Bangladesh is a developing country and its economy is in transition from traditional agriculture to industry, manufacturing and service sectors. Bangladesh intends to avail the opportunities offered by globalization to build a knowledge society. Improving the quality of its tertiary education is vitally necessary to spur the country to a higher growth trajectory for attaining the middle income status by 2020. The tertiary education in Bangladesh, currently, has been facing many deeply rooted and intertwined challenges. These include, inadequate enabling environment for improving the quality of education and research, weak governance and accountability, poor planning and monitoring capacities, and insufficient funding. All these challenges are compounded by lack of robust academic culture. These drawbacks can only be mitigated by developing a quality culture and ensuring good practices in higher education institutions (HEIs).
The Bangladesh government (GoB) recognizes that the country is at risk of being marginalized in a highly competitive global economy because its tertiary education systems are not adequately prepared to capitalize on the creation and application of knowledge. It also realizes that the state has the responsibility to put in place an enabling framework that would encourage tertiary education institutions to be more innovative and responsive to the demanding needs for rapid economic growth, and to empower the graduates with right skills for successfully competing in the global knowledge economy.
In Bangladesh, University Grants Commission (UGC) acts as the intermediary between the Government and the universities for regulating the affairs of all the universities. But currently, there is no recognized quality assurance (QA) mechanism for public and private universities in Bangladesh. The deficiency was recognized in the UGC’sStrategic Plan for Higher Education 2006-2026, and in GoB's National Education Policy (NEP) 2010. The Strategic Plan, inter alia, recommended the establishment of an independent Accreditation Council for both public and private universities in Bangladesh. Following the recommendations made in the Strategic Planthe Ministry of Education prepared and launched in mid-2009 the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) with the financial support of the World Bank.
The experience and lessons learned from the 25 Self-Assessment subprojects implemented in 15 universities under HEQEP generated heightened awareness among the faculty members and management regarding the need for initiating QA in higher education. It also prepared the ground and readiness on the part of the institutions to follow up the recommendations made in SA reports and expand the SA exercise to include all HEIs in phases. Against this backdrop the Ministry of Education, the UGC and the HEIs feel that it is high time to establish institutional QA cell in every public and private university to develop a mechanism for the systematic review of study programs, to ensure quality teaching-learning, research, knowledge generation and support services standards at an acceptable level.
Based on the above developments, a Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) within the organizational structure of University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh was created under HEQEP to initiate the QA mechanism in Bangladesh’s HEIs. As a first step in this endeavor the HEQEP would also support the establishment of IQACs in universities and the QAU would provide guidance and technical assistance to the IQACs in order to make them functional. The QAU will function as a temporary council until the formation of the national Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council, Bangladesh (QAACB) in 2016. QAU would begin work on drafting of the national qualifications framework and other quality assurance documents. The QAACB upon its establishment shall take over the quality assurance activities of QAU and the latter would continue to liaise between IQAC, UGC and QAACB in respect of QA activities. However, the QAU shall remain as a unit within the UGC with revised roles and responsibilities.