Private universities have sought a stimulus package from the government to shore them up amid closure of all academic institutions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They requested for the aid so that they can pay salaries of 25,000 teachers and staffs at these institutions for at least six months as they stopped taking tuition fees from students.
Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB) sent a letter to the University Grants Commission (UGC) in this regard on Wednesday.
The association promised to repay the amount in instalments over three years when the situation stabilises.
"We are hoping positive response from the UGC as many universities are facing existential threat," said Sheikh Kabir Hossain, chairman of APUB.
"We did not mention exact amount of incentive as we are still estimating it," he said.
All the educational institutions have been closed since March 17 and the government has extended the closure till May 5 to stem the further spread of Covid-19.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 27 said all educational institutions would remain closed until September if the coronavirus situation does not improve.
"Their only earning source is tuition fees of students. As the private universities are closed in line with government directive due to coronavirus situation, they are not collecting no tuition fees," said the letter.
Fund crisis in the universities deepened further as they have halted their admission process -- another major source of income -- in line with the UGC directives, the letter said, adding that the newly set up universities would suffer the most.
According to the latest UGC annual report p 2018, there are some 3,62,000 students at 105 private universities across the country.
"We have received the letter … We will forward the letter to the Ministry of Education soon," UGC Chairman Prof Kazi Shahidullah told The Daily Star.
The issue was discussed at a meeting attended by Education Minister Dipu Moni, UGC top officials, vice-chancellors of several public and private universities and leaders of APUB on Thursday, he said
The minister said she would look into the matter after receiving the letter, said the UGC chair.
UGC acting secretary Ferdous Zaman said the meeting also decided that the private universities would not pressure the students or their guardians for the tuition fees during the ongoing crisis.
It also decided that the authorities would not lay off their teachers and staff and their salaries would be paid regularly, he added.
ONLINE EXAMS FOLLOWING UGC GUIDELINES
At the meeting, the education ministry and the UGC have asked all private and public universities to complete academic activities for the current semester through online classes.
However, private universities will have to hold exams in line with the commission's guideline in that score, which is in the making.
"At the meeting, we decided that all public and private universities must ensure that the classes be held online,"Ferdous said.
UGC sources said that only 63 universities out of the 151 are conducting online classes. Of them, only two to three are public universities, and the rest are private.