Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Bangladesh's 'Rickshaw Faculty': A Nadir of Academic Exploitation

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Bangladesh's 'Rickshaw Faculty': A Nadir of Academic Exploitation

Article excerpt

Study finds poorly paid graduates teaching at several universities a day. David Matthews writes

If anywhere on earth can be called a dystopia of runaway, unregulated, exploitative private higher education, then Matt Husain, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, claims to have found it.

Husain (pictured inset) spent six weeks conducting an ethnographic study of faculty and students in his native Dhaka, in Bangladesh, and what he found makes even the worst cases of academic exploitation in the West look tame in comparison.

In the private universities that have "mushroomed" since the late 1990s, some nine in 10 faculty are on short-term contracts and are typically young, recent MBA or bachelor's degree graduates looking to make some money before attempting to pursue a PhD in the West, he told Times Higher Education.

Their pay is so poor - about £150 for an entire semester of two or three hours teaching a week - that they have to hop from campus to campus every day to earn enough, he found. Meanwhile, academics with permanent posts - the lucky 10 per cent - earn vastly more.

"I used to take a rickshaw to go to the next university right after I completed my lecture at the previous one. Every day I lectured at least in three to four universities," one told him, on condition of anonymity.

These "rickshaw faculty", as Husain calls them, have to jump between classes so rapidly each time that they do not know the names of their students, and teach at 15 to 20 different universities. "I needed the money," another explained. Classes are so large that there is "no room for interactive learning", explains Husain.

Lecturers are "almost dehumanised", Husain says. "They are exploited but they feel they can't do anything about it." Demoralised, they take little pride in their work, and moonlight at other institutions.

"If they teach at four universities, that is enough to have a middle-class living - if they live with their parents," he explains, because they cannot afford to move out.

Behind the clusters of private universities that have sprung up in some areas of the city are powerful families that frequently control not only the institutions themselves but the banks that offer student loans with annual interest rates of about 40 per cent, he says. …

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