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Development of higher education system in Bangladesh

Md. Moazzom Hossain

Higher education system in Bangladesh has a long way of more than one hundred and fifty years
of intellectual development. During the British rule only a privileged group got access to higher
education and gradually isolated themselves from the general masses of the country. The
institutions were set up in selected urban centres of the land. The development of higher
education in Bangladesh, from British to Pakistan and Bangladesh periods, is presented below.
The British Period: The British East India Company, in the primary stages, did not consider
promoting education among the Indians. In 1813 the company renewed their charter and
minimum one lakh rupees were sanctioned each year for the educational development of the
Indians. In 1823, a general committee of public instruction was constituted in Calcutta for the
development of education in this area. Afterwards, education in this area was guided by the
Christian missionaries with new vision and they started setting up many new schools and printed
many books in different Indian languages. This paved the way of English education in India.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was also an eminent personality to introduce English education to the
Indian people. Later on, in the Harding's resolution (10 oct.,1844), preference was given to the
knowledge of English, in all government appointments. Charles woods Education Dispatch of
1854 proposed the creation of separate departments for the administration of Education in each
In 1857, the establishment of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras University opened a new era for
development of higher education. Basically the future education policies of the government were
determined from this spirit. In the initial stages, these three universities had a great role to the
affiliation of colleges/institutes, arranging examination, publication of results and delivering
certificates in their respective provinces. In 1902, Curzon instituted the Indian university
commission to improve the condition of higher education in India. The system of elementary
education also improved in 1917 when Calcutta University Commission was formed headed by
Sir Michael Sadler. Though its focus was centred on the University of Calcutta, but its findings
and proposals had a significant role to the then all India higher education system. The
commission recommended for three- year degree course. A greater emphasis was laid on the
study of science on tutorial system and research work. During the last time of the British period
the higher education system was expanded seriously and fourteen (14) new universities were
established in different parts of this sub continent. The University of Dhaka was established in
the year 1921. It marked the remarkable extension of academic programmes initiated through the
establishment of several new faculties, curricula and research projects. This again induced a
substantial increase of the number of colleges and students enrollment.
Pakistan Period: Dhaka University gradually became an affiliating and teaching university
following the model of Oxford and Cambridge. Rajshahi university was established in 1953 as
the second and Chittagong University in 1966 as the third university of the province. Both
universities followed Dhaka University system of three-year honours and one-year masters
course. Gradually both of the two universities followed Dhaka university as teaching and

affiliating university of the region. At the very beginning of 60s two more professional
universities were established in this province, one is Agricultural University at Mymensingh
(1961), and the other is the University of Engineering and Technology in Dhaka (1962). The later
was not a new one but the upgradation of the Ahsanullah Engineering College. Thus during the
years of Pakistan, higher education system of this province was expanded through both general
and professional universities and colleges. The extension was more linear than vertical.
The Commission on National Education (CNE) headed by Ataur Rahman Khan was formed in
1959. It made special recommendation on higher education of the East Pakistan. Moreover, the
higher education system in the East Pakistan was inferior compared to the quality of higher
education of developed countries. The commission gave 64 recommendations for the
development of higher education. In 196466 another education commission was formed
headed by Justice Hamidur Rahman, named as Commission on Student Problems and Welfare
(CSPW). It had total recommendations on the education system of Pakistan and some special
guidelines on the higher education system. The commission had special recommendations on
government colleges, private colleges, students demand and evening shift classes for workers.
Though these commissions recommended a lot, they were contradictory and imaginative.
In the regime of General Yahya Khan, Noor Khan Commission was formed in 1969. The
commission presented a new education policy which was short but decisive and full of positive
ideas including reform of Education Act.
The report suggested university governance with full of faculty participation, return to senate and
a strong University Grants Commission. Moreover, the commission had special
recommendations of affiliating colleges to expand higher education through regular students and
even private students outside the campus.
Bangladesh Period: In December 16 1971, independence of Bangladesh made a promising start
of the higher education system. Bangladesh Education Commission was formed in 1972 with the
chairmanship of Dr. Qudrat E Khuda. The commission also traced out the limitations and
problems of traditional higher education which had no relation with practical problems, full of
colonial deprivation of two hundred years. It also included that the higher education system was
dependent fully on memorizing system, defective examination systems, less number of
meritorious students and below the marks in quality.
Later on, Jatiya Shikhah Aupadasta Parished (1979) was formed by the Zia government. It traced
out various drawbacks of higher education in Bangladesh such as no relation with society and
state, establishment of new colleges, extension of colleges without sufficient facilities and
teachers without a few have no relation in the research work. Afterwards the formation of Jatiya
Shikha Nity Pranayan Committee(1997) headed by professor Shamsul Hoq recommended fixing
qualification on merit and avoiding all kinds of quota, unified four-year degree courses and oneyear masters courses and other various urgent issues for developing higher education.
Afterwards, the Shikha Shaskor Viskas committee 2002 was formed headed by Prof. Dr MA
Bari. The commission gave special priority on college oriented higher education system.

