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Rajshahi University or University of Rajshahi is a public university located in Rajshahi, a city in north-western Bangladesh. Rajshahi University was established in 1953, the second university to be established in what was then East Pakistan.
The university’s forty-seven departments are organised into nine faculties. Rajshahi University is located in a 753 acres (3 km2) campus in Motihar, 3 kilometres (2 mi) from the Rajshahi city centre. With 25,000 students and close to 1000 academic staff, it is one of the largest universities in Bangladesh. In addition to hosting programs in the Engineering, arts, sciences, agriculture, social sciences, business studies and medical sciences, the university houses a number of institutes of higher studies. This is the premier university in Bangladesh to have online subscription of world renowned journals.
The first proposal to establish a university came in 1917, when Calcutta University created the Sadler Commission to assess the university system in Bengal. However, the recommendations of the report had no immediate consequences.
Following the Partition of India in 1947, what is now Bangladesh became East Pakistan. University of Dhaka, established in 1921, was the only university in East Pakistan at the time. Demand for a university in the northern part of East Pakistan gained momentum when two universities were established in West Pakistan without the establishment of any in the east. Students of Rajshahi College were at the forefront of the movement demanding a new university. Finally, Rajshahi was selected as the home for the second university in East Pakistan and the Rajshahi University Act of 1953 (East Bengal Act XV of 1953) was passed by the East Pakistan provincial Assembly on 31 March 1953. Itrat Hossain Zuberi, the Principal of Rajshahi College was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of the university. Initially, the university was housed in temporary locations, such as the local Circuit House and Bara Kuthi, an 18th-century Dutch establishment. B B Hindu Academy, a local school, housed the library, teachers’ lounge and the medical centre of the university. The university started out with 20 professors, 161 students (of which 5 were female) and six departments—Bengali, English, History, Law, Philosophy and Economics. In 1964, the offices moved to the permanent campus.
The 1960s was a turbulent period in the history of Bangladesh, when demands for East Pakistani autonomy became stronger. The students and staff of the university started playing an increasing role in politics during this period. On 18 February 1969, Shamsuzzoha, a professor of the university was killed by the police when he tried to prevent them from shooting student demonstrators. This date is now commemorated as Zoha Day. During the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the university campus was used as a base by the Pakistan Army. A number of professors, students and officers of the university were killed by the Pakistan army during this period.
After independence, a new act regarding the administration of the university came into being—the Rajshahi University Act of 1973. The post-independence years saw the university grow steadily in student enrollment and size of the academic staff. However, the 1980s were turbulent years for the university, as the students agitated with other institutions of the country against the military rule of Hossain Muhammad Ershad. Since early 1990s, the university have seen relative calm and lowering of session backlogs, though active student politics remains a contentious issue to date.
The current emblem of the university was also selected. The circle of the emblem represents the world. An open book is shown in red and gold, red representing one of the colors of the national flag, and gold the value of education. The body of the book is blue, the color of the sky, and at the centre is a shapla flower (Nymphaeaceae), the national flower of Bangladesh.
The university’s main campus is located in Motihar, on the eastern side of the city of Rajshahi and a mile from the river Padma. The campus area is nearly 753 acres (3.05 km2). Access to the walled-off university campus is controlled through three security gates. The campus houses eleven large academic buildings—five for the arts, business studies and social sciences, four for the sciences and two for agricultural studies.
The central part of the university, accessible by the main gate, is dominated by the administrative building, where the offices of the Vice-Chancellor and other officials are located. This is flanked by the senate building and the residence of the Vice-Chancellor on one side (also featuring the famous Shabash Bangladesh sculpture) and the university mosque and Shaheed Minar complex on the other. Behind the administrative building is the central library, around which the four science buildings and three main arts buildings are located. The science buildings are named numerically as the “First Science Building” and so on. The arts buildings are named respectively after Muhammad Shahidullah, Momtazuddin Ahmed and Rabindranath Tagore. More towards the east lie the stadium, the new teacher-student centre and the main auditorium.
The Kazla gate provides access to the south-western part of the campus. The Juberi international guest-house, Rajshahi University School and the main residential facilities for the academic staff and university officers are located here. Near the residential areas are all five dorms (known as residential halls) for female students. The eastern part of the campus houses the Institute of Bangladesh Studies, the medical and sports facilities and more residential facilities for the university staff—but is dominated by the eleven large dormitories for male students. From the Binodpur gate, the residential halls named after Nawab Abdul Latif, Shamsuzzoha and Madarbux are located to the north, while Sher-e-Bangla hall and the oldest dorm Motihar Hall lie to the west. The second largest mass graves in Bangladesh from the 1971 war era is located behind Shamsuzzoha Hall.
The campus contains a quite a few mango orchards. The Rajshahi area is regarded as one of the best mangoe producing areas in the country, and these orchards are leased out to professional farmers during the summer, when the fruits grow. The campus also reflects the region’s silk industry, fields of mulberry trees are to be seen in the campus, both for agricultural and research needs. The northern part of the campus houses a botanical garden, which has a good collection of rare plants.
