The country’s top private universities are earning a huge amount of money by increasing tuition fees gradually but the expenditure on academic and research activities remain very low.
According to the latest annual report of University Grants Commission (UGC), some 90 private universities earned around Tk 3,201 crore in 2017 and while the income of 86 universities was Tk 2,930 crore in 2016.Data show that the income of private universities increased by around Tk 271 crore in a single year. But their allocations on research, laboratory and library are decreasing though there are rules to allocate a specific portion of the income on academic and research purposes.
The revenue figures are based on the information provided by the private universities and the actual income of the universities will be much higher because many varsities hide their actual income, UGC officials said.
UGC data shows that the spending on students is decreasing as the private universities spent Tk 81,182.54 on each student in 2017 from Tk 109,230.07 in 2016.
North South University’s income was Tk 229 crore in 2016, which jumped by 33 crore to Tk 263 crore in 2017.
The number of students was 20,025 at NSU in 2017. Of them, 17,517 were at graduation level and 2,508 at post-graduation level. Of the students, 1,168 students were studying under several quota facilities but the rest 18,857 students were paying regular tuition fees.
English is one of the departments of the NSU where tuition fee is among the lowest.But still the students have to pay Tk 8.29 lakh each to complete their graduation.
If this amount is set as an average tuition fee at the university, the university is supposed to earn nearly Tk 400 crore every year though the university reported its income at Tk 263 crore in 2017.
The income of Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB) was Tk 136.67 crore in 2017 against Tk 113.42 crore in 2016.
Bangladesh University of Business and Technology (BUBT) earned Tk 101 crore in 2017 from Tk 68.18 crore in 2016. The income of the university has been increased by Tk 32.77 crore in a year. Operating since 2003, BUBT currently has 8,543 students.
Brac University earned Tk 165 crore in 2017 through their income was Tk 146.62 crore in 2016. The income of the private university has increased by Tk 18.19 crore in a year.
Some 8,303 students are now studying at the university. Although the income of the university has increased, facilities for the students have not increased in the same proportion at the university. The university spent Tk 34.97 lakh on research in 2017, down from Tk 45.84 lakh in 2016.
East West University earned Tk 157.22 crore in 2017 from Tk 143.25 lakh in 2016.
American International University Bangladesh (AIUB) earned Tk 218 crore in 2017, United International University Tk 105 crore, Ahsanullah University of Science and technology Tk 95 crore and University of Liberal Arts earned Tk 74 crore in 2017.
UGC data show that research expenditure at the private university is decreasing every year. Some 73 out of 91 universities spent money on research in 2017. The total fund spent on research was Tk 78.94 crore. A total of 64 private universities had spent Tk 93.36 crore on research in 2016.
Besides, spending on laboratories is also decreasing at the private universities as 78 universities spent only Tk 45.6 crore in 2017, down from Tk 57.28 crore in 2016.
Research missing at 18 private varsities
Eighteen private universities are operating without spending a single penny on research while a few others conduct name-only research in which the spending is much less than required.
Educationists say no tertiary education can be complete without research as the creation of new knowledge requires fact-finding analysis.
The latest annual report of the UGC reveals that 18 private varsities, out of 91 operating, spent no money on research in 2017.
The institutions include Central Women’s University, The People’s University of Bangladesh, Pundra University of Science and Technology, University of South Asia, Presidency University, East Delta University, First Capital University of Bangladesh, Ishakha International University Bangladesh, Feni University, Britannia University, Times University Bangladesh, North Bengal International University, Fareast International University, Rajshahi Science and Technology University, Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib University, The International University of Scholars, Canadian University of Bangladesh and Rabindra Maitri University.
Some of these institutions were established as long as 20-25 years ago.
The report also revealed that many private universities that carried out research did not focus on any innovative approach and spent just Tk 1-5 lakh each on so-called research.
Talking to the daily sun, educationist Prof Harun-ur-Rashid Askari said the matter of ignoring research activities by some private varsities is completely unexpected. Research allocation is increasing at public universities every year, but that at private universities is very low.
Rashid Askari, vice-chancellor of Islamic University, said: “Research is a critical element for higher educational institutions.”
The UGC report mentioned that as per the Private University Act-2010, universities are supposed to allocate a significant amount of their annual budget on research.
Private varsities unwilling to follow FF quota
Despite having a legal obligation to provide full-free studentship for three percent children of freedom fighters, at least 12 private universities are not following the FF quota.
As per the Private University Act 2010, privately-run higher educational institutions are bound to keep three percent quota to provide full scholarship to the children of freedom fighters.
The government has kept in the act a provision to give quota facility to the children of freedom fighters so that they can get higher education free of cost.
But, a recently published report of UGC shows that at least 12 private universities did not enroll a single student under the quota in 2017.
Although many private institutions are following the FF quota, they gave this facility to only a few students to show that they are going by the rule, the UGC report says.
The report also mentioned that in 2017, there was a total of 354,333 students in the country’s 95 private universities, but only 3,415 of them enjoyed the quota facility.
There are allegations that most of the private universities in the country are unwilling to provide full-free studentship to the children of freedom fighters. A recently published report of UGC shows that at least 12 private universities did not enroll a single student under the quota in 2017.
The 12 universities include Central Women’s University, The Millennium University, Uttara University, Victoria University of Bangladesh, European University of Bangladesh, First Capital University of Bangladesh, Exim Bank Agricultural University Bangladesh, North Bengal International University, German University Bangladesh, NPI University of Bangladesh and Ranada Prashad Saha University.
The report shows that a total of 792 students were admitted at the University of Science and Technology Chittagong in 2017, but not a single student enjoyed the FF quota.
Talking to the daily sun, Siddiqur Rahman, a former professor at Dhaka University institute of education and research, said: “Although a few private universities are doing better, most of the universities are running businesses in the name of education, they are just selling certificates.”
The educationist also said, “Parents are admitting their children at the universities by selling their lands and other valuables but their children don’t get anything except for certificates.”
He said the government should take measures to strengthen its monitoring by Accreditation council to ensure quality higher education at the private universities.
Immediate past UGC Chairman Prof Abdul Mannan said there are three types of works—- the creation of knowledge, storage of knowledge, dissemination of knowledge—-for every university.
“But many universities forgot this.”
“The universities are earning a huge amount of money, but they can’t spend less on students’ welfare.”
Some owners of private universities treat educational institutions as their other business entities. They have to keep in mind that a private university is not only for making money. They should think that they are meant to advance creation of knowledge and public welfare, he said.