Dhaka, Thursday, 30 June 2022

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Primeasia University Focuses on Value-adding Modern Education

Primeasia University Focuses on Value-adding Modern Education

Ibrahim Khalil Jewel: Primeasia is an exceptional private university in Bangladesh, which has given emphasis on science-based quality education from its inception. Primeasia started its journey in 2003 with a vision of providing value-adding education and producing international-standard graduates who would be able to compete with other university graduates in the country in terms of job placement, research or opportunities for higher education.

Prof. Dr. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury is the Vice Chancellor of Primeasia University who has 31-years of teaching and research experience with various reputed public and private universities in Bangladesh, Canada, and the USA. Dr. Hannan earlier served as the Pro-Vice Chancellor in Eastern University; as Professor and Dean of the School of Business in North South University, Northeastern University, Boston, USA, University of Calgary, Alberta and the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He served as a visiting Professor of Yunnan Normal University, China.

Last week The Apparel News has taken an interview of Prof. Dr. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury where he pointed out many weaknesses and disadvantages of Bangladesh’s higher education system in both private and public universities. In this regard, he gave some suggestions and recommendations to resolve the obstacles and to develop the overall education system, which should be started from the primary-level. He also highlighted the achievements of the private universities in addressing the lack of opportunities for higher studies in Bangladesh. Moreover, he highlighted the bright sides of Primeasia University in its science, engineering, business, law and textile education that are spreading the light of success across the nation.

Excerpt of the interview is presented below for the readers:

The Apparel News: How do you evaluate the role of private universities in expansion of higher education in Bangladesh?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: First of all, I would like to thank The Apparel News for coming to Primeasia University and talk about the higher education sector in Bangladesh. This country holds around half of the United States of America’s population. Around 17 crore people are our total population, out of which 60% is below 35 years old. Our median age is 26.7 years, that indicates, the nation is very young. And this young nation will remain young for another 30 to 40 years. For this, the young nation to be developed, our focus has to be only on quality education. Without providing good quality education, we will not be able to sustain and we cannot simply go to the developed state. And there is the need for right kind of higher education. You know this well that our government could not establish enough higher educational institutions; I mean the colleges, universities to give opportunities to students of across the country often finishing their Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination.
Each year around one million students complete their HSC examinations. They all need to enroll into the higher education system in order to shape their careers. Unfortunately, our country Bangladesh do not have enough public institutions that can hold our HSC or equivalent passed students in the higher learning institutions and thus, private universities demand, establishment, expansion and growth have happened.
In the early ’90s, the private universities evolved in our country to fulfill the growing demand in the higher education sector parallel to the govt universities. Currently, we have more students in private universities than the public ones.
A matter of fact that the contribution of private universities and its expansions are inevitable for Bangladesh. It is actually helping to transform our student bodies and young minds and will eventually be helpful for our country’s economic growth and expansion through developing our human resources.

The Apparel News: What are the main challenges before the private universities? And what are your recommendations to minimize the obstacles?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: The main challenges for Bangladeshi private universities are the quality education. As you know that the government is giving one after one approval of the private universities. Most of the private universities are not ready yet in terms of their infrastructure, lab facilities, playing grounds, recreation and cultural supports for the students. The government of the country needs to think about that who they are giving the approval for setting up private universities and what is their motivation to come into the education sector.
I think the most challenge at this moment for our country is to ensure advanced, state-of the-art technology based quality education. To provide good quality education, we need good quality faculty members, and for this, academic institutions need to recruit best faculty members with foreign degrees and global experience. Unfortunately, on the supply side, both students and also the faculty part, we would say that quality faculty and quality students are in dire need and that has become the serious challenges, obstacles, problems and issues for proper growth.
Had we been able to ensure a good quality supply of students from colleges across the country, we would have been able to resolve some of these crucial issues. By now some of our private universities become very demanding and they set an example within the country that these universities are producing good quality graduates who have global demand. It is for sure that we have good private universities, some average private universities; we have some below standard private universities. The same thing is also true for the government universities too. Public universities are by definition government supported universities with indirect reputation but not all of them are truly good. They all are not providing high-quality education and their issues and challenges are pretty similar to private universities. The problem lies for both public & private universities is the issue of producing quality graduates and generating quality research.
This is true for the both type of universities because in the supply side we are not getting the high-quality students, faculty members, labs, machines and technology supports that are essential for any internationally recognized or globally reputed university. This is the main challenge for public and private universities in Bangladesh.

