Senior Awami League leader Suranjit Sengupta has asked whether private universities, sanctioned as non-profit organisations, are really functioning as such.
He also asked why owners of the private universities would not pay VAT since the institutions were run like commercial ventures while claiming to play a role in expanding education.
Speaking of irregularities in most private universities, he warned the owners of action against them for ‘creating public suffering by pushing the students to the streets’.
“Private universities were supposed to be non-profit organisations. But are they really so? They open a university and bring a Dhaka University teacher as a part-time VC or pro-VC,” the MP told reporters amid protests by private university student against VAT on tuition fees.
He criticised the setting up of universities in rented buildings.
“The prime minister said there were five universities in one building. Can a university be without a campus? No, a university cannot be without a campus like a television station cannot be without a studio,” he said.
Sengupta said his son was also studying in a private university. “Some of these universities have a good standard. The condition of the others is very bad,” he said.
He detailed his experience of meeting students from these ‘bad’ universities.
“Private universities are also being set up in Chittagong, Sylhet. They (the students) come to me seeking jobs, but can’t answer anything in written test and viva. The UGC should keep an eye on this,” he said.
Sengupta, a resident of Dirai in Sunamganj, said, “I live in a remote area. Fathers there tell me they got their children educated by selling land. When I ask them where their children studied, the answer is – ‘at that special institution where everybody goes…BBA’.”
“They don’t know what a regrettable thing they have done!” he added.
The Awami League Advisory Council Member also said, “Many ask me to leave garments business and open a university to make more profits.
“Why won’t you pay the VAT if you are making profits?” he asked.
The former Leftist leader, however, said the decision to charge VAT on tuition fee at private universities should be reviewed.
“The government will have to take step to settle the issue before it develops into a crisis,” he said.
He urged caution on the part of the owners of these universities.
He said their actions were forcing students to take to the street, causing public suffering. “The owners will have to be careful. Their licences may be cancelled,” he said.
After last week’s agitations, private university students blocked streets in Dhaka and Chittagong on Saturday and Sunday.
They announced further demonstrations on Monday, demanding the withdrawal of the 7.5 percent VAT.
On Saturday, Finance Minister AMA Muhith asked the students to be alert against tuition fee hike, saying the authorities, not the students, will pay the VAT.
Earlier on Sunday, he hinted that VAT might be rolled back.