The policy enables foreign universities, joint ventures with local universities and investors to establish branches or study centres in Bangladesh.
“Branch campuses should be allowed only if universities can prove that they are established institutions and not merely money-making ones”
Its enactment “[fulfils] a long-standing demand by local representatives of foreign universities and some students,” Jahir Uddin, Project Manager of Services for International Marketing (SIEM) at the British Council Bangladesh said in a statement.
Foreign providers must fulfil a number of criteria including having 2,323 square metres of floor space in its own or rented premises and full-time tutors in every department or programme in order to obtain permission from the University Grants Commission (UGC) to operate.
They must also pay a surcharge of Tk10 lakh (US$12,800) for university branch campuses or Tk3 lakh ($3,842) for study centres, as well as a security deposit of Tk5 crore ($643,000) or Tk1 crore ($123,000) respectively.
The policy was delayed by fierce lobbying by private domestic universities who claimed that it contravened the Private University Act 2010, which stipulates that no foreign university or branch can operate in Bangladesh.
The Association of Private Universities Bangladesh issued a statement shortly after the draft was published saying that it would open the sector to poor quality overseas campuses, and its Vice President, Abul Quasem Haider, warned that it contained “clear contradictions” that may harm higher education in Bangladesh.
However, the Education Ministry says that the published policy contains nothing that would damage the country’s existing education system.
“We will exercise caution so that no one can deceive students and no one can do business in the name of providing an education,” Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told the Dhaka Tribune.
The association has yet to take a stance on the revised policy, and is in the process of scrutinising the published document.
Meanwhile, educators have have expressed a desire for quality assurance for incoming providers.
“Such branch campuses should be allowed only if the universities concerned can prove that they are established institutions and not merely money-making ones,” Fakrul Alam, a Dhaka University Professor and member of the government’s Education Policy Implementation Committee, commented.
“Quality Assurance in education across the board is at the forefront of the government’s mind at the moment”
Speaking with The PIE News, he added: “It seems to me that post-Thatcherite Britain has allowed too many such institutions to thrive at the expense of students from our part of the world who study in them but acquire precious little knowledge in the course of their studies. Perhaps Britain has an accreditation system that our University Grants Commission can resort to.”
Robin Davies, Director of Partnerships and Programmes at the British Council Bangladesh, told The PIE News: “Quality Assurance in education across the board is at the forefront of the government’s mind at the moment, and it is here that it looks to the British Council for advice”.
“Having overseen the recent rapid increase in the number of universities in Bangladesh during his five-year tenure, the [Education] Minister is now keen to increase the quality of Higher Education,” he added.
The British Council has also pledged its support to UK institutions looking for opportunities to expand into Bangladesh.
“British Council Bangladesh has a strong relationship with the Ministry of Education and UGC and also has close liaison with the private sector education providers,” Uddin said.