Public and Private Higher Education Concerns and Challenges: A Case of Bangladesh

Public and Private Higher Education Concerns and Challenges: A Case of Bangladesh

Sheikh Md. Monzurul Huq, Sheikh Mohammed Rafiul Huque
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6198-1.ch018
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Like in most developing countries, higher education in Bangladesh has experienced dramatic changes in recent years. This chapter examines four aspects—access, quality, equity, and governance—centring education in both public and private universities of the country. It also highlights obstacles and challenges the universities are facing and puts forward some recommendations in these respects. Two methods, (a) semi-structured informal interview and (b) document and publication study, were used in collecting data. Primary data were collected through semi-structured informal interviews. A total of 30 participants were interviewed. The study opines that higher educational institutions should not only have good governance but also be more devoted to instituting quality control. It also observes that sustaining the quality of education acceptable both nationally and internationally requires setting up an autonomous quality assurance body. It stresses that the active and sincere involvement of state and academia can help address issues related to four aspects—access, governance, equality, and quality—of higher education.
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The development of modern society depends to a large extent on the nature and standard of higher education. In the era of globalisation, the growing value of knowledge can hardly be understated. Higher education grooms skilled people for assuming various tasks. Access to higher education assists individuals and societies to attain abilities in order to improve conditions that have an effect on quality of life and to augment productivity. Higher education has enormous possibilities in pressing forward prosperity in the developing countries (UGC, 2006). It makes space for numerous economic and social benefits in the private and public spheres (Table 1). Higher education has experienced radical transformations in most of the developing countries. After nearly three decades of brisk expansion, these transformations have been found to have led to steadily increasing problems, in terms of missions, resources and outcomes, by an environment full of constraints and challenges (Marginson, 2007; Salmi, 1992).

Table 1.
Benefits from higher education
BenefitsPrivate (Individual and Family Benefits)Public (Social Benefits)
Economic1.           Higher salaries
2.           Employment
3.           Higher savings
4.           Improved working conditions
5.           10. Personal and professional mobility
1.           Greater productivity
2.           National and regional development
3.           Financial support
4.           Increased consumption
5.           Increased potential for transformation from low skill industrial economy to that of a knowledge based one
Social     1. Improved quality of life for self and children
     2. Better decision making
     3. Improved personal status
     4. Increased educational opportunities
     5. Healthier lifestyle and higher life expectancy
     1. Nation building and development of leadership
     2. Democratic participation
     3. Social Mobility
     4. Improved health
     5. Improved basic and secondary education

Source: World Bank, 2002, p. 81

There is an increasing rate of disparity in higher education in the developing countries. While participation in higher education has increased in the developing countries, access is not equitable (Oketch, 2003). Access to higher education is often regulated by socio-economic status. Females take part to a lesser degree in higher education than their male counterparts (Chauhan, 2008). Several studies also observed that students who take part in higher education are those who have power over social, economic and cultural capital (Patrinos, 1990).Garrett (2003) noted that globalisation and privatisation have great impacts on the goals of higher education. It further added that universities are linked with markets, industries and corporate businesses while issues of equality and access rarely make it to official and public discourses on education (Garrett, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

University Grants Commission (UGC): The University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh is the statutory apex body in the field of higher education in Bangladesh. The primary objectives of the UGC are to supervise, maintain, promote and coordinate university education. Its mission is to ensure quality higher education for Bangladesh.

Middle Ranking Private University: A middle ranking private university operates in both own and rented buildings. It does not have a campus with appropriate facilities. It has average quality students and it mostly depends on part time faculties.

Private University: A private university is owned and operated by the private sector. The term “private” simply means that the university's funding comes from tuition and investments. Although a private university is not operated by a government, it is subject to government rules and regulations.

Low Ranking Private University: A low ranking private university operates in temporary arrangements in hired accommodations. It runs without adequate resources or apposite infrastructure. It has poor quality students and less qualified faculties. It mostly depends on part time faculties.

Public University: A public university is a university which is mainly funded by public means through a national government. Tuition is much cheaper than that of a private university. It is subject to government rules and regulations. The largest universities (in terms of areal size) in Bangladesh are all public.

Top Ranking Private University: A type of private university which has its own campus with quite commendable infrastructural facilities. A top ranking private university has meritorious students and qualified permanent faculties. It also recruits part time faculties. This type of university has high tuition fees.

Governance: A means by which Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) are organised and managed. University governance is the way in which universities are operated. Internal governance of the university includes the controlling mechanisms between various actors inside an HEI for example, management and trustee board. External governance encompasses the influence from outside the institution on the governance of the institution for example, supervising authority such as, University Grant’s Commission (UGC).

Session Jam: A term commonly used in Bangladesh to refer to the failure of public universities to ensure measures so that students graduate according to schedule. A prolonged session jam seriously obstructs academic activities of a university. A session jam usually occurs due to long-lasting closures of the universities caused by political unrest or violence.

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