The Apparel News: What is the remedy?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: My recommendation at this moment is to focus on Primary level education first. Then it should go to the high schools and then can carry out it to the colleges and to the universities so that the whole education systems become a quality process of producing good graduates. In this regard, ministry of education, primary and college section of the ministry and University Grants Commission have a great role to pointing out the problems and formulate policies, giving guidelines and implementing those in both public and private universities. In no way the country should segregate or differentiate public and private universities as they all are providing education to our children and serving nation.

The Apparel News: If you say few words regarding Primeasia University— Background of its establishment, and its contribution to our higher education. How many students are currently studying here?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: Primeasia University is one of the leading private universities of our country. Established in 2003, located at the very heart of the city, Banani in its temporary campus in magnificent buildings setup. We are actually planning to move towards our permanent campus. Primeasia has gained huge reputation in the market and among the stake-holders, because of its good quality education within short period of time. Currently, the university has around 4,500 students and it is well known for its generous financial aid program. This university is mainly a science-based private university and its science faculty, comprises Pharmacy, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Public Health Nutrition departments. In addition, we have a very prestigious Textile Engineering program under our Engineering Faculty with CSE, EEE and Architecture department. Around 5,500 textile graduates are already working in the readymade garment (RMG) and textile sectors and have contributed enormously in the textile and apparel businesses of the country. Many of our graduates have already become industrialists, entrepreneurs and they are marked in the garment and textile sector. I am very proud that Primeasia University has produced a pool of good textile graduates who are dominating the RMG sector of our country as engineers and making significant contributions forwards to national growth.

The Apparel News: Please tell us something regarding your career. When did you start and what was the motivation to choose this profession? Who did inspire you? And, finally, how are you enjoying now your profession?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: Well, I have a long career in teaching and research. I started my career 31 years back in a government university in Bangladesh where I worked there for a couple of years. In early 90’s I left this country for the United States of America where I have got my Masters in Operations Research and Ph.D in Industrial Engineering from Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. After my Ph.D degree, I began teaching at Business School of Northeastern University and served there for two years. After that I went to Canada at the University of Calgary to pursue post-doctoral research on Industrial statistics. And from there I came to the University of Windsor in Canada where I taught at the Odette School of Business for more than three years. After that, I joined at North South University in Bangladesh and I worked there as the Director of the School of Business & Dean of the School of Business as well as Director of the Career Services for about 10 years. Later on, I worked at Eastern University as Pro-Vice Chancellor for more than three years. It has been last two years I have been working as a Vice-Chancellor in Primeasia University.
Actually, my inspiration has always been my family. My family has long teaching history. My father was a teacher before his government job and my wife, sisters, uncles, cousins, nephew, niece, many of my family members are involved in the teaching profession. Apart from the family, my teachers were also a great inspiration to me.
Finally how I am enjoying! Well. Teaching and research have always been my passion. I have been enjoying this profession ever since from the beginning of my career. I have always been enjoying teaching in the class room and doing research. I have published quite a lot of research papers, scientific articles, books and research monographs in different stages of my life.

The Apparel News: In different talks, you have said that Primeasia University has a specialty in Science & Technology education. Would you explain why?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: Primeasia University is a different kind of private university in the country. In Bangladesh, most of the universities, especially the private universities focused on business education before science and technology engineering education. Part of the reason, initially no private university wants to invest heavily in the labs setup, bringing new technology, setting up modern machineries in different programs by investing enormous amount of money. Primeasia University has given priority to the science and technology education since its inception. Since it got appropriate support from the founders, it is therefore Primeasia’s science, technology and engineering education has become popular and prominent. Primeasia University stands a bit different than the other private universities of Bangladesh.
In its science education Pharmacy, Biochemistry, Microbiology programs are unique and Public Health Nutrition program is also different than other public health programs as it is focusing on food and nutrition which is a very important issue for the country. Primeasia is doing great by providing some good graduates who are working in the health sector of our country. As our science graduates are highly demanding they are getting full-time jobs before their graduation, which is also very true for our engineering graduates.
Most of our textile graduates are absorbed by the industry sector before their graduation. Primeasia has become the fore-runner and fast-mover among the private universities in terms of providing quality science & technology-based education.

