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BANGLADESH
Rule opens higher education to foreign universities

After considerable delay, Bangladesh’s Education Ministry has finally formulated a rule that allows foreign universities, branch campuses or study centres to operate academic activities in the country, fulfilling a long-standing demand by local representatives of foreign universities and some students.

Education Ministry officials said a number of foreign universities had expressed interest in establishing branches in Bangladesh. But the government had delayed the process as private university owners opposed moves to allow in foreign institutions.

Private university groups claimed that low quality foreign universities from neighbouring countries would flood Bangladesh’s higher education market if the government opened it up.

Reports last year indicated that some foreign universities had already been operating in violation of the law and had advertised in local newspapers to recruit students.

Under the Private University Act 2010, foreign universities or their branches cannot operate any academic activities or confer degrees in Bangladesh. But the law states that government can formulate a separate rule for foreign universities and their branches.

Four years after the 2010 act, the government has followed up with the rule.

The rule and requirements

The rule – titled “Foreign university, its branches or study centres operating Rule 2014” and signed by Education Secretary Mohammad Sadik – was published on 31 May. It allows foreign universities, or their local representatives, joint venture initiatives with any local university or investors to establish and operate branches or study centres in Bangladesh.

Foreign universities or representatives have to obtain temporary permission and a certificate from the country’s regulatory body, the University Grants Commission.

For permission, a foreign branch campus must have 2,323 square metres of floor space in rented premises or its own building, or space that can accommodate every student. It will be required to have full-time teachers for every department, programme or course, a library of at least 140 square metres, and required laboratories.

Branches will have to pay BDT1.2 million (US$15,453) as a fee for obtaining temporary permission. For a visiting campus and study centre the fee is BDT 400,000 (US$5,151).

Moreover, a branch of a foreign university has to deposit BDT50 million (US$643,892) in any bank in Bangladesh as security money, or BDT10 million for a study centre.

Responses

Abul Quasem Haider, a leader of the Association of Private Universities, the apex body of private university owners, said the association would react once it had discussed the new rule with its members.

Meeting with Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid last Wednesday, leading educationists said that the ministry should be cautious in giving permission to foreign university branches so that no one can do business in the name of education. Nahid said the ministry would follow this advice.

Bangladesh has some 78 private universities with over 512,000 students, with the numbers rising dramatically in the last six years, indicating pent-up demand for higher education that cannot be absorbed by the country’s 34 public universities.

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