Dhaka,  Tuesday
05 March 2024

UGC needs more powers to improve quality, standards of tertiary education

Dr. Ferdous Zaman

Published: 03:38, 4 December 2023

UGC needs more powers to improve quality, standards of tertiary education

Photo : Messenger

The University Grants Commission (UGC) was established by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as the Father of the Nation, as the statutory agency in the field of tertiary education to oversee higher education in Bangladesh on December 16, 1972, and later enacted as an autonomous apex body in higher education under the President Order No. 10 of 1973.

The UGC is in charge of awarding funding, upholding standards, and directing the growth of the nation's higher education institutions. Additionally, the UGC is essential to advancing higher education's globalisation, innovation, and research. The UGC has a wide range of functions and powers to regulate and support higher education in Bangladesh. UGC needs to be empowered more to look into the irregularities in expenditure and the recruitment of teachers and general members of staff in all the public and private universities.
Higher Education Controlling Authorities of some other countries:

India

The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India, established by the University Grants Commission Act of 1956, serves as the apex body for regulating university education in India. Its key functions encompass setting and maintaining educational standards, framing regulations for minimum standards, monitoring developments in higher education, disbursing grants, acting as a link between governments and institutions, and advising on improvements. The UGC of India significantly contributes to improving education quality, fostering research and innovation, and enhancing accessibility in higher education across India.

Sri-Lanka

The University Grants Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka is the top authority overseeing university education in the country. Established under the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978, it carries out various crucial functions such as planning and coordinating university education, allocating funds to higher educational institutions (HEIs), maintaining academic standards, regulating HEI administration, and controlling student admissions.

Pakistan

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan, established in 2002, is an autonomous body responsible for formulating and implementing national higher education policies and standards. It sets quality standards for university education, provides funding to both public and private universities, accredits institutions to maintain standards, conducts research for improvements, and promotes internationalization. Additionally, it plays a role in developing and implementing educational policies at all levels. The HEC's investments in infrastructure and faculty development, along with initiatives for research and innovation, have resulted in improved rankings for Pakistani universities.

Japan

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) is the Japanese government agency overseeing university education in Japan. Its responsibilities include setting education standards, providing funding for universities (both public and private), accrediting institutions, conducting research on higher education, and promoting internationalization. MEXT enforces requirements for general education credits, faculty qualifications and inspects universities regularly. Accreditation by MEXT is crucial for government funding eligibility, and attending unaccredited institutions may affect job prospects and government programmes.

England

The Office for Students (OfS) is the independent regulator of higher education in England. Its core responsibilities include setting quality standards for university education, monitoring and reporting on university performance, registering and de-registering universities, investigating complaints from students and others, and promoting equality of opportunity in higher education. The OFS plays a crucial role in ensuring high-quality education and accountability in the UK higher education sector.

The USA

The United States Department of Education (ED) regulates higher education in the USA through several key functions. These include setting standards for federal financial aid eligibility, accrediting institutions, collecting and reporting education data, enforcing civil rights laws, and conducting research. The ED's role is vital in ensuring equitable access to high-quality education for all students in the United States.
Empowerment and Recruitment Process

The UGC needs to be empowered more and strengthened to overcome its limitations and challenges and to perform its role more effectively and efficiently. Some of the possible ways of empowerment are:

Increasing funding: In order for the UGC to be able to satisfy the expanding demands and requirements of higher education, the government should enhance the budgetary allocation for the UGC. The UGC should investigate additional financing options from different parties, including students, parents, alumni, companies, industries, foundations, etc., such as fees, contributions, grants, loans, endowments, etc.

Enhancing autonomy: The government needs to provide the UGC with more freedom in terms of formulating policies, allocating funds, selecting members, and approving projects, programmes, and plans, among other things. Additionally, the UGC should retain its impartiality and integrity while fending off political pressure and intervention from numerous sources.

Enhancing quality: By developing and executing efficient quality assurance and accrediting systems for higher education institutions and programmes, the UGC should raise the standard of education. To evaluate and enhance quality, the UGC should create and implement standards, criteria, indicators, benchmarks, and other measures. The UGC shall periodically examine and evaluate institutions and programmes in higher education and adopt remedial action and quality-control measures.

Promoting research: In order to develop a culture of research and innovation in higher education, the UGC should support publications and research activities in a variety of domains of knowledge. For research initiatives, programmes, centres, networks, etc., the UGC should offer funding, facilities, incentives, prizes, recognition, etc. The UGC should support international and domestic research collaboration and exchange, as well as the dissemination of research results.

Collaborative work: Fostering academic mobility, collaboration, exchange, and recognition between domestic and international colleges and institutes will help internationalise higher education. The UGC needs to focus on increasing Bangladesh's higher education system's worldwide exposure.

One of the most important aspects of empowerment is the hiring process for academic staff positions in universities, such as vice chancellor, pro-vice chancellor, treasurer, registrar, dean, professor, associate professor, assistant professor, lecturer, etc. The hiring procedure ought to adhere to these suggestions:

For the leadership positions in the UGC and universities as well:

  • The Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh may establish a search committee comprising renowned academics, researchers, academic administrators, members from concerned ministries, UGC, universities and civil society.
  • The search committee will set the necessary qualifications and experiences for hiring the chairman, members, and vice-chancellor.
  • The Search Committee may issue a public announcement or call for nominations from qualified and interested persons.
  • Based on their applications, the Search Committee will prepare a short list to select the best candidates.
  • The Selection Committee may also take interviews or call for presentations to assess the candidates.
  • The Selection Committee might recommend issuing a gazette notification from the concerned ministries or from the Chancellor to recruit top officials of UGC and University.
  • For the academic staff positions at the universities:
  • The UGC and the Vice Chancellor may form a selection committee comprising academics or officials from the UGC, universities, and the concerned ministries.
  • The Search Committee may set the necessary qualifications and experiences for hiring academic staff positions in universities.
  • The Search Committee may issue an advertisement or issue public notification in this regard.
  • The search committee may prepare a short list to pick the best candidates from the applicants.
  • The search committee might take examination or interview or offer presentation to find out the best candidates.
  • The UGC and the Vice-Chancellor may approve the selection committee's recommendation and appoint the academic staff positions in the universities.

The UGC plays the role of a facilitator for the universities and a mediator between the universities and the government. The UGC has some limitations for overseeing and supporting institutions of higher learning as well as increasing their standards, research, and globalization. However, the UGC must overcome a number of challenges to fulfil its role effectively. The UGC must thus be strengthened and given greater funding, autonomy, structure, and advantages such as globalization and excellent quality.

Additionally, open, competitive, inclusive, and participatory selection processes should be used for leadership positions in the UGC and academic staff positions at institutions. I believe it is important for the commission to have the power to take legal action against irregularities in the recruitment of university teachers, admission of more students than seats available, financial irregularities, certificate trade, and irregularities in development projects of universities without meddling with the autonomy of the universities.

The writer is Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC). He is also the Secretary General of Dhaka University Sociology Alumni (DUSA) and a Member of the Bangladesh Press Council (BPC).

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