Have you ever heard of a chairman of a university department officially recommending himself for his enrolment in a Master’s course at that very department and eventually having the degree?
As absurd as it may sound, that’s exactly what happened at the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU) in Gopalganj.
In fact, the man, Akkas Ali, now a former chairman of the department, was the first and only student taking the course that year.
He completed the last semester of the course there because he had already done three of another Master’s programme at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
Akkas, as empowered by the Gopalganj university, even went on to set his course outline for the semester, BSMRSTU documents show.
The documents also show that Akkas had applied for a lecturer post at the BSMRSTU against its recruitment circular published on December 7, 2015.
According to the circular, applications were invited against 22 vacant posts of assistant professors and lecturers at 13 departments, including the CSE.
For the lecturer post, the circular said applicants must have a Master’s degree.
The criterion was, however, relaxed only for candidates for the lecturer post of Electrical and Engineering department. The university allowed candidates having BSc (engineering) to apply for the post.
At that time, Akkas who had obtained Bachelor’s degree in CSE from Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (Cuet) in 2011, was doing his Master’s at Buet.
Still he got the job, apparently in violation of the university rules.
Contacted, Akkas insisted that a candidate having a BSc (engineering) could apply for the post at the CSE department.
And the university authorities recruited him as a lecturer on February 2, 2016.
“I did extremely well in my written and viva voce exams. The recruitment committee and our VC sir were happy with me and gave me the appointment letter,” Akkas told The Daily Star.
Interestingly, within four months of his joining, Akkas was promoted to the post of assistant professor. And another three months later, he was appointed the chairman of the CSE department.
“Our vice-chancellor sir found me the right candidate for the post,” said Akkas.
Despite repeated attempts, the VC, Prof Khondoker Md Nasiruddin, could not be contacted for comments.
Since September 19, several thousand students have been demonstrating for the VC’s removal, bringing allegations against him of sexual harassment, nepotism in recruiting teachers and other employees, and corruption in development projects, including the construction of the Shaheed Minar and Bangabandhu’s mural on the campus.
In April, Akkas was barred from taking part in academic and administrative activities at the university for life. The order came following a sexual scandal.
THE MASTER’S PROGRAMME
The BSMRSTU opened the master’s programme at the CSE department in early 2017.
“He [Akkas] was the first student of the programme. It was opened only for him,” said one of his colleagues, preferring to be unnamed.
The Daily Star obtained a copy of Akkas’ admission form, curriculum vitae and transcript of academic records of his master’s programme.
His admission form shows that he applied for the master’s programme for the semester starting in April 2017.
At the bottom of the back page of the form, there is a handwritten note that reads the university accepted 60 percent credits (that he has completed in Buet).
Right beneath it is the signature of department chairman Akkas, approving his enrolment in the Master’s course.
“You see the document shows he himself approved the enrolment,” said a teacher of the CSE department.
HE SET HIS COURSE OUTLINE
To run the master’s programme, BSMRSTU Registrar Prof Md Nuruddin Ahmed issued an office order on April 2, 2017.
The order reads the chairman of the department, as per department’s syllabus, will fix course outline and the number of lectures required for the course. The time for each lecture was fixed at one hour and remuneration for each lecture Tk 1,000.
In the order, the registrar appointed Mohammad Nuruzzaman Bhuiyan, assistant professor and director of the Institute of Information Technology of Noakhali Science and Technology University, as a part-time teacher for the master’s programme.
Nuruzzaman was supposed to take classes on three courses -- Advanced Computer Communication and Networks, Distributed Computing Systems and Wireless Sensor Networks -- and supervise Akkas’ thesis.
Contacted, Nuruzzaman said he took a total of four classes in the four-month-long semester.
Registrar Prof Nuruddin said the VC asked him to issue the order.
“It’s not our duty to check who is the chairman and who is the examinee,” he told The Daily Star.
The move left the teachers of the department surprised.
“Isn’t it funny? Akkas was the chairman and he dictated what he would study. Nowhere in the world, except this department, you’ll find such things,” said a teacher of the CSE department.
In the semester final examination, three teachers prepared questions and evaluated Akkas’s answer sheets, documents show.
Assistant Professor Nuruzzaman was one of them. The other two were part-time lecturers -- Moushumi Bala and Husnul Azra -- who are administratively junior to Akkas.
Akkas approved a six-member exam committee for his final test for master’s programme on May 4, 2017. Husnul was made chairman of the committee.
On May 14, 2017, the BSMRSTU VC approved the exam committee.
Exam Controller Golam Haider said he carried out his duties as per directives from the CSE department.
Husnul, who was chairman of the exam committee, said she followed Akkas’ order.
“I was a part-time teacher at that time. I was not aware of university regulations. Since he was the department chairman, he must have known regulations better than me,” she added.
According to Akkas’ master’s transcript, he was conferred the degree in July 2017.
According to it, he obtained GPA-3.5 out of 4 in the first two semesters at Buet in 2012. In the third semester in 2013, he got GPA-4 out of 4.
And he secured 4 in all three courses and thesis at BSMRSTU’s exam in 2017.
But the provisional grade sheet of BUET shows something different.
It says Akkas got GPA-3 in his first semester, GPA-3.25 in second semester, GPA-4 in third semester and GPA-2.5 in fourth semester.
Asked, Akkas said he sat for exams following rules.
“I’m a victim of conspiracy,” he said, without elaborating on the matter.