The Apparel News: What’s the strength of Primeasia in Business school?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: Like any other university, Primeasia University has also a school of business which is run by a very senior dean Prof. Habibur Rahman. He is a former dean of Dhaka University Business School as well as a prominent professor of finance & entrepreneurship. Under his leadership, Primeasia offers three core degrees in business school. One of the programs, as you know, is International Tourism and Hospitality Management (ITHM) program. It is a unique program, which commonly you are not going to see in many private universities.
Our tourism graduates are getting jobs not only in the country but also in getting overseas jobs. This semester, five of our students went to China with a job in a five-star hotel. Last semester we had students who went to Qatar in a five-star hotel. You see that these students have the opportunities in hotels, motel, resorts, tourist’s places and tourism sectors at home and abroad and they are availing positions in top-rated companies.
Apart from the ITHM program, we do have resources BBA, MBA and EMBA programs. These programs are also producing graduates and many of our graduates have already become corporate leaders in banking, corporations, and the industrial sector. Often we provide good skill development training programs under business school and it is growing due to positive strategy and it will have huge potential in the upcoming days.

The Apparel News: Would you please mention the initiative of Primeasia University regarding Research, Scholarships, Journal Publications, Seminar and Inter-University connectivity at home & abroad?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: After my joining, I have given heavy emphasis on internationalization of Primeasia University. Currently, we have got many partners across the world even countries like USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Japan and India. In different phases, we are communicating with different institutions and have been able to setup vital collaborations with these academic and research institutions in different countries. They are coming and sharing their views on our campus and we are also visiting their campus for mutual benefit. We have given opportunities to our students to go abroad through our collaborations. In brief, Primeasia has taken many steps to become an international university to be more communicative with a foreign bodies and foreign entities and within the campus also we have emphasized heavily on research, scholarships, and journal publications. We are now at the very end stage of two editions of our journal publication. In the research, we are also giving emphasis to our colleagues and often we are giving them support to go abroad to participate in the international conferences where we also pay partial funding for faculty members to participate in international conference in overseas.
Primeasia is very generous in giving scholarships to its students and often the university encourages students from the bottom pyramid of the society to study with financial aid. The poor people and the children those who are coming from across the country from rural villages might not have the capacity to pursue education in a university like us in the urban setup. We are often giving them scholarships and financial aid to support their higher education. Primeasia is also very generous in giving or following government rules that every freedom fighter’s children those who are pursuing degrees at Primeasia University, will have hundred percent free education.
Currently we have couple of hundred students who are getting full scholarships as freedom fighters’ children and from indigenous family. We also have partial scholarships for poor students from remote, indigenous, tribal and other vulnerable groups.

The Apparel News: We know that Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporting country in the world. So Textile schooling has a great importance here. It is known from various publications that Primeasia University has been playing a vital role in Textile Engineering education. How, would you explain?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: Primeasia is one of the best universities in Bangladesh that fully emphasis on the right kind of programs like Textile Engineering program. So far the university has produced around 6,000 Textile Engineering graduates who are very successful in their work place. These students are now distributed in the readymade garment (RMG) sector of the country. Many graduates are focused on merchandising, dyeing & washing, wet processing fabrics and yearn designing in production engineering department involving themselves in the production process of the RMG sector.
Many of them have become expert in washing plants; wet processing, knitting, designing, yarn or fabrics. All these are acute part of textile arena and very relevant for the economic development of the country.
Primeasia University is providing plenty of graduates to the RMG sector and they are directly helping our export to grow. Some of the graduates have already become entrepreneurs and industrialists that clearly indicates Primeasia University is providing excellent education in the textile engineering and have become the market leader in the industry sector of the country.

The Apparel News: Owners of RMG industries in Bangladesh often say that they are not getting skilled manpower/workers. What is your experience and opinion in this regard? What is your recommendation to create skilled human resources?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: You very rightly pointed out one thing that the employers are always saying that they are not getting the skilled manpower because most of the academic institutions of the county are not producing right kind of graduates who could be able to meet market demand. Graduates are not knowledgeable-enough and are often lack of appropriate skills. They cannot operate modern machines or equipped with latest technologies that are used in the industry floors. So what is the gap? The gap is the academic institutions have failed to understand the current need of the industries and the industries are not communicating to the academic institutions to express about future needs of the graduates. I think here there is a role of industry is to come forward and to set collaborations with the universities. If they come and join hands with us, we will know what their need is and will try to give our existing students appropriate standard of skills, which are vital. We have to agree on one thing that the industry floors are changing very quick and fast. Academic institutions are not often willing or even not capable of changing their existing labs and machines with modern machineries because often these new technologies are highly expensive. In most cases, students learn the tips, techniques and technical knowhow but when they go to the industry, they see different things and feels rigorous training is needed to run those machines.
I would love to see more industries are going to come forward and establish different types of labs in the university so that the students can learn those things while they are at the university. Industries should give vital training facilities in their own premises or in academic institutions so that academic institutions can prepare their graduates to be absorbed in the industry.

