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Qualified teachers: The main challenge for private universities

This is the fourth part of a six-part series exploring how private universities in Bangladesh are flouting laws and regulations
Mir Mohammad Jasim
23 Jun 2024 23:41:32 | Update: 23 Jun 2024 23:41:32
Qualified teachers: The main challenge for private universities

BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) has 164 teachers for 7,000 students, resulting in a teacher-student ratio of 1:42. The university also spends little on research, leading to a low number of publications.

Additionally, only one foreign student is enrolled at the university, according to the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) 49th annual report.

University insiders report that the inadequate number of teachers leads to heavy workloads and hampers the quality of education.

This issue is not isolated; nearly all private universities are experiencing a crisis of quality teachers. The top 10-15 private universities actively seek PhD-qualified teachers from both home and abroad.

However, most private universities do not even search for qualified teachers and operate with less qualified staff, primarily relying on lecturers.

Prominent educationists in the country state that achieving world-class higher education is impossible without an adequate number of quality teachers.

They hold both the government and university authorities responsible for the sub-standard education resulting from this shortage.

Despite the increase in student numbers, universities are not ensuring an adequate number of teachers, a situation the UGC continues to overlook, they said.


Teacher statistics in private universities

According to the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) 49th annual report, there are 16,508 teachers at 110 private universities.

Among them, 859 professors are full-time, while 999 are part-time or contractual. Additionally, 986 associate professors are full-time and 545 are part-time.

There are 3,293 full-time assistant professors and 695 contractual assistant professors. The number of full-time lecturers stands at 6,845, with 1,577 part-time lecturers.

This indicates that lecturers predominantly staff private universities.

The number of PhD holders has not increased significantly to meet current demands. In 2018, there were 3,120 PhD teachers out of 16,074 teachers at private universities. In 2022, the number of PhD teachers is 3,510 out of 16,508 teachers.

The teacher-student ratio at private universities is 1:21.

There are 341,098 students studying at private universities across the country. Approximately 64 per cent of students are enrolled in science, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, biology, engineering, and technology disciplines.

About 22 per cent of students are enrolled in business disciplines, while the remaining 14 per cent are from humanities and social sciences.


VCs address teacher shortage, stress for PhD programmes

North South University (NSU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Atiqul Islam told The Business Post that they are facing a lack of qualified and skilled teachers. "We need at least 500 teachers, but despite receiving many applications, we find only a small number of skilled candidates," he said.

Dr Islam highlighted that the main issues are fluency in English and communication skills, even among foreign PhD holders. He also mentioned that qualified PhD holders who went abroad for further studies are hesitant to return home due to their hassle-free lives and excellent salaries abroad.

"Therefore, it is challenging for us to find skilled and qualified teachers within a short deadline," he added.

NSU is also unable to offer PhD programmes, which impacts their ranking as they do not receive any marks for PhD programmes. Dr Islam questioned why the education ministry forbids PhD programmes at NSU, stating that the country is losing out on significant international standard research.

Prof Dr Md Abul Kashem Mia, vice-chancellor of United International University (UIU), told The Business Post that finding quality teachers is their main challenge. "We are currently experiencing a shortage of adequately skilled individuals to fill teaching positions. However, we remain hopeful and are actively searching for qualified educators," he said.

Dr Kashem Mia pointed out that the absence of PhD programmes at private universities affects their ranking, despite excellent performance in many areas. He urged the education ministry to prepare guidelines for introducing PhD programmes based on a university's capabilities, without distinguishing between public and private institutions.

"We can attract qualified teachers if we are allowed to run PhD programmes. It will have detrimental effects on us if the government delays its introduction at private universities," he added.

Professor Syed Mahfuzul Aziz, acting vice-chancellor of BRAC University (BracU), told The Business Post that his university always faces a teachers’ crisis. "Most of the new teachers or lecturers go abroad for higher studies like PhD and only a few of them return to the country. So, we cannot increase students and cannot do good research," he said.

Prof Aziz emphasised that the government should allow PhD programmes at highly qualified private universities to produce skilled graduates for the teaching profession. "Only PhD graduates can alleviate our teachers' crisis," he stated.

He said that the aim of a university should be to generate new knowledge, and only PhD teachers have the advanced expertise to conduct impactful research. "We prefer PhD holders for teacher recruitment, but we have to wait a long time to find such qualified candidates," he added.


Some universities excelling in research initiatives

Some private universities, particularly the reputed ones such as North South University (NSU), BRAC University (BracU), Independent University Bangladesh (IUB), United International University (UIU), American International University Bangladesh (AIUB), Daffodil International University (DIU), International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT), and others, are making significant strides in research.

According to the UGC’s latest annual report, the country’s top ten public universities spent Tk 74 crore on research in 2022. In contrast, the top ten private universities spent Tk 175 crore on research.

BracU leads both private and public institutions in research spending, allocating Tk 59 crore, which is almost equivalent to the combined research funds of the top ten public universities.

Additionally, the curriculum at private universities is continually updated to meet the demands of the job market.


Education experts urge unified efforts

Dr Manzoor Ahmed, professor emeritus of BracU, told The Business Post that an integrated effort is needed from both the government and private university authorities. "This issue should be resolved as early as possible," he said.

"Many students will leave the country if they cannot secure admission to reputable private universities, which are unable to increase their capacity due to a shortage of qualified teachers," he added.

Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University, told The Business Post that the government has been allowing the establishment of more private universities without ensuring the availability of qualified teachers and other academic resources.

"Many universities are operating without any professors or with fewer than five full-time professors. This is the current state of our private educational institutions. The government must ensure the availability of qualified teachers for all private universities; otherwise, these institutions will produce poorly prepared graduates," he warned.

Professor Dr Biswajit Chanda, a member of the UGC, told The Business Post that the education ministry is planning to introduce PhD programmes at private universities. "We will prepare a policy once we receive approval from the ministry," he said.


Teacher scenario at public universities

Public universities employ 16,399 teachers across 53 institutions. This includes 4,607 full-time and 620 part-time professors, 2,807 full-time and 291 part-time associate professors, 5,209 full-time and 329 part-time assistant professors, and 1,908 full-time and 247 part-time lecturers. The number of PhD holders is 6,238.

The teacher-student ratio at public universities is 1:18.