A few miles from the main campus is the Varendra Research Museum, one of the richest repertory of Bengal sculptures in the world. Established in 1910 by Ramaprasad Chanda, the museum became a part of the university in 1960s when a financial crisis threatened its existence. Under the university, the museum has thrived, adding an folklore gallery to its impressive collection from ancient and medieval Bengal. The Bara Kuthi, where the university was established is also still under university control, and is located on the Padma not too far away from Varendra Museum. The university has an agricultural facility few miles from the main campus. Rajshahi University maintains other facilities across the country including a guesthouse in the capital city, Dhaka.
Art and architecture
Rajshahi University is home to many architectural and artistic landmarks. The Shaheed Minar is an important example, complete with a mural designed by Murtaza Bashir. The Senate House is a modern mini-parliament house, usually used for meetings of the senate of the university, but it also accommodates national and international conferences, seminars and symposia. In front of the Senate House is Shabash Bangladesh, one of the largest war memorial sculptures in the nation; designed and constructed by Nitun Kundu. The name comes from a poem by Sukanta Bhattacharya of the same name, the last four lines of which is engraved under the structure. Golden Jubilee Tower, a 2003 addition to the university’s array of sculptures, commemorates the university’s 50th anniversary. Other well-known buildings include the library and the university mosque. The Department of Fine Arts hosts a sizeable collection of contemporary art, while Varendra Museum has a large collection of ancient and medieval art.
Organisation and administration
The university is run according to the Rajshahi University Act of 1973. The act, passed in 1973, allows the university considerably more autonomy than most other peer institutions. The president of Bangladesh is the de facto Chancellor of the university, but his role is mainly ceremonial. The highest official after the Chancellor is the Vice-Chancellor, selected by the senate of the university every four years. The Vice-Chancellor, as of 2012, is Prof Abdus Sobhan. Other important officers of the university include the Pro Vice Chancellor, the registrar, the controller of examinations and the proctor. The proctor is in direct charge of student activities and is the official with most direct contact with the students. The most important statutory bodies of the university are the senate, the academic council and the syndicate. As a public institution, most of Rajshahi University’s funding comes from the government. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is the body responsible for allocating funds to all public universities.
Students are admitted after they pass the Higher Secondary Exam (HSC exam). Students partake in entrance examinations, a separate one for each department. This has been a contentious issue, as there used to be only one exam for each faculty, after which students would be allocated to departments according to their result and choice of program. As a public university, Rajshahi University’s tuition fees are relatively low; nevertheless, a hike in admission fees, during the 2006–07 session, have drawn criticism from student bodies. As of 2007, the university awards a total of 340 scholarships, whose annual value is around 1.1 million taka. In addition, there are merit awards given by residential halls, departments and the university itself. Students are also eligible for the Prime Minister’s Gold Medal award. All colleges of the northern and southern regions of the country used to be affiliated with Rajshahi University. However, the administration of colleges across the country was taken over by the National University when it was established in 1992.
- Faculty of Science
- Faculty of Engineering
- Faculty of Arts
- Faculty of Social Science
- Faculty of Business Studies
- Faculty of Life & Earth Science
- Faculty of Law
- Faculty of Agriculture
- Faculty of Medicine
The university’s 53 departments are organized into 9 faculties: Engineering, Arts, Law, Science, Medicine, Business Studies, Social Sciences, Life and Earth Sciences, and Agriculture. The Arts and the Law faculties are the oldest in the university, both established in 1953, closely followed by the Faculty of Science (1956) and newly the Faculty of Engineering (2009). The university’s departments represent the traditional studies in arts, commerce, sciences and engineering through programs in History, Languages and Linguistics, Economics, Business studies, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics (est.2002), Physics, Computer Science & Engineering, Chemistry, Statistics, Geology & Mining, Geography, Psychology, Zoology, Botany, etc. The university is increasingly emphasizing on more specialized programs such as Pharmacy, Biochemistry, Information and Communication Engineering (ICE)(est. 2000) or Genetics and breeding (est. 1996).
The Faculty of Engineering includes departments in Information and Communication Engineering (ICE)(est. 2000), Computer Science & Engineering, Applied Physics & Electronic Engineering, and Applied Chemistry & Chemical Engineering. In the late 1990 and 2000s, programs in computer engineering and communication engineering were introduced.The university used to have a separate engineering program through BIT (Bangladesh Institute of Technology) Rajshahi, which has become an independent university being renamed Rajshahi University of Engineering & Technology in 2002.
The Faculty of Arts includes departments in languages and linguistics (Bengali, English, Arabic), historical studies (history, Islamic history and culture), philosophy and fine arts. In the late 1990s, programs in theater, music and folklore studies were introduced.
The Faculty of Social Science has programs in sociology, social work, anthropology, economics, political science and media-related studies.
The Faculty of Law consists only of the department of law.
The departments of finance and banking, management, marketing and accounting make up the Faculty of Business Studies. All facilities of these three faculties are located in the three arts buildings.
