<%-- Page Title--%> Education <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 120 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

August 29, 2003

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On its way

Presidency University

Kajalie Shehreen Islam

With private universities “mushrooming”all over Dhaka, the 48th one can hardly be seen as welcome. Those behind the newly-founded Presidency University, however, have high hopes for the institution which began its journey on August 24.

At the inaugural ceremony at Hotel Sheraton on August 20, Chairperson of the Presidency University Foundation, Rokia Afzal Rahman, answered the question in the minds of many -- why another private university? “To offer quality education,” she said, “so that our children do not have to go abroad for their studies.” To educate in its full totality in order to secure a good standing in life; to educate not only academically, but to set proper standards and values, the value of human life, the value of others.

“We have come to give and not take,” said Rahman, recognising the great opportunity of giving to others. “This is a non-profit university,” she assured. “None of the board members will make any profits out of this institution. Whatever revenue we do get, we will put into other institutes.”

The current academic programmes of the university include Civil Engineering and Electrical Engineering under the Azimur Rahman School of Engineering; Business Administration under the Moazzam Hossain School of Business; Economics and English under the School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; and Computer Science under the School of Information Technology and Applied Sciences. Depending on facilities and revenue, the university also hopes to open in the future a School of Medicine and Public Health and a School of Law.

“When it comes to quantity,” said Muslehuddin Ahmad, Vice Chancellor (Designate) of Presidency University, “we have enough private universities in Bangladesh. Quality-wise, however, we do not have enough.” This is where Presidency comes in. The Founder President and former VC of North South University, the first private university in Bangladesh, believes that Presidency University will be different from all the others -- different in terms of quality “as it has qualified faculty members and appropriate infrastructure and laboratory facilities”.

At the ceremony, Muslehuddin Ahmad expressed his satisfaction at being involved in launching the Private University Movement back in 1988. Though people had doubts about private universities back then, the establishment of so many since obviously has positive connotations. There is no student politics in private universities, said Ahmad, which allows students to pursue their academic careers unhindered. The high fees, he believes, causes students to take their studies more seriously than if they were paying only nominal fees. Also, the high fees paid by those who can afford them help provide financial assistance to those who are financially disadvantaged, he pointed out.

Referring to his days at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Abdul Moyeen Khan, Minister for Science, Information and Communication Technology, recalled how only 5 percent of students paid for their education at one of the world's most expensive schools while the remaining 95 percent went on scholarships.
In his address, Muslehuddin Ahmad suggested a system of educational loans for deserving students from banks, insurance companies and universities which the students can begin to repay upon entering the job market. He also proposed an “Education Window” of the World Bank by which an interest-free loan system could be set up.

The Presidency University Foundation is comprised of 31 diversified board members, 54 percent of whom are women. It also has an International Advisory Board with members from various universities in the USA including Harvard and the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign).

Located in Gulshan 2, Presidency University, so far, has academic collaborations with four US universities: the University of Southern Indiana, the Embry-Riddle Aviation University, the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign) -- Architecture, the School of Economics and Business of Prairie View A&M University, Texas. It also has collaborations with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, while efforts are being made to establish academic collaborations with other universities in the USA, Europe, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.
At the inaugural ceremony Chief Guest, Dr. M. Osman Farruk, Minister of Education spoke of being blamed by many members of the public for allowing private universities to sprout like mushrooms. "I can only say," said the Minister, "that the market will decide." The universities need to have transparency, however, he added, and must be held accountable financially as well as for the quality of education they impart to students.
Presidency University has shown a promising beginning in the standards it has set so far. If it can live up to them -- as one hopes it will -- it will definitely benefit students seeking a well-rounded, quality education in Bangladesh.


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