The government has failed to introduce a uniform admission test, which has been overdue for eight years.
Even a decision to begin the uniform admission procedure, known as "cluster system admission", first with the agricultural universities from this year has also been discarded on grounds of "lack of time for preparations", although the decision was made in November last year.
During a meeting at the University Grants Commission (UGC) on July 9, the vice-chancellors of the agriculture universities said admission tests would begin in two to three months and they could not take preparations within that time.
But, they asserted that they would enrol students in a cluster system from the next academic year.
Under the cluster system, admission seekers will be enrolled at those universities based on the merit list prepared from a single test. For example, students would take one test for a place in any of the science and technology universities and another test for a place in any of the agriculture universities.
That would exempt the admission seekers from time, costs and travels required to take separate admission tests at different public universities across the country. At present, only the medical colleges have a uniform entrance test.
The education ministry in 2010 decided in principle to introduce a uniform admission system or a cluster system.
But, some public universities have been opposing the idea as its implementation would cut the income of the universities as well as teachers from the sale of admission forms and from invigilation and checking of answer scripts, said ministry and UGC sources.
Since then, the cluster system remains rhetoric and all the universities keep arranging separate admission tests.
However, two committees were formed last year to expedite the process and they held meetings on the matter. After one of the meetings, Prof Abdul Mannan, chairman of UGC, told this newspaper the agricultural universities agreed to introduce the system and that they would soon find out ways to do it.
But, the progress is depressing.
Students, in the meantime, would be subject to a strenuous admission battle again.
"It is an intense competition and despite doing well you never know it for sure that you will get a chance at the university of your choice. That is why we try out our luck in as many universities as possible," said Rifat Hasan, who got GPA-5.
A student from the science group, Rifat wishes to study engineering and his first choice is Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
As many as 21,171 students got GPA-5 like him from the science group. But Buet can accommodate only 1,100 students.
Some 8.58 lakh students -- 4.34 lakh boys and 4.23 lakh girls -- have passed the Higher Secondary Certificate and its equivalent exams this year.
Of them, 29,262 got GPA (grade point average)-5, while 191,270 scored GPA-4 and above.
Usually, a student having scored at least GPA-3.5 fulfils the eligibility criterion for admission to a public university.
Seats at 37 public universities in operation out of 40 add up to around 50,000, according to the education ministry.
Of the seats in the public universities, Dhaka University has nearly 7,000 seats, Jahangirnagar University 1,986, Rajshahi University 4,200, Chittagong University 5,000, Jagannath University 3,000 and Khulna University 1,500 seats.
Besides, medical and dental colleges have around 5,000 seats, while different colleges affiliated with the National University of Bangladesh have around 4 lakh seats. On the other side, the private universities offer undergraduate degrees for around 2.5 lakh students.
Every year admission seekers face hassles and pressures when they prepare for separate admission tests at different universities.
It all begins at the end of their HSC exams when a number of students turn to different admission-based coaching centres. They buy several admission forms from different units of different universities and spend a lot of time and money on travel and accommodation. They often travel with parents or guardians and sometimes have to check into hotels for overnight stay.
There are cases when a candidate has to take separate tests for seats in separate faculties, even separate departments, in one university.
The UGC has long been suggesting modifying the existing admission process terming it too expensive, questionable and coaching-oriented.
In its latest report, it said the public universities would have to take initiatives to introduce a unified admission system to reduce students' hassles and cut their expenses.
Contacted, Prof Mannan said on Thursday, "We planned to begin the system this year on a small scale and sat with the VCs of the agriculture universities. But the universities would not introduce it this year owing to time constraint.
"We will take this preparation much earlier next year so that it could be implemented," he added.
Replying to a query, he said it was mainly some major universities that opposed it. The relatively smaller universities have agreed to implement it and they should do it, he added.
PRESIDENT'S CALLS IGNORED
President Abdul Hamid on several occasions asked the VCs of all public universities to introduce a unified admission system to reduce hassles of the admission seekers and their guardians.
He gave a directive in this regard in February this year and in November 2016.
His calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
The dates of admission tests of most of the public universities for the 2018-19 academic session have already been finalised on July 12 at a meeting of the Association of Universities of Bangladesh, a platform of vice-chancellors of the public universities.
Officials in the education ministry and the UGC said a number of public universities were not in favour of the system since the existing one was directly linked to some financial benefits.
"Many teachers who are involved in the admission process from holding the tests to checking scripts earn a good amount of money. So, they oppose the cluster system," said a top official of the ministry asking not to be identified.
He said a teacher of a public university earns up to Tk 1 lakh from the admission process.
In the cluster system, students' admission would be controlled centrally, and the universities and their teachers would have no involvement.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid on Thursday apparently admitted his failure, saying he tried his best to initiate the unified admission system but could not.
"It may not be possible this year, but we hope to introduce the system next year. Committees have been working in this regard," he said.