The four science buildings house the Faculty of Engineering, Science and the Faculty of Life and Earth Science. The former has programs in physics, applied physics & electronics, mathematics, statistics, computer science, chemistry, psychology, applied chemistry, material science, biochemistry, and information & communication engineering.
Prominent departments in the faculty of Life and Earth Sciences include zoology, botany, geography, pharmacy, and genetics & breeding; these are all housed in the third science building. Department of geology & mining is situated in the second science building.
Founded in 2000, the Faculty of Agriculture is the newest addition to the university, and was formed when a local agricultural college was absorbed into the university. The Faculty has programs in fisheries, genetic engineering, agronomy and veterinary sciences.
Faculty of Medicine is organized differently from other disciplines. Medical education is provided by seven medical colleges located around the Rajshahi Division. Though these colleges are autonomous to a large extent, the degrees are conferred by Rajshahi University. Rajshahi Medical College is the oldest medical college under administration of the university and is located a few miles west of the university campus along with a highly equipped large hospital.
Education and research
Undergraduates enroll for a four-year program through a highly competitive written admission test (on an average, 50 students compete for 1 seat). Students are assigned to a major when they enter the university, and cannot change it after the enrollment process. Most programs are organized by yearly semesters, though the business programs use two semesters a year, and others have been following suit. Classes can be quite large in departments like history or accounting, due to a high student-to-teacher ratio (1:27).
Most departments offer masters programs that are one or two years in duration, and are of two types- Masters with thesis, and Masters by coursework. Research in the university is conducted in specialised institutes as well as individual departments, with offering of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctoral (PhD) programs. As in other universities across the country, research plays second fiddle to education. The university has a research program related to the arsenic problem in Bangladesh. The Institute of Bangladesh Studies is a noted research institute that publishes the Journal of IBS. The Journal provides the Institute faculty as well as fellow academicians elsewhere an opportunity to publish research and review articles in English. The university is also home to Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR), an independent organisation conducting empirical and qualitative research in many fields. Much research work also centres around Varendra Research Museum.
Institutes, library and press
The central library was established in 1955. Initially located at Bara Kuthi it was later shifted to its present location in the centre of the university campus. This modern library has a collection of 300,000 books and 2,000 journal titles besides huge range of digital subscriptions. Students are found studying both in the reading rooms of the library and on the spacious corridors encircling the library on the ground floor. In addition to the central library, there are seminar libraries in all institutes, departments and residential halls. Rajshahi University Press publishes scholarly books on many topics, and Rajshahi University Studies Journals for various disciplines mostly written by the members of the university teaching staff.
The physical education department of the university has 27 instructors and is equipped with a 25,000-seat stadium, 2 gymnasiums, 1 swimming pool, 4 football grounds, 1 hockey ground, 4 tennis courts, 2 basketball courts and a squash court. The Teacher Students Centre was designed to be the centre of cultural activities of the university. Reception of fresh students, celebration of national holidays as well as the annual cultural competition are key cultural events at the university campus. The university is home to recitation groups like Shwanan, and drama groups like Anushilon and Rajshahi University Drama Association (RUDA). A vibrant fine arts scene thrives around the Department of Fine arts, and the campus hosts a number of exhibitions each year. The university has branches of all major national cultural groups, including Udichi and Gono Natto Shongstha.
During the three major national days, Language Movement Day (February 21), Independence Day (March 26) and Victory Day (December 16), the university hosts public meetings, cultural programs and political activities. On these days, students and teachers, going barefoot, congregate around the Shaheed Minar and pay their respect. During the major Muslim religious occasions of Eid, the university is usually deserted as students go home to be with their families. Other religiously important days like Shabe-barat are observed through discussions and religious activities. The major Hindu festival celebrated in the university is Saraswati Puja—Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is worshiped in a central location as well as individually in many residential halls. The Bengali new year, Pohela Baisakh is also observed with much pomp.
Incidents and controversies
During the 1980s, the four-year honors course took as long as eight years due to the session backlogs, resulting mainly from conflicts between factions of political groups. Since early 1990s, student politics has been comparatively calmer, with student body elections not being held for more than a decade. The student groups have been demanding elections whereas others feel student politics should be banned.
In late 2004 and early 2005, two professors of Rajshahi University got assassinated within three months: professor Yunus from the economics department in December 2004 and professor Taher from the geology and mining department in February 2005. Both murders were suspected to be driven by political motivations. A controversy over the hiring of over 500 new employees broke around the same time; detractors suggested that they were hired illegally, either in return for money or because of political reasons. Since the new millennium, much attention has been focused on politics among university teaching staff. Observers have claimed that the teaching staff have been thoroughly polarised according to party lines in national politics. In 2005, a professor of the university was arrested for links with the Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh.
In August 2007, six detained professors of the university were temporarily suspended for their involvement in organizing protests for restoring that violated Emergency Power Rules, though they were discharged later from allegations and returned to the university with proper honour.