As it celebrates its first century, Dhaka University can be justifiably proud of its many glorious achievements. It has provided the intellect behind the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh, and educated political and business leaders, poets, playwrights, lawyers, scientists and teachers alike, to serve the country. As it looks forward to its next century, I dream of a Dhaka University that will continue to play even more of a significant role in becoming an intellectual powerhouse that will provide the intellect to transform Bangladeshi society into a learned society, and to help its economic renaissance as an innovative and knowledge-driven economic powerhouse. To achieve this dream, the university needs to reflect on its future, reinvent itself, and adjust to the everchanging external environment.
In its first century, Dhaka University rose to the occasion and became a true beacon of light in its early days through its pursuit of academic excellence. It then rose again responding to the emerging needs of the nation by giving birth to the language movement eventually culminating in the liberation of the country.
Bangladesh is now at a crossroads. On the positive side of the ledger, economic gains made by the nation since independence is very impressive. Much progress has been made on many fronts. On the negative side of the same ledger, there has been a significant decline in morality and civic sense. An indignant nation that rose to protest the loss of a handful of precious lives of martyrs Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and Shafiur, at the eve of the language movement, now witnesses frequent killings without much indignation. While idealism was once the moral currency of Dhaka University students and graduates, today illegally got fortune has replaced it to an alarming level. Justice Badaruddin Ahmed Siddiky, a distinguished graduate of Dhaka University, then Chief Justice of East Pakistan, had the moral fortitude in refusing to swear in Tikka Khan as Governor. One wonders why we do not see such acts of bravery from DU graduates anymore?
The nation needs Dhaka University to rise to the occasion once more. It needs to educate our future leaders who would put idealism before monetary benefits, who would not tolerate corruption and root them out forcefully, would establish the rule of law and put the nation back towards its onward journey. The country also needs innovators, discoverers, business leaders and social entrepreneurs like the late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. In short, Dhaka University needs to become the conscience of Bangladesh and educate "enlightened" citizens and leaders.
To do all the above, it needs to pursue academic excellence. It needs to boost its faculty ranks with eminent scholars. It can find inspiration from its proud history as the "Oxford of the East" with academic giants like Satyen Bose. Oxford University has 900 plus years behind its glorious past. Dhaka University has just begun. With high aspirations and noble ideals of serving the nation, it can rise high by providing the nation with intellectual direction and leadership in its next decade. The future of Bangladesh is in your hands, Dhaka University. Bring enlightenment to the nation by spreading the "light of knowledge" as you have done in the past century. This is my dream for my Alma Mater, Dhaka University, for its next century.
The writer is the Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Western Australia