced by students and guardians at the time of admission tests held separately in different parts of the country. Only the country’s medical colleges have implemented this uniform examination system in which the students sit only for one test and are selected for the colleges as per their merit. It’s a good system and our public universities can easily follow it. This one-test system would save on fees and accommodation and transportation costs and unlimited hassles of the admission seekers.
The Chancellor of public universities and the president of the country understood the matter and he directed the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Education to introduce ‘unified’ or ‘cluster’ admission test to lessen the harassment, hassle and mental stress of the students. But the Vice-Chancellors of public universities hardly attach importance to the matter. Some of them argue in favour of running the admission tests in the present style because— (i) all kinds of subjects are not available in all the universities. So, it will create problems for the admission seekers to choose subjects. (ii) when students have the option to sit for several admission tests in several universities, they have the chance to get access to higher education in either of the universities (iii) ‘unified’ or ‘cluster system’ tend to lessen their individual freedom. They may enter into such a university through this kind of admission system, where they don’t like to study in. (iv) It’s a source of income for the universities when admission tests are conducted separately. Teachers also have an extra amount of income through these tests. (v) if admission tests are conducted in ‘ unified’ or ‘ cluster system’ the teachers of the universities may have to move across the country. These reasons can be attributed to the reluctance of the university authorities particularly big universities not to introduce unified or cluster system admission test. But these reasons hardly attach any merit or seem less convincing comparing to the problems admission seekers and their families practically face every year. In the ‘unified or ‘cluster system’ admission seekers will put their choice in the admission form. Their admission test results, academic attainment of SSC and HSC levels and chronological choice will determine which subjects/departments they will get chance in and in which universities.
This year a total of eight lakh one thousand seven hundred eleven students passed the HSC examination. Out of them, 37 thousand 969 students achieved GPA-5. Two lakh sixteen thousand two hundred eighty seven students belong to between GPA-4 and GPA-5. The number of public universities is 42, out of them 37 are fully functional. 47 thousand 636 seats for higher education are available barring National and Open Universities. In 30 government medical colleges three thousand 212 seats are available and six thousand seats are available in 64 private Medical Colleges. In 9 government Dental Colleges there are 567 and in 14 Private Dental Colleges there lie 890 seats. In six Government University and Textile Colleges there are 480 seats, one government Marine Academy has 300 seats, and in non-government 17 Marine Academies there are 1360 seats. There are two International Universities that can accommodate 350 students. 96 private universities can accommodate one lakh 89 thousand students. All the students who passed the HSC examination this year will not be able to receive higher education in prestigious institutions. It is not necessary also for all to receive higher education but alternative system for them should have been available in the country. Moreover, if anybody wants to receive higher education, may not be from state owned university or absolutely regular, alternative system should have been there to satisfy their needs.
Dhaka University will initiate admission test in mid September. Jahangirnagar University will conduct their admission test between 8 and 18 August. BUET 14 October, Rajshahi University 22-26 October, Chittagong University 22-30 October, Ismail University 25-29 October, Bangladesh Agricultural University on 04 November, Shere-e- Bangla Agricultural University 01 December. It means admission tests in universities will take place in the full month of November and December. National University will start distributing admission form from 24 August. Dhaka and Jagnnath University will declare their admission tests later on. If admission tests can be conducted following ‘unified’ or ‘cluster system, it could be completed in three to four days which would have drastically reduced the hassles of the admission seekers.
Our traffic system is still seriously haphazard and backward. We need to spend several hours together to reach a place a few kilometers away. Admission seekers have to move from one corner of the country to another for admission. They don’t have any suitable place to stay. Many of them take shelter in the university halls with the senior students. All the students may not have this kind of accommodation. The student wing of the party in power influence these students and they offer temporary accommodation on condition. They don’t have well arrangement for taking food. When they take food outside, they suffer from diseases of various kinds on their way and in and around university campus. Definitely all these unfavourable situations don’t allow them to prove their worth in the admission test. Condition of female admission seekers may be worse. Most of them cannot or are not allowed to go alone to sit for admission test in various parts of the country. They must be accompanied by their near and dear ones. Where will they stay during the admission test days? Where will they have their meal? All these unnecessary hassles can be avoided if university admission tests can be conducted in ‘unified’ or in ‘cluster system’. At least cluster admission test should be introduced immediately. Under this arrangement the general universities will fall in one cluster, engineering universities another cluster and agriculture in different and textile in another cluster.
University authorities cannot ease or do anything with our unruly traffic system and the problems on the roads. They cannot change the ongoing selling of unhygienic food in the hotels but they can definitely change the system of admission that will not throw the admission seekers into the sea of problems. Arrangements must be made so that students can take admission test in their district or maximum divisional towns. The university authorities should introduce it immediately in the greater interest of the nation.
The writer works for BRAC Education Programme. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org