Afterwards, Mohammad Moniruzzaman Mia Commission 2003 put emphasis on the policy of
increasing access to higher education in the rural areas through establishment of new
colleges/institutes, establishment of new universities, increasing higher education in private
sector, establishment of a permanent Education Commission. Lastly, Kabir Chowdhury
Commission (2009) was formed with the chairmanship of Professor Kabir Chowdhury and co
chaired by eminent economist Dr Khaliquazzaman in May 2009. The recommendation of this
commission was passed in the national parliament as Education Policy 2010. The new policy
described that only successful candidates would get the chance for higher education according to
merit, stipend facility for the backward people and as such. For maintaining quality in higher
education the committee also emphasized four- year Bachelor degree as the finishing point for
higher education and the qualification for getting jobs, except teaching profession.
The period of 1970 to 1985 may be called the barren age of higher education in Bangladesh
because there was little development in higher education in this period. From 1985 to 1992 five
universities were established in the public sector, they are (a) Islamic University, Kustia 1985,(b)
Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet 1990, (c) Khulna University, Khulna
1991, (d) Open university, Gazipur I992 (e) National University, Gazipur 1992. The BNP
government then passed the Private University Act 34 of 1992. On this spirit private universities
increased in number by the later governments. The Awami league government (1996 2001)
established five public universities by upgrading three institutes on the spirit of Khuada (1974) &
Hoq (1997) Commission. They are Banghabandhu Sheik Mujib Medical University, Dhaka 1997,
Banghabandhu Sheik Mujib Agricultural University, Gazipur 1998, Patuakhali Science and
Technology University, Dumki 2000, Sher E Bangla Agricultural university 2001 and Mawlana
Bhashani Science and Technology University, Tangail 2001.
The BNP-Jamat coalition government (2001 2006) established and upgraded some professional
and general universities in different parts of the country on the spirit of Bari (2002) & Mia
(2003). They are (a) Hazi Dinash Science and Technology University Dinajpur 2002 (b)
Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology 2003 (c) Rajshahi University of
Engineering and Technology 2003 (d) Khulna University of Engineering and Technology 2003
(e) Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology 2003 (f) Noakhali Science and Technology
University 2003 (g) Jagannath University 2005 (h) Comilia University 2006 (i) Jatiya Kabi Kazi
Nazrul Islam University 2006 (j)Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Science University 2006 and
(k) Sylhet Agricultural University 2006.
The Army leading caretaker government (2007 2008) established two professional universities in
continuation of the development of the previous political governments. They are (a) Jessore
Science and Technology University 2007 (b) Bangladesh University of professionals 2008. The
present Awami league dominant coalition government (2009 to present) has established a few
professional and general universities in different parts of the country on the spirit of Khuda
(1974), Hoq (1997) and K.Chowdhury Commission (2009). These universities are Begum
Rokeya University, Rangpur and Pabna Science and Technology University. Some new
universities like Rangamati university and Gopalgong university are also in the implementation
Private University of Bangladesh is guided by the Act, No.34 of 1992 but it was amended in the

year 1998 and revised in July18, 2010 as the 35 Act of 2010.There are fifty one private
universities (in 2010 ), North South University is the first private university and East Delta
University is the last private university. Moreover, five private universities also lost their
affiliation due to gross misconduct and irregularities.
Afterwards in March 2012, eight new private universities got approval from Ministry of
Education, out of them two are in Dhaka city and the remaining six are in other divisional
/district cities. Some new private universities are also in pipeline for final approval.
Thus the higher education system in Bangladesh developed periodically with vision and meeting
demand of time. Private higher education also developed simultaneously saving foreign currency
and ensuring total human development.
The Writer is a PhD researcher on higher education of Bangladesh, under the Public
Administration Department of Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka

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