DU at 100 Milestones Met, Milestones Missed -Wahidul Islam and Zayed Shahnewaz
“What Dhaka University thinks today, the whole country thinks about it the next day”, “people can gather knowledge even by walking through the corridor of Dhaka University”, “Oxford of the East”, etc are some of the most popular compliments Bangladeshis tag on historic seat of higher education which is known as University of Dhaka (DU).
Recently University of Dhaka — the oldest and most famous seat of learning — celebrated its centennial ceremony which is undoubtedly a great milestone to be met by a university when it comes to the question of survival. Though completion of 100th year in education is a big fete for DU but it is much younger than University of al-Qarawiyyin, which is the modern world’s first university established in 857-859 in Moroccan city Fez. People know the history of this DU and why this institution was so important for the Bengali nation more or less. The history, structural beauty, administration, facilities, and contribution to nation-building, by grooming an enormous number of scientists and intellectuals, this university became the top university of this country. For the aspirants, this is one of most desired universities in Bangladesh for their graduation and post-graduation degrees. Every year, University of Dhaka produces many genius graduates who are contributing their intellectual labour for the improvement of the country. These graduates are also proving their mettle at home and abroad, bringing honour to the nation. But are these worthy of this prestigious university for calling it a great university? Well, you can answer it very easily. If anyone compares this university with other world-class universities and institutions, one can easily find out why University of Dhaka is not a world class university anymore. Okay, there was a time when this university produced eminent scientist like Satyendra Nath Bose, Noble Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus and so on. But why does this institution lose its standard day by day. If you see world university rankings and current position of University of Dhaka is 1500+.There are many organisations which publish these rankings based on different categories but DU is not even listed in the first 1000 universities in this world in any category. It is obviously not a good position for a historic and old university like DU. Why is this happening? What are the problems this university is facing? Is there any hope to shoot all problems and make a strong position again? What should a university be after it’s hundred years of establishment? Let’s focus on it.
People of Bangladesh have many expectations from this university. It is not a university only, it’s a place where students enroll to gain knowledge, people visit to reminisce the glorious history and this is the place from where protests spark against any type of socio-political discriminations, injustice, mollycoddling of majorities or even minorities, loss of voting rights, deviation from democratic practices, impending covert or overt threat to Bangladesh from foreign countries. This university is called “Oxford of the East” because of its hall-based administration system and dormitory facilities which is quite similar to that of Oxford University. But if we compare the quality of education and research facilities of both institutions, University of Dhaka is way far behind Oxford.
Firstly, we’ll talk about dorm facilities or halls of residence. When this university was established, it was a residential university though every student didn’t get a chance to stay in a dorm. Day by day, more departments and institutes were established and the number of students increased. At first there were four dormitories only. Three for boys and one for girls. Now it has 19 residential halls and two hostels. It’s true, Dhaka University doesn’t get enough facilities like Oxford. Besides, as a densely populated country, a huge space can not be authorised for this institution to be expanded in the center of Dhaka. But what this university has is enough for betterment of dormitory facilities. There are almost 35000+ running students studying here and a maximum portion of these students come from outside of Dhaka and have no place to stay here. So, they need to stay in dormitories. There is a rule that first year students can’t stay or can’t be residents of these dormitories. But this rule is quite inapplicable nowadays. Though female dormitories try to follow some rules, in male dormitories the authorities only do the official work. All the seats here are given by the student organisations of mainstream political parties. That’s how politics works in university and that’s the main reason why this university is falling down day by day. A fresher comes to the dorm, as he is not authorised to be a valid resident. He has to stay in a room which is called ‘Gonoroom’, where 30-150 students stay in one room. These students are forced to join different political programmes. Besides, unhealthy and unhygienic food, gathering, mental torture etc make a fresher depressed day by day. His academic career becomes hard to continue by maintaining all the manners. A fresher comes here, the highest educational institution with so many dreams, but these dirty systems of dormitories almost kill their dreams by making their life horrible. A naive brilliant student becomes violent to grab his political position in the halls. Even he becomes a drug addict and can do anything to make his seat permanent and safe in the dormitory. Though not all students become that much, their life becomes miserable and many of them only try to survive here at any cost which hampers their academic career badly. As most of the students come from middle class families, they can’t afford to live outside in a private hostel or flat. So it can be written that dirty student politics are one of the main reasons for decline and fall in the education quality of this university. If the students could get enough facilities, they could enrich their capabilities and could enrich their discernments more and more because they are brilliant enough to come here by overcoming one of the toughest entrance exams. Secondly, the problem lies in the teacher recruitment policies of this university which is not capable of delivering to the needs of the present world. It’s harsh but true. Teacher student relationship is not enough and faculties are not bound to give any kind of explanations to the authorities. That’s why they can do anything whatever they want. There are many faculties who don’t even take their classes and fulfill their responsibilities at all. That’s why, students don’t find any interest in their classes but they only attend classes for attendance marks. There was a time when we heard that there were some faculties like Munier Choudhury and so on, when they gave lectures in the class, students from other departments came to listen. But now this sounds like a joke.
