In February 2017, when Dhaka University took back the responsibility of seven government colleges after more than two decades, the university was neither prepared nor adequately staffed to handle the added burden.
As a result, the DU administration is failing to conduct exams and publish results on time, causing sufferings to students of both the university and the colleges.
DU Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury and Supernumerary Professor Syed Anwar Husain said it was the university’s responsibility to have necessary preparations before the decision was made.
“We don’t understand the reason behind the hasty decision. There was no discussion on whether the university has the capacity or not,” said Prof Serajul.
Prof Anwar said, “The situation is much more complicated now. It cannot continue for a long time. Students of both the colleges and the university are suffering. Their academic life has to be saved.”
Both of them said the university did not have the capacity to cope with the burden of 2.5 lakh students because of its administrative weakness.
“This is a heavy burden on Dhaka University,” said Prof Anwar.
The seven institutions that got reaffiliated with the DU are Dhaka College, Eden Mohila College, Government Titumir College, Government Bangla College, Government Shaheed Suhrawardy College, Kabi Nazrul Government College, and Begum Badrunnessa Government Women College.
It has now become the university’s responsibility to conduct admission tests, hold their written and oral exams, prepare question papers, evaluate answer scripts (partially), and publish the results.
But, students of the colleges say, they are still facing session jams because their exams are not being timely held and results are getting delayed.
On the other hand, DU students say the reaffiliation put an extra burden on the university, slowing down its administrative work.
Since 2017, the university has not appointed any new exam controller to manage the affairs of the 2.5 lakh college students.
“No new deputy exam controller or assistant exam controller has been appointed since 2015,” said a deputy exam controller recently. “Only a few section officers were hired last year,” he added, refusing to give his name.
Another deputy exam controller, who oversees the seven colleges, said about 20-25 administrative officers were recruited in the last fiscal year. “But we need at least 15 more to do the work smoothly,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The DU has five deputy exam controllers, 15 assistant exam controllers, and 26 section officers.
Apart from exam controllers, the university needs college inspectors who check on the activities of the colleges and make visits to report the situation first-hand.
The university right now has only one college inspector, one assistant college inspector, and one section officer.
The assistant college inspector, Abdul Kuddus, said no new appointment was made in his office yet, but the university is at the final stage to create 10 posts of college inspector.
Meanwhile, then vice chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique denied that the reaffiliation decision was taken hurriedly. He said it was a government decision which they implemented.
Asked why the DU authorities did not appoint required staff in the last two and a half years, Vice Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman said that the then administration could have done it. “Many things happened unscientifically,” he added.
“We are working on the issue. We have formed a committee to resolve the crisis.”
When Prof Arefin was asked the same question, he said some extra people were needed, but the university could manage the situation with the existing workforce.
“We have an adequate workforce because the university used to have the same workforce when the colleges were affiliated with DU before 1992.”
In August 2014, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked the education ministry to reaffiliate the colleges with respective public universities. But differences of opinion between National University and some public universities delayed the process.
In November 2016, the education ministry decided to start the process by handing over the seven colleges to DU with the president’s approval.
The goal was to improve the quality of education, reduce pressure on the NU, and put an end to session jams at the colleges.
The NU was established in 1992 to take over the affiliated colleges of the public universities in Dhaka, Rajshahi and Chittagong. At the time, it was said NU would help break the cycle of session jams and improve education standards.
It now oversees 2,300 educational institutions with more than 20 lakh students.
PROTEST, COMMITTEE FORMED
Students of the seven colleges first took to the street in July 2017, demanding publication of results, exam schedules, and re-evaluation of answer scripts. Since then, they organised street protests on at least seven occasions.
Abu Bakar, a student of Bangla at Dhaka College, said their third-year final exam results were published on July 10, after seven months of the exams. “We were supposed to complete the bachelor programme by July 2018.”
“Dhaka University authorities also delay publication of exam schedules. Students of every session are facing a minimum of one year’s session jam.”
Some also alleged that the DU teachers did not evaluate the answer scripts properly.
Amalendu Paul, a degree (pass course) student of Kabi Nazrul College, said, “All 300 students of the 2014-2015 session failed at least in one course.”
Asked about this allegation, DU Business Faculty Dean Prof Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam, who coordinates the seven colleges, said there was no lax in evaluating answer scripts. “But performances of the college students were poor.”
According to a deputy exam controller, DU teachers evaluated all the exam scripts of the college students for the first six to seven months. “But now they handle 10 percent of the scripts at best.”
The DU students also took to the street in July, and locked all academic and administrative buildings for three days from July 22. They demanded cancellation of the affiliation.
“Usually, we have to wait for a long time to get any administrative work done. Now the burden of additional 2.5 lakh students has aggravated our sufferings,” said Lisa Hossain, a student of world religion and culture department at the DU.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a student of political science, said, “Our classes and examinations were suspended several times because the teachers have to conduct the viva voce of the college students.”
The university students suspended the protest after a 10-member committee was formed to resolve the crisis. They would not resume demonstration until the report arrives.
The committee first sat on July 29, and sought one month’s time to submit the report.
There are 43,385 students and 2,010 teachers at the DU. The university has 116 constituent or affiliated institutions including the seven colleges.
In most cases, the DU’s responsibility is limited to issuing certificates and inspection of these institutions. But in the case of the seven colleges, the role is much bigger -- the university conducts most of their exam-related activities.
In 2018-19 fiscal year, Dhaka University earned Tk 21 crore from the sales of admission forms at the seven colleges.