Dhaka University was established 99 years ago on July 1, 1921. From any university, a community expects both academic excellence and political consciousness. From DU, we first got academic excellence during its early years and then political consciousness as the university was at the heart of all our important historical movements, at least as far as the youth and student community is concerned. Disappointingly, however, a considerable amount of time has now passed since the university managed to provide the country with either of the two. And as DU enters its 100th year in 2021, it needs to do some in-depth soul-searching.
The university has lost its status as being a centre of academic excellence and is not even considered in the list of top 1,000 universities in the world according to global rankings—nor is it even ranked as the number one university of Bangladesh. And its professional publications receive little to no recognition internationally. A university has to play its role as the intellectual centre of a country, and DU needs to think about when and where it went wrong in fulfilling that responsibility.
There is no denying that vested interests have held it back from doing the type of soul-searching it needs to do. As a result, administratively it is in chaos and academically it is in the doldrums. And there has been a total deterioration of its student politics, which was once its pride.
Having pride is good but sometimes that same pride may prevent us from looking at things objectively. Thus, perhaps it is time for DU to form a special commission of noted intellectuals who can formulate a strategy that can help the university reinvigorate itself. The university also needs significant investment. But that investment needs to be based on clear ideas—not simply for the sake of throwing more money in. As we are now firmly living in the digital age, DU must invest in digital technologies also and try to catch up in that department before it falls further behind. For an institute with such a glorious past, it must not now fail to look to the future and provide the nation with the kind of academic excellence, intellectual capacity and political consciousness that it truly deserves.