Restructuring students' fees at private universities

| Updated: February 09, 2023 22:13:55

Restructuring students' fees at private universities

Day by day, higher education is becoming both expensive and a matter of luck for the students. Increasing number of students passing out from the higher secondary level educational institutions are finding it hard to get admission into public or private universities. About 150 universities, both public and private, cannot accommodate all the students seeking admission there. The public universities, some 43 of them, select their students through admission tests. Those failing to qualify are left with two options. If their parents/guardians can afford, they can get admission into a private university. Otherwise, they will have to wait for the next session. But still there is no certainty that the next attempt will be successful. Such uncertainties often compel the students from even poor families to choose the costlier option of a private university to continue their education. Some private universities charge high admission and tuition fees that even the students from most low and lower-middle income families find it hard to afford. It is against this backdrop that the government, of late, has been thinking of adopting a policy to restructure the fees charged by the private universities. Recently, the University Grant Commission (UGC) has prepared a report on the state of earnings and expenditures of the private universities in the form of students' fees and the salaries and allowances the teachers draw. In the report, differences regarding various aspects of income and expenditure in the private universities have been found.

According to the Private University Act 2010, the private universities are required to keep 3 per cent of their seats for meritorious students from poorer background from the remote and underprivileged areas, while another 3 per cent for the children of freedom fighters. Such students already get various waivers relating to tuition and other fees. But about the move to restructure the students' admission and other fees and teachers' salaries and allowances, the private universities do not see eye to eye with the government. Their argument is that they have to depend solely on the students' fees as income to run their universities and  that they do not get any fund  from the government or any other sources.

So, it would be important to see that any restructuring of the fees may not prove unsustainable for the operation of the private universities. In this connection, the chairman of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB)  has said that the private universities take student fees according to the needs of the different universities. While they are not against the formulation of a policy for the private universities, they do expect that the government would share its views with the stakeholders before framing it (the policy), the APUB chairman maintained. The students and guardians are learnt to be at one with the government move to rationalise private university fees.

There is no question that education at all levels should be accessible and affordable to learners from all walks of society. And the government's duty is also to see that education is not made into a commodity. So, to ensure that educational institutions are not run on a commercial scale, any government intervention should be welcome. In case, any discrepancy is observed among any of the private universities in this regard, the government must put its foot down. But care needs also to be taken to see that such intervention may not turn into interference. For one has also to accept that the private universities are rendering a great service to the country's education sector. Statistics have it that the private universities absorb more than 70 per cent of the students coming out of the higher secondary levels seeking university education.  In contrast, the public universities can accommodate only thirty per cent of the students. The private universities, though they lack large campus facilities, are free from session jams, politics and violence that plague public universities. Teacher-student relations are also better there. Taking all these factors into consideration, the private universities definitely deserve a fair deal. 

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