Greetings From Bangladesh: Part Three | AUA Blog

Dave is in the midst of a three year term as Registrar of the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh. AUW is a recently founded international university that offers talented women education and opportunities to enter leadership roles. Here he speaks of his experience in the third of a series of blogs.



Dave Dowland
Clerk to the AUA Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2018
Academic Registrar of Solent University
Registrar at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

It is interesting to see UK student recruitment through Bangladeshi/South Asian eyes, particularly after so many years working in the UK on international student recruitment and student support.

I recently saw a Facebook feature promoting student recruitment to a UK university – good wishes with their recruitment drive. They are selling themselves through on-the-spot admissions, scholarships, plus TEF and league table position. The significance of those marks of esteem would not be clear to students..  

I have met many students from around South Asia (on visits to schools and colleges etc), who are interested in international study and are weighing it against options to study locally.  It is such a big, expensive, and confusing decision and prospective students need good, impartial advice.

The UK Foreign Office Minister for Asia, Mark Field, was here recently asking Bangladesh to open up to the greater involvement of British universities.  Read the article here. The UK may have to be a bit more supple and attentive to how things look from here if it wants to get more traction however. Meanwhile, there is considerable competition building from China, which wants to develop its Bangladeshi educational connections, as well as well as other attractive routes for Bangladeshi students; Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia etc.  The UK really ought to sort out the post-study work visa issue to make its offer more attractive.

UK higher education is still very highly respected here with so many historic links, although the national reputation has been badly knocked by Brexit.  There are some universities such as Nottingham (with its Malaysia connection), which are prominent here.  Bangladesh is an under-exploited market internationally, particularly with a stronger economy and an increasingly prosperous middle class (alongside considerable poverty elsewhere – the wealth is not trickling down despite the good economic influence of the garment factories).  Next door, Thailand (which is heavily supplied with higher education institutions) is saying that it wants more high quality international HE involvement to build up national capacity.

The Bangladesh universities are held back by political interference (with vice-chancellorships as political appointments) and other distractions from robust, academic standards, often poor facilities, a need for a shift in approaches to teaching, and learning and quality assurance/governance.  There are, however, some notable emerging institutions e.g.AUW’s soul mate, BRAC -; some strong technical universities and others.  There is some really distinguished Bengali scholarship.  The Government’s commitment to higher education is clear.

Asian University for Women is in a valuable position since it is has legal independence, a globally sourced faculty and the scope to develop as a credible, internationally connected university.  AUW is also building expertise (hard lessons) on how to prepare students at secondary school level to succeed at university and how to work effectively with employers.

It is striking to see how institutions are coming together in partnership around South and South-East Asia – a development of potentially great significance.  It is good to have AUW involved in this emerging movement. There certainly is a valuable role that UK institutions can play here building HE capacity.   AUW now has a well established partnership with the University of Sussex and there is potential for others.

We appreciate the work of the British Council here, which is regarded with real affection..  We also enjoy links with the Association of Commonwealth Universities and have worked with them on good practice in refugee education – AUW was represented at a conference at the University of Edinburgh earlier this year.

We have just had a strong British contingent at the Commencement Festival (Graduation) with the AUW Chancellor, Cherie Blair, and the UK High Commissioner here. They joined the celebration and met dozens of AUW alumnae working for the international development organisations in the vast Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazaar.

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