Appointment of teachers at public universities often depends on political considerations or personal connections instead of merit, for which under-qualified candidates are recruited, senior university teachers said.
According to them, vice-chancellors or influential teachers using their political clout mount pressure on selection committees and syndicates for the appointment of candidates of their choice as teachers in breach of set norms, rules and regulations.
Influential groups manage to have recruitment advertisements published asking for specific qualifications to provide advantages to candidates of their choice and sometimes they do not even bother to recruit applicants disregarding qualifications specified in advertisements, they said.
The appointment of under-qualified teachers at public universities has become a menace for such institutions that now hardly produce quality graduates, said Jahangirnagar University’s former vice-chancellor Amirul Islam Chowdhury.
‘Nepotism usually starts at departments as teachers favour their chosen students with higher marks than they deserve from the beginning of their university life,’ he said.
Selection committee members, he said, also prefer such candidates over others.
Muhammad Fazli Ilahi, a retired professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, termed the appointment of under-qualified candidates as university teachers an outcome of the politicisation of institutions of higher education.
‘It’s been happening for years at public universities as the vice-chancellors are appointed by the executive order of the government but not in accordance with the guidelines prescribed in the university acts. The VCs at the big and older public universities are therefore required to serve purposes of the ruling party and also the teachers’ electoral panels affiliated to the ruling party,’ said the senior academic.
‘At newly-established universities in district towns, VCs dictate selection committees and syndicates,’ Fazli Ilahi, the current VC of Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, noted.
This malpractice draws public attention only when aggrieved teachers or candidates raise their voice against breaches of rules by the authorities, he added.
University Grants Commission chairman Kazi Shahidullah said that it had recently submitted an investigation report to the education ministry on alleged corruption by Rajshahi University VC Abdus Sobhan in appointing teachers, adding that the commission has also started an investigation into Khulna Agricultural University VC Md Shahidur Rahman Khan over a similar charge.
‘The rampant corruption and nepotism in appointing and promoting teachers at public universities of the country are really frustrating,’ Shahidullah said.
The length of job for the promotion of teachers also varies between universities, he said, citing that a teacher has become a professor in 10 years at Jahangirnagar University while such promotions take at least 17 years at Dhaka University.
‘This trend must come to an end for appointing and promoting teachers based on merit in the greater interest of ensuring quality education at the 46 public universities,’ he observed.
The commission in November 2019, he said, submitted a draft policy to the education ministry spelling out the minimum qualifications for the appointment and promotion of public university teachers, which is yet to be adopted.
A UGC member, Muhammad Alamgir, said that the draft policy proposed that an applicant must have at least GPA 4.5 in both Higher Secondary Certificate and Secondary School Certificate exams.
Following demands made by university teachers, the commission in 2020 revised its proposal setting the slab at GPA 7 in the combined results of the HSC and SSC exams and minimum GPA 3 in each of the two public exams for the teaching candidates for architecture, fine arts, theatre and music disciplines on the grounds that top scorers usually do not come for teaching in these departments.
According to the revised draft proposal, candidates with published results of master degrees would be eligible to apply and applicants from the traditional system must have first classes in both four-year bachelor with honours and master degrees, he said.
To apply for the post of lecturers at the departments under the science, social science, business studies, law, engineering and agriculture faculties, the candidates must have a minimum 3.50 CGPA out of 4 in both bachelor and master degrees, according to the draft.
For the departments under the humanities and fine arts faculties, the candidates must have a minimum CGPA of 3.25 or 3.50 in any of the bachelor or master degrees while the minimum CGPA of 3.25 out of 4 is required in the five-year architecture course, it added.
An MBBS degree will be the minimum academic qualification for applying for the post of lecturer at the medical universities while only the top 10 per cent of the top scorers at the master’s level will be allowed to apply for the lecturer posts at the agriculture universities, the draft said.
The MPhil/equivalent or PhD degrees will be regarded as an additional qualification for the appointment, it said.
National or international awards would be treated as publications in appointing teachers at the architecture, fine arts, music, dance, drama and film departments, the policy said, adding that those with degrees through online or outreach courses would not be eligible to apply.
The engineering universities that appoint teachers with just bachelor degrees would be allowed to continue the practice for two years after the enactment of the rules, said the draft policy.
A lecturer can be promoted to assistant professor after three years of active teaching, said the policy, adding that a lecturer with an MPhil degree may be promoted after two years of active service and PhD degree holders after one year of active teaching.
The policy also said that the person must have at least three publications in recognised journals in all cases.
An assistant professor can be promoted as an associate professor after serving for seven years while MPhil degree holders will require six years and those with PhD degrees four years for the promotion, according to the policy.
All the candidates must have at least 12 publications in recognised journals.
One can be promoted as a professor after serving for 10 years as an associate professor, the draft policy said, adding that those with an MPhil degree may be promoted after seven years while the promotion for PhD degree holders would take five years.
All of them must have to their credit at least three publications as the lead author.
Lien leave, leave without pay or any other extraordinary leave will not be included in the active teaching period while a teacher doing a postdoctoral fellowship would be eligible to enjoy maximum two years as active teaching, Alamgir said.
Muhammad Rafiqul Alam, president of the University Council, a platform of the public university vice-chancellors, and ASM Maksud Kamal an immediate past president of the Federation of Bangladesh University Teachers’ Association also opined that setting minimum qualifications for ensuring the appointment of teachers based on merit was a need of the hour.
‘Initially we opposed the UGC draft policy as it proposed formulating a common set of rules for all the public universities considering it a violation of the autonomy enjoyed by the universities,’ Maksud Kamal said.
‘But we have later accepted the proposal, with some observations, in the greater interest of improving the quality of education,’ said Maksud, pro-vice chancellor of Dhaka University.
Teachers have opposed the requirement of a 22-year service length for a lecturer to become a professor for the teachers having no PhD or MPhil degree while a civil servant within 20 years of service becomes a secretary, he said.
‘And where will teachers get funds from to publish so many writings as required for promotions in the proposed draft?’ Maksud asked.
The government must have additional funds for teachers to have publications in quality journals, he said.
Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said that presentation skills of the candidates must be taken into account in addition to any other qualifications while appointing teachers so that the universities could employ those who would be competent to teach well in the classes.
Teachers also must get training and research facilities, he added.
UGC member Muhammad Alamgir said that the commission had also sought increased facilities for the teachers to conduct research and publish their results in reputable journals.
The draft policy on setting minimum qualifications for the appointment and promotion of teachers is now lying at the office of education minister Dipu Moni.
‘A scheduled meeting for November 18 to discuss the revised draft policy with the stakeholders was however cancelled by the minister,’ Alamgir said.
Dipu Moni could not be contacted for comments despite sending an e-mail and messages.