• Monday, December 22, 2014

Freedom in the air

International students in private universities

-Prof. M. Lutfar Rahman

Out of well over one hundred universities in Bangladesh, most are private institutions and a large number of tertiary level students are enrolled in the private universities of Bangladesh. A good number of universities in private sector earned confidence of students and guardians by offering satisfactory level of education and the others are in the process of improving their quality under the supervision of University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh. In a word, the private universities are playing a significant role for tertiary level education in our society.
With the tremendous advancements of transports and communications in the recent past, globalization has become a common word of the time, and we live in an increasingly global world now. In the circumstances, it is no longer enough for a university to think within the boundary of its own country.  Indeed, internationalization is considered to be an important criterion for universities, which are actually international institutions by name and nature. A university and its students are benefited from exposure to international students, who add variety to the campus and contribute to prepare students for global organizations.
Currently over two thousand students from abroad are enrolled in Bangladeshi universities and the huge majority of them are enrolled in the private universities. This short article presents a brief overview of the foreign students in Bangladeshi universities, specially in the private universities.
The number of private universities and enrollments in private universities are steadily increasing in Bangladesh. According to the 38th Annual Report of UGC for the year 2011, total number of enrollments in 52 private universities was 2,80,822. This number is over one hundred thousand more than the corresponding number (1,85,910) for 32 public universities, excluding National University and Bangladesh Open University. According to the report the total number of students in private universities more than tripled to 2,80,822 in 2011 in the past six years from 88,669 in 2005. The number of students in private universities in 2012 is 3,14,640 with the addition of new private universities (39th Annual Report of UGC for 2012). According to UGC reports, the total number of foreign students in the private universities in 2011 and 2012 are 1651 and 1642 respectively.  
Out of 1,642 foreign students in 2012, the first five universities admitting 1459 students are University of Science and Technology Chittagong (USTC, 1237 students), International Islamic University Chittagong (98 students), American International University Bangladesh (57 students), North South University (35 students) and BRAC University (32 students). In 2012, students from 34 countries were enrolled in different private universities in Bangladesh. With the increase in the number of foreign students, private universities are gaining better acceptance internationally and earning more and more foreign currency for the country. This is a very positive trend and the authorities of such universities need to offer quality education to keep up the trend. Year wise growth in the number of foreign students for the past seven years is tabulated below:
Year    Number
2012    1642
2011    1651
2010    1557
2009    1199
2008    812
2007    596
2006    498
It is to be mentioned that out of 1642 foreign students in 2012, 1237 students were enrolled in MBBS program alone in USTC in Chittagong.
It is interesting to see the picture for the public universities. In 2012, the number of foreign students enrolled in 18 public universities, out of total 34 public universities, was 525. The corresponding numbers for 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007 are 210, 359, 390, 221 and 207 respectively. The increase of 315 students in 2012 indicates improvements of quality of education and increasing confidence of foreign students on public universities of the country.  
There are many reasons for foreign students not preferring public universities. Among them, the most mentionable reasons are session-jam, complicated admission process, lack of academic facilities, increasing unrest in the campuses and inadequate presence in the Web. The Websites of a number of public universities do not provide information of expenditure, accommodation, food, lifestyle and geographical and environmental information of the university campuses. Also most of the public universities do not have international office for foreign students. The private universities, on the other hand, have campuses free of unrest and violence without session jam; they conduct makeup classes lost by natural and other calamities and complete academic sessions in time.
QS Stars (www.topuniversities.com/qs-stars) highlights universities for internationalization by awarding recognition. It evaluates universities using a set of criteria, the universities are then awarded with a badge displaying number of stars based on internationalization. Only University of Dhaka, from Bangladesh with the score of 26.67 out of one hundred, is listed in the 201-250 bracket out of 424 universities listed from Asia in 2012. Internationalization is a current trend and the universities of Bangladesh have to move forward for international students and internationalization with increasing efforts.
The private universities shoulder heavy load of tertiary education in Bangladesh and earn the lion's share of foreign currency from overseas students without spending taxpayers' money. At present, there are limitations of the private universities, but the trend clearly indicate that it is not far when the private universities of the country will have more and more foreign students, as it is now in USA, where out of fifteen top universities ten are private universities (according to the QS Stars internationalization ranking of universities in 2012).  

The writer is the Vice Chancellor of Daffodil International University, Dhaka.

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2014

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