The Apparel News: We know that many foreign designers, professionals and engineers are working in the top positions of Bangladesh’s garment industry, especially the Sri Lankan and Indians. They are receiving much higher salaries than our own professionals. Why are the Bangladeshi professionals not able to acquire the positions? Where is the impediment?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: It is a very relevant question as we look at the industry and corporate sector of our country. This has been growing over the last twenty years, unfortunately, Bangladeshi graduates cannot go beyond certain level in the managementpositions of industries or in the corporation tier. Most of our top administrators and mid-level managers are coming from different countries and running our businesses in the fore front but the crucial reality is that our graduates mostly cannot cross after mid-level management positions. Very few MDs or CEOs or CFOs or even the manager-level positions are occupied by Bangladeshi. The reason is that we could not provide the quality education in most of the institutions. In both private and public universities in the country, quality is yet not globally standard, rather way too far behind compared to the global advancement.
Our education sector is not yet able to ensure high-quality standard and produce good quality graduates. We have to understand one thing that the graduates from across the sector regardless of their discipline have to have some leadership capacity. The leadership skills, negotiating power communication and Technical skills are very important. Generally, Bangladeshis are behind in all those life skills. Despite being producing good engineers by some reputed institutions, engineers and science graduates from across the country are less competent compare to the global market in their acquired knowledge, aptitude and communication level. They will not be able to go to the top tier of the industries or in the corporations because of their lack of communication skills and negotiating power.
Bangladeshi professionals will be able to acquire top tier positions if they have a global standard knowledge with appropriate skills. Our education system is focusing too much on certificate giving or degrees-offering rather than what value addition is happening to them. We need to focus on value addition much, then giving certificates or degrees in a flat manner. Students and their families need to understand that certificate is not the goal rather gaining knowledge is the priority. Government of Bangladesh, I mean the University Grants Commission (UGC) and Ministry of Education need to think that they are going to introduce the modern curriculum, syllabuses and method of teaching across the education section.

The Apparel News: There is an allegation that private universities are commercializing the education. They are taking huge tuition fees from the students. What’s your argument in this regard as a VC of a large private university? What’s the position of Primeasia in this point?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: First of all I would like to say that this may not be a generalized comment for all the private universities in Bangladesh. Yes, it is true for some universities that they are commercializing in many senses by fixing high tuition, charging varieties of other fees to the students for maximizing profit. Obviously private universities have to charge higher amount of tuition fees compared to public universities. In general, public universities are run by public money and government pays all the expenditures to operate the university, and to develop all the infrastructures.
On the other hand, private universities do not have any support from anybody other than their trustees that they had invested in the very beginning to set up the campuses. Most of the universities are operated by the tuitions of the students. The salary of the teachers, development of lab facilities, infrastructures, and every other expenditure is covered by the tuition generated from the students. So when we say the word ‘commercialization’ I do not fully agree with that in all the cases. Most of the top private universities are covering the costs and making marginal profit for the development purposes of the universities. Others are covering their regular costs for running the institutions. Allegations are there for some institutions that they do not provide good education rather they are simply giving certificates in lieu of money. Not many institutions do it in the market place and they will not sustain in the long run. Without quality education it is not possible to survive in this competitive market and these institutions will be sick universities and will be out of business.
Primeasia is a generous university. It provides good support to the students those who are poor. On the other hand those who are capable, who have sound financial support from the family we give them less support. Eventually we have created an environment where a cross subsidy is provided to the poor students from support generated from rich students. I think, that is a sustainable model of running a good academic institution.

The Apparel News: Would you please share us your experience over the employment of Primeasia students in our local job market?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: I already mentioned it earlier in this interview that Primeasia graduates are highly demanded and they are well placed in the job market. I did not talk about our law, business graduates much but I have seen that most of the graduates of these disciplines are already employed. Very few students visiting and contacting our career services department and saying ‘I do not have a job’. Often what we do, while they are in the campus we bring companies and corporations in the campus to engage and talk about career placement. Often companies come here and recruit students from our campus. Recently, a company came here for 50 textile and CSE graduates to be recruited for that company. You see that companies are going to interview students in the campus eventually going to find some good graduates of our university who are going to be hired. In fact, very negligible number of students in our university are actually jobless.
The good news is that, many of our graduates have become independent business owner or entrepreneurs and are providing jobs to others students. Our graduates have already joined in BCS and other government services and have already been posted in higher position in different services. The University provided few students for overseas employments and it is increasing day by day. Primeasia University is strategically encouraging foreign students to come in the campus.

