From this year, all public universities have to enrol students through a centralised admission test as the University Grants Commission is all set to introduce the new system to reduce hassles of admission seekers.
The UGC will start work at full throttle next month on the procedures and methods of the admission system styled "Central Admission Test".
However, four leading universities -- Dhaka University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), Jahangirnagar University and Chittagong University -- are still undecided about adopting the new system.
They will inform the UGC, the statutory apex body for higher education, about their decision after discussing the issue at their respective academic council, one of the highest bodies that deal with such matters, the vice chancellors of the universities said after a meeting with the UGC high-ups at the latter's office.
"We have unanimously decided that a central admission test will be held this year to enrol students at public universities," UGC Chairman Prof Kazi Shahidullah told reporters, emerging from the meeting attended by the VCs of 12majorpublic universities.
"We are doing this as the guardians want a hassle-free admission system."
The UGC chair said none at the meeting expressed reservations about the new system. "Some universities, however, said they would need to follow their procedures before adopting it."
Asked what would the UGC do if the four leading universities decide to stay out of the new system, Shahidullah said, "We hope all will join…."
The commission will give all-out assistance to the universities in moving ahead with the central admission test, he said.
For holding the test, several committees will be formed incorporating teachers into those. "We will inform everyone about the outline and method of the exam in due time."
Seeking anonymity, an UGC member said they are determined to introduce the system even if any university doesn't want to join it.
Talking to reporters, DU VC Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman said, "We have discussed how a centralised entry test can take place. Those who were present at the meeting gave different opinions.
"Dhaka University informed the meeting that it will take its final decision on the matter after holding meetings at its academic council and general admission committee," he said.
Chittagong University VC Prof Shireen Akhter said the central admission test is a wonderful idea.
"None of the vice chancellors of the four universities running under the 1973 ordinance can make a final decision on his or her own. We have to sit with the academic councils," she pointed out.
Buet VC Prof Saiful Islam and JU VC Prof Farzana Islam said they will need to discuss the matter at their academic councils.
Earlier on January 23, the UGC announced that it would go for uniform admission test for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Bangladesh Bishwabidyalaya Parishad, an association of vice chancellors of the public universities, decided at a meeting on Tuesday that all public universities would have a uniform admission test this year. However, the VCs of the DU, Buet, and the JU did not attend the meeting.
For higher education, public universities remain students' top choice. But the number of seats is way smaller than the number of students seeking admission.
There are 39 public universities, which enrol around 65,000 students every year through separate admission tests. Last year, some 9.88 lakh students passed the HSC and its equivalent examinations under the 10 education boards.
UGC'S INITIAL PLAN
The UGC chairman said there will be three exams -- one each for science, humanities and commerce students -- based on HSC syllabus.
"Each exam could be for up to 100 marks," he said.
UGC Member Muhammed Alamgir said each of the universities will be able to fix a minimum score required for admission to that university and also set other conditions if necessary.
"But they [universities] will not be allowed to take further test."
The exams will be held immediately after the publication of the HSC results. "Our plan is to hold the three exams separately in three days."
The commission has not yet decided on the format of the exams.
"I think 50 percent questions could be MCQ [multiple choice questions] and the rest short questions," said Alamgir.
A committee will decide on who will conduct the test, he added.
WHY CENTRAL ADMISSION TEST?
The idea of a centralised test has long been in discussion as admission seekers as well as their guardians face hassles every year when they prepare for separate admission tests at multiple universities in different parts of the country.
President Abdul Hamid on several occasions asked the VCs of all public universities to introduce a unified admission system to reduce such hassles.
The students' hassle begins after their HSC exams. Many of them turn to coaching centres to prepare for admissions tests. They buy admission forms for different units of multiple universities and spend a lot of time and money on travel and accommodation.
They often travel with parents or guardians, and sometimes have to check into hotels for overnight stay. There are cases when a candidate has to take separate tests for seats in separate faculties, even separate departments, in one university.
The UGC has long been suggesting modifying the existing admission process, saying it is too expensive and coaching-oriented.
In several annual reports, the commission said the public universities would have to take initiatives to introduce a unified admission system to reduce students' hassles and cut their expenses.
In 2010, the education ministry suggested introducing a uniform admission test, dubbed as "cluster system", for the public universities.
According to the system, universities of similar characteristics will be brought under a cluster for which a single admission test would be held. And admission seekers would be enrolled at public universities based on the merit list.
Last year, seven public agricultural universities introduced the cluster system.
Some top public universities had opposed the idea after it was floated around a decade ago.
Officials of the education ministry and the UGC said one of the reasons behind their opposition was that the implementation of the cluster system would cut the income of the universities and also teachers from the sale of admission forms, invigilation and checking of answer scripts.
For example, Jahangirnagar University earned around Tk 20 crore from the sale of 3.60 lakh admission forms last year.
The universities also argued that a university would lose its distinction from the others if a uniform admission test is introduced. Besides, the quality of admission test will be compromised.
Asked whether some universities opposed the uniform system because it would slash their income from admission tests, JU VC Prof Farzana said, "No. This is not the only reason."
"There are some other reasons," she said without elaborating.
She, however, said 40 percent of the money, earned from the sale of admission forms, is spent on the university's development activities and the rest on conducting the test and teachers' remuneration.