An undeniable problem is that the university, which gave birth to a nation, a country, during its inception was dominated by taught courses and the trend is sadly still on. Local industries or employers complain about the aptitudes of the graduates along with their employability. Without producing local text, the university is losing relevance among the sectors who need strong workforce supply.
Another problem that has been plaguing the university is teacher politics. Faculties nowadays are so much biased and their main concern is to hold a political position for getting promotion and residential facilities. If anyone can read the book ‘Gavi Brittanto’ written by prominent writer Ahmed Sofa, the actual condition of the faculties and all these things will be understood.
Third thing is the facilities for research. This is the only university which is so big and famous but gets the least amount of funds for research. In last fiscal year, this university got 861 crore 79 lakh taka and from this amount only 1.32 per cent was given for research which is comparatively very low.
Fourth thing is the environment. As it is situated almost in the center of Dhaka and there are three large hospitals around this university, pulling lots of crowds, healthcare seekers, service-recipients who sometimes ruin the educational environment of this university. Besides, roads running through the green campus — which can be called the heart of Dhaka— are not safe for students. As accidents occur very frequently, students can’t move here and there safely all the time. Also vagabond, rootless and floating people are always on the prowl. Most of them are drug addicts and do many occurrences often. Along with these problems, as a public university, Dhaka University has so many problems internally and externally.
There are so many universities and institutions which were established at the same time when this university started its journey. Many of those are now holding a very good position in world ranking and trying to upgrade themselves day by day while University of Dhaka is declining and its ranking is ever sinking. Despite having so many handicaps, Dhaka University is not a university only, it’s an emotion, a national aspiration of Bengali emancipation. Not only students but also all types of citizens of this country love this institution, expecting it to take the lead in guiding the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. They like to visit it, try to be a part of it. On any kind of occasions, be it Pahela Boishakh or Pohela Falgun or Ekushey Book Fair or International Mother Language, this campus becomes fully crowded.
This is the only place in Dhaka where students get enough facilities to maintain a sufficient life in a minimum amount of costs. Low tuition fees and minimal charges for dormitory facilities, cheaper food and the green environment in the center of Dhaka combined work to the containment of students living in halls of residence.
Also, Dhaka University has a strong alumni association which helps needy students financially for continuing their study. Students can achieve other scholarships too for their good academic excellence and extracurricular activities. It is a place which allows students to achieve leading capabilities, communication skills and other qualifications. That’s why the graduates from this university still have demands in different types of jobs. About 100+ bureaucrats and many eminent government officials of this country are proud alumni of this glorious institution. Beside this, the university produced 13 presidents, seven prime ministers and 11 chief justices. These prove that the students of this university have enough capabilities to give this nation so many things. And they will do so as they are liable to the people of Bangladesh. They just need to be nurtured properly and freed from dirty politics. We all hope, one day this university will overcome all the problems and will be so worthy to call it the real ‘Oxford of the East’. Academics and nations abroad will recognise this university — the highest echelon of academic excellence.