Private universities authorities called for the review of the University Grants' Commission directives to stop assigning students' grades without holding semester finals, enrolling new students without admission tests, and holding tests online due to the coronavirus situation.
Private universities owners' association as well as top administrators said that they were just two or three weeks from finishing the spring semester and took some decisions for the crisis period so that the students don't fall into session jams.
"Authorities of many private universities were stunned seeing the UGC orders," said Sheikh Kabir Hossain, chairman of Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB).
He said most of the universities were in their final weeks of the spring semester.
"Many universities are taking online classes and they have arranged the exam. They can either welcome the directive or can be hurt from it," he said.
He said that The Private University Act 2010 does not have any clear instruction about conducting exams, or awarding grade without semester finals.
"Usually, the university's academic council or syndicate takes decisions in this regard. Many universities are awarding grades without final exams based on midterms and class assignments."
"We will request them [UGC] to review their directives and we will send a letter to them soon," Kabir said.
He said that the decision was taken without their consultation.
On Monday, the UGC in a statement said, "Several universities have taken the decision to assign students' grades without holding semester finals or evaluations, and to enrol new students without admission tests. This is unethical."
It also said that some universities were trying to take online tests and some of them also started enrolling students for the summer semester during this crisis in the country.
Independent University Bangladesh (IUB) is one the universities that decided to assign grades among students for the outgoing spring semester without holding semester finals and to enrol students without any admission tests and instead based only on their SSC and HSC results.
Brig Gen (Retd) Anwarul Islam, registrar at IUB, said that this matter has created much confusion among the managements of private universities.
"We expected some sort directive from the private university division [of the UGC], but it came from the media and the PR department of the UGC", he said.
He said that a semester closes with awarding grades among students. It is difficult to prepare for the next semester without completing the previous one.
He said that IUB authorities have asked all course instructors to assign grades based on the available semester assessments -- the midterm, quizzes, presentations and assignments.
Students who would like to improve the assigned results are requested to contact their respective course faculty members for additional assignments; the nature of the assignment is at the discretion of the faculty member, said Anwarul.
"No students would be seriously affected. We have kept a mechanism to address the genuine concerns of the students. We were just two weeks from closing the semester," he added.
"Regarding grading, we have informed our students that we will notify them only after getting a proper guideline from the UGC. We will also wait for the instructions from the UGC regarding admission test," he added.
Anwarul said that most of universities do not take admission tests at all, adding, "We usually take admission tests. As we are not able to take exams, we come up with our own criteria that does not violate the criteria set up by the authorities."
The minimum requirement set by the UGC for admission to a private university is GPA 2.5, in both the SSC or HSC, or a total of 6 grade points.
United International University (UIU) has taken the step to enrol students based on SSC and HSC results.
UIU Vice Chancellor Prof Chowdhury Mofizur Rahman said they usually take admission tests. But due to special circumstances this time, they decided not to.
"If you say that it is unethical to take students based on SSC and HSC results, then I will ask what the need of SSC and HSC exams is," he said.
He, however, said that honouring the UGC, they will not go ahead with the decision now.
"I believe the association [APUB] would talk to them [UGC] and raise the issue to review the directives," he added.
"We can sit with them after our office opens," UGC Chairman Prof Kazi Shahidullah said.
He said that many private university authorities have communicated with the commission and assured that they will abide by the UGC decisions.
"They can complete classes online, but they have to take exams only after normalcy returns. Students should not think about exams in this dangerous situation. Also, not all students have internet connections."
"You cannot take online exams, as there are issues regarding cheating, unfair means and transparency of the exams."
He said that private universities should think about holding admission tests only after the situation is normal. "How will the guardians pay now?"
"There is no scope for giving grades without semester finals…. If the situation worsens, we will think about assigning grades based on midterms and assignments," he said.