University is the highest podiums of education and training. It is place for discovering new knowledge through cutting-edge fundamental research. The discoveries of fundamental knowledge and technologies are used to tackle new challenges in the society. University is also involved in the dissemination of research-based knowledge and technology through outreach activity. Universities do not only serve as knowledge hubs but are also responsible for educating the youths of the country. Highly skilled and trained human resources developed by universities are the drivers and critical players of a knowledge-based nation. Therefore, every nation pays for running the public universities for achieving these goals. The number of top-ranking universities in a country seems directly correlated with the economic strength and standards of living in that nation. In the 21st century, the economy relies on the knowledge and technological advancements of the country. Although availability and access to the higher education has increased remarkably in Bangladesh, the quality of education and research is still mediocre. Quantity without quality at tertiary level of education is useless.
Due to the increasing reliance on information and communication technology (ICT) in our lives, ICT plays a huge role in higher education and research. Teaching at university level is becoming very challenging day by day. As society is paying for running the universities, these highest seats for learning should not stand just like ivory towers. In many countries, universities receive grants based on their impacts on society. The impact of a university is assessed by the reputation of a university in higher education and research. Every year, several institutes rank universities worldwide based on their reputation in quality higher education and research. If we look at the list of top ranked 500 universities in the world, we could hardly find a single university residing in Bangladesh. The ranking of our public universities are becoming worse day by day in terms of global competition. Unfortunately, we have no provision for annually assessing the progress and accomplishments of our universities and her faculty members. Although the government has declared a target of upgrading the economy of our nation’s middle income by the year 2021 and a developed one by 2041, our universities have not yet made any progress to match with the ambitious goals of the nation! Without the robust application of science, technology and innovation (STI), how can a country become developed? Why is the government overlooking the current situation of our universities?
Our universities should be aiming to cultivate and generate the STI for the economic development of the nation. Unfortunately, the current reality of our universities in terms of STI is very bad. Funding for research and accountability of researchers at our public and private universities are very worse. We are yet to introduce any competitive ecosystem for advanced research in our universities although most of the Nobel winning discoveries is carried out at university labs worldwide. We need huge investment and introduce a competitive environment at our universities for developing a knowledge-based economy. In developed countries, industries are running after university professors, offering funds for getting necessary research done for their STI. In contrast, our professors in Bangladesh are now running after local political leaders for the position of Vice-chancellor! The recruitment process of the most important and critical position of a university i.e. Vice-Chancellor in Bangladesh is highly biased and faulty. If we look at the universities in India and other neighboring countries, we can easily see the best academics and researchers of that country is appointed as the VC of a university, who are well known worldwide by their accomplishments. As the position of VC is highly critical for ensuring globally competitive higher education and research of a university, the recruitment of VC in terms of merit is essential.
We have almost destroyed the dignity of the position of Vice-Chancellor in our public universities. One of the reasons is the recruitment process of VC, which is highly biased and non-transparent. In many cases, the poorest academic and research accomplishers having no Ph D are managing this highly responsible position by lobbying and nepotisms. As a result, after recruitment those VCs are shamelessly busy for satisfying those who helped them to bag the position superseding many deserving candidates. We see them busy for trading-off with politicians and government high officials to confirm a second tenure! They always show off their power and exercise it as they wish by abusing the spirit of the autonomy of the university act. They have almost no time for thinking of the quality of higher education and research of the university. Some teachers who do not care about quality teaching and research always surround the VC for undue promotions, administrative positions and influence in recruitment process. VCs of most of our universities are seen to care telephone calls and lobbying from influential politicians for recruitment rather than critically examining the qualifications of a candidate.
The current recruitment process of our university teachers, officers and staff are mostly biased, faulty and is a very shortcut process. How can a teacher be possibly selected by an only 5-10 minutes interview? It’s an unfortunate process of ruining the quality of higher education in our public university, which should be stopped. We feel shame of seeing that a professor of a university is running after local political leaders and government officials with their CVs for the position of VC. Government can stop this corrupted business by introducing a search committee for suggesting a list of potential candidates. Any kind of lobbying for the position of VC should be regarded as disqualification. Until and unless government issues an official order on stopping the existing shameless and unacceptable lobbying for the VC position, I believe that this cycle will continue to ruin the quality of leadership in our universities. We should keep our Professors in the classroom and research labs. Although print and electronic media focuses on the inability and corruption of the VCs of public universities, none of them were punished due to political reasons.
We need to save our universities and introduce a standard process of recruiting VC from the highly qualified Professors of the nation. We must stop the disgraceful practices. Sometimes lobbying and counter lobbying becomes so intense (tug of war) that we see a university is running without a VC for several months due to the competition. Recently, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University (HSTU) experienced more than 3 months without a VC. There has been no VC at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) since March 19, 2017. If the government is able to introduce an e-tendering process for reducing the corruption in procuring process, why government does not introduce standard process of selecting the best academician and researchers for leading our public universities? Quality higher education and research are critical for development of a nation. We have highly potential young talents and our universities must train them as a globally competitive citizen.
BSMRAU formerly known as IPSA (Institute of Postgraduate Studies in Agriculture) was established by the supports from JICA and USAID. Due to the relentless supports from the faculty members of Kyushu University in Japan and Oregon State University in USA, the IPSA became a Center of Excellence in Higher Education. Later in 1998, IPSA was upgraded as a public university under the name of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The unique features of the BSMRAU is that it is the only public university which strictly follows academic calendar and runs through North American Course-Credit system in three terms per year (trimester). There is no student politics and even no teachers association is active at BSMRAU. As a result, environment of the university is good for sound education and research. The university has high reputation for high quality MS and Ph D levels of education in various disciplines in agricultural sciences. Over the years, a large number of useful technologies and crop varieties has been developed by the university some of which have been remarkably contributed to the food and nutritional security of Bangladesh. Although total number of students is still less than 1500, a large proportion of them are postgraduate students.
However, over last four years the overall quality education and research of the university has badly deteriorated due to the poor leadership. Former VC was third in the list of nominated candidates of the Ministry of Education but by dint of strong lobbying, he managed the position of VC. Unfortunately, just after joining his position, he has divided progressive teachers of BSMRAU into two and entertained a night circle of some young teachers for taking major decisions of running the university. He chose some loyal senior teachers and offered each 2-4 highly responsibly positions. As a result, the quality of higher education and research was jeopardized. For example, he was the Chief Editor of the university’s flagship research journal, Annals of Agriculture. During 4 years of his tenure not a single issue of the journal was published. Not single equipment was procured or no activity was run in the Dr. Wazed Miah Central Laboratory. He did not follow any seniority and quality in his judgment. We had a strong Research Management Committee for grants research projects and organize annual review workshop. No workshop has been organized in last three years. Non-transparent selection process for funding the grant application for research projects has been created high level of dissatisfaction among the faculty members.
A thorough investigation is needed by the University Grants Commission for finding out all irregularities that happened in last five years. It is surprising that the university has no VC since March 19, 2017. This vacuum of leadership creates new problems that might affect the current peaceful environment of this unique university. Already a large number of teachers have been observing human-chain program regularly for demanding a new VC from the qualified Professors of the university but not reappointment of former VC, Prof. Mahbubar Rahman. Today, a large number of students for the first time came out from the hall of residence and stood in front of university gate for demanding their rights and privileges as students. The government should take a rapid action for recruiting a qualified Professor as the VC of BSMRAU, otherwise this leaderless situation may causes serious damage to the congenial environment of this unique research university named after the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.