The Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh said private universities have not faced such a financial crisis since 1992
Most private universities cannot pay staff salaries for April as the coronavirus shutdown continues across the country.
Many universities, including Daffodil International University, Prime University, Eastern University, Atish Dipankar University of Science and Technology, and the University of Development Alternative, have paid 50 to 60 percent of the salaries for March.
But they are unable to pay the salaries for April.
Stamford University paid 30 percent of staff salaries for the month of March. It is unable to pay the salaries for April as it has not got tuition fees, admission fees, exam fees and other fees from students.
The university fears a severe financial crisis if the coronavirus situation continues in the country.
The vice-chancellor of Stamford university, Professor Mohammad Ali Naqi, told The Business Standard that the university has no fund to pay teacher and staff salaries. "We cannot do anything if fees are not collected because we depend on it."
"We need Tk3.5 crore each month to run the university. It is impossible for us to pay salaries continuously. The teachers and staff must be patient. They have to wait for better times," he said.
The vice-chancellor also requested the government to allocate loans for private universities to overcome the current situation.
Meanwhile, the top 10 private universities, such as Brac University, North South University, Independent University and United International University, can continue paying their staff salaries for two to three months.
Sheikh Kabir Hossain, the president of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh, told The Business Standard that private universities have not faced such a financial crisis since 1992.
"A few universities can continue paying staff salaries till the month of May. By then the fund of every university will be depleted. They will all face an uncertain situation after that," he said.
"How can the universities pay their staff if they do not get fees from students?" Kabir asked.
"We have submitted an application to the education ministry seeking loans from the government to save the private universities during this crisis," he said.
"Every private university had to deposit Tk1.5 to 5 crore in the government fund. The government can give us loans from that fund," he added.
There are 105 private universities in Bangladesh, and they have more than 3.6 lakh undergraduate and graduate students. As many as 16,000 teachers and 13,000 employees are working at private universities.
The universities earned Tk3,504 crore in 2018 and spent Tk3,359 crore, according to the University Grants Commission's 2018 annual report.
Wishing anonymity, a teacher of Stamford University said, "We run our family with our monthly salary. It will be impossible to continue our daily life if we do not get paid."
"We are lower middle-income people. We cannot stand in queues for Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) products or seek help from others. So, we have to lead a miserable life if the university does not pay our salary," he added.
"A peon gets Tk7,000 per month. How will he survive if his salary stops coming?"
A teacher of Dhaka International University said his institution paid 50 percent of the salary for March. "We do not know what will happen to the April salary. In the meantime, the university has told us that they are suffering a financial crisis."
Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Brac University Professor Mohammad Tamim told The Business Standard that his university has the ability to pay staff salaries for April, May and June.
But most universities will not be able to pay, he said.
"It will definitely be bad for private universities if the Covid-19 crisis drags on," he added.
The chairman of the University Grants Commission, Professor Kazi Shahidullah, told The Business Standard that they are looking for a solution to save the private universities.
"It is indeed true that the universities are in trouble. They submitted an application for a loan. I will send it to the government high-ups to make a decision," he added.