The Apparel News: Would you say regarding the scopes of studying in foreign universities transferring credits from Primeasia University?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: After my joining, I have been giving emphasis on internationalization of our university. I have been able to establish collaborations with many foreign institutions. Even last week I have signed an agreement with a university in USA where we are going to be able to provide our students and faculty members for higher education with scholarships or financial aids. Our credits have been accepted by foreign entities. As a result many of our students are already in overseas institutions for pursuing farther degrees. One of our Microbiology students got Ph.D from Cambridge University, another student got masters from University of Glasgow and currently pursuing Ph.D. in the USA. Several textile graduates are pursuing Master’s program in the USA, China, Japan and Korea. These are the examples that our students are welcomed by the international bodies. I have seen our students are in huge demand in the Chinese universities. Essentially, we increased Chinese collaborations and collaborations with many universities in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries.

The Apparel News: Finally, in what position do you want to see yourself in the future?

Prof. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury: Well, I have always been an academician. I started my career 31-years back in teaching profession at a public university in Bangladesh. I had focus on doing good research. I went to USA, Canada for pursuing my higher studies and taught in both countries for several years. I have done research work under prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in USA and also in Canada. I got the fellowship by Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). I also got The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) scholarship in Canada. I also ran many collaborative projects in my life with UK, USA, France, China and Japan. So now my young colleagues, faculty members are now getting the benefits for higher study or research in those institutions where I have been able to teach and work. My passion is that, after my Vice Chancellor position is over, I look forward to be in teaching in the long run. Teaching and research is my passion and I will go for contributing in the academia of my country. I want to see Bangladesh is going to do better in the upcoming days in the education sector. I am a small person, but I would like to see Bangladesh is going to flourish in globally the education sector so that our future generation can proudly go anywhere across the world, and do better in their own career, help their own family, help Bangladesh and make our country a beautiful Bangladesh. A Bangladesh that is going to be a developed nation by 2041, which is a dream of our nation, our Prime Minister and government.

Profile of Dr. Abdul
Hannan Chowdhury

Dr. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury is the Vice Chancellor of Primeasia University. He served as the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Eastern University from 2014 to 2017. He served as Professor, Dean of the School of Business, and Member of the Syndicate of North South University between May 2005 to May 2014. He has 31 years of teaching and research experience with various reputed institutions in Bangladesh, Canada, and the USA. He has worked as a faculty member at the University of Windsor, Canada; Northeastern University, Boston, USA; University of Calgary, Canada; and at Islamic University, Gazipur, Bangladesh. He has worked as a visiting Professor of Yunnan Normal University, China. He was awarded Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and MS in Operations Research from Northeastern University, Boston, USA in 1999 and 1996, respectively. He has completed post-doctoral research at the University of Calgary (UofC) Canada in 2002. Earlier, he earned Bachelor of Science (Hons.) and Master of Science in Statistics from Jahangirnagar University in the year 1986 and 1987, respectively.
Dr. Chowdhury taught Business Statistics, Probability, Operations Management, Operations Research, Quantitative Analysis, Management Science, Statistical Quality Control, and Total Quality Management courses in Bachelors, Masters and Executive Masters programs. During his career, he has obtained grants for conducting research and other projects that includes PIMS, Canada; Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada; Nortel Networks, Canada; StatCaR of UofC, Canada; National Science Foundation (NSF) of USA through NIST, USA; Institute of Sustainable Communities (ISC), USA; One Asia Foundation, Japan; INSPIRE British Council, UK; IFC of World Bank; Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC), UK; HEQEP, UGC; and ICT Ministry, Govt. of Bangladesh.
Dr. Chowdhury edited many papers in different national, international journals and conference proceedings. He has attended numerous national and international conferences as invited speaker and served as the reviewer of several scientific journals. He was the editor of North South Business Review (NSBR) and currently serving as the editor of the Journal of Knowledge Globalization published by Knowledge Globalization Institute, Boston, USA.
Dr. Chowdhury’s publications have appeared in International Journal of Production Economics, Journal of Quality and Reliability Engineering International, Journal of Quality Engineering, International Journal of Industrial Engineering, International Journal of Productivity and Quality Management, The Learning Organization, International Journal of Trade and Economic Development, International Journal of Economics and Finance, South Asian Journal of Management, Journal of Knowledge Globalization, International Journal of Electronic Government Research, Journal of Business Administration, Journal of Business Education and Accreditation, Pakistan Journal of Statistics, North South Business Review, East West Journal of Business and Social Sciences, World Journal of Business and Social Sciences, Social Science Review, The Business Review, and Journal of Statistical Studies. He has published more than 50 papers and two books on Statistics and presented more than 40 papers in different international conferences.