The life and times of a leading institution

Once mistakenly dubbed “Oxford of the East,” Dhaka University ends a century as the country’s premier institute of higher education, with a proud and diverse history that many say it is. not up to the mark, nor even honored today. Serious allegations of academic decline and politicization continue to plague the university as it takes this special milestone.

The centenary can be as good an opportunity as any to address the Oxford comparison misunderstanding. As is often the case, the source of the confusion is a kernel of truth. The fact is that Lord Curzon, Viceroy of the Indies (1899-1905), had in fact planned to build several “East Oxfords” for the Indian people.

To read: 98th anniversary of the founding of DU today

What he meant was a university system modeled after the residential colleges of the University of Oxford (and even Cambridge for that matter, only Curzon may have been biased as a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford). And this system was in fact followed in a number of Indian universities established under the British Raj – another famous example being Aligarh Muslim University – it too is known to sometimes boast of being the Oxford of ballast. Another is the University of Pune (formerly Poona).

And so, at first, a distinguishing feature of DU was its unaffiliated residential character like that of Oxford. However, since 1947, the University has received an affiliation mandate instead of an exclusive residency-teaching character. This should have been the end of it. But the nickname stuck, often to the bewilderment of future generations.

DU’s journey a hundred years ago began with just three faculties, 12 departments, three dormitories, 60 teachers, and 877 students in an area of ​​600 acres. Today it has blossomed into a giant educational and political power in all respects, intrinsically linked to the birth of a nation. Even Oxford, which is only 925 years old, may not be able to claim it.

Read: A mystery envelops the death of a DU student

On its 100th anniversary of founding, DU now has 13 faculties, 83 departments, 12 institutes, 20 residences, 3 hostels and more than 56 research centers. The number of current students and teachers has grown to around 37,018 and 1,992 respectively, according to the university’s website.

Dhaka University, however, had a reputation for producing quality graduates in various fields and even more for leading the nation through major political movements on behalf of the masses, starting with the Linguistic Movement of 1952, the movement of Non-cooperation of 1966, the uprising of 1969 – all forged against the form of imperial domination exercised in then-East Pakistan by the West Pakistani political elites.

As a hive of dissident activism and subversive political uprisings, it was quite the opposite of Oxford – a citadel of British imperial power in its heyday, where statues of men like Sir Cecil still stand today. Rhodes, of the fame (or infamy) of Rhodesia.

On March 2, 1971, DU students first hoisted the Flag of Independent Bangladesh on campus and handed it over to the country’s political leaders. The role of the AU was instrumental in the birth of Bangladesh.

Then came the War of Liberation, where DU students participated en masse, while a number of teachers provided the intellectual edifice of the freedom struggle. All of this sparked gruesome episodes of intellectual assassinations targeted by the Pakistani military, even as it stared defeat in the face.

The Pakistani military carried out one of the worst genocides in DU history by assassinating scores of intellectuals and students in an attempt to shatter the nation’s political will. Suffice it to say that no institute comes close to DU when it comes to sacrificing its best and brightest for the nation.

Perhaps his last great realization was the concerted student movement throughout the 1980s, with DU in the lead, which culminated in the fall of the autocratic government of HM Ershad in 1990, paving the way for democratic reforms. . It is perhaps revealing that in terms of quantity, such emancipatory movements germinating on AU lands likely outnumber the number of academic papers widely cited by AU researchers.

University experts, students and alumni all agree that the quality of education has suffered significantly over the decades.

In terms of world university rankings, like the recently released Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) 2022 World University Rankings, the DU has remained in a position unchanged as in previous years, in the 801-1000 range. That is to say down. No university ranking in the world awards points for emancipatory activities.

The university currently spends a large part of its budget on the salaries and wages of civil servants and teachers. Recently, DU proposed a budget of Tk 832 crore for the 2021-22 fiscal year, with just 1.32% (Tk11 crore) for research – a lingering scourge that does its ranking a disservice.

DU Vice-Chancellor Professor Md Akhtaruzzaman said: “It is a matter of pride that we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of DU. There are many things to be done in the future to achieve greater place by overcoming all the shortcomings of the present. “

AU authorities will hold a virtual discussion program to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the university due to the pandemic.

The virtual discussion will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, chaired by VC Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman. Language Movement hero and columnist Abdul Gaffar Choudhury will present the keynote speech on “Dhaka University Centenary: Retrospective” as the main guest of the discussion.

In addition, the Dhaka University Alumni Association (DUAA) celebrated the centenary of the university yesterday in the Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate building. Professor Akhtaruzzaman was present as the main guest while DUAA President AK Azad chaired the program.

Prof Akhtaruzzaman said, “Our university has entered the centenary of its anniversary, with pride in nation building. We are moving forward to a prosperous future with progressive, democratic human value standards. Now we pledge to modernize quality. of teaching and research. “

Perhaps this is the central contradiction: in its institutional memory, DU has always been a breaking force, a refuge for dissidents, and it bristles against the established order. Today, in its role as the premier educational institute in a nation hungry for stability, growth and prosperity, it must interfere with the establishment. From there he must build the nation. Just like Oxford.

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