Rajshahi College playing historic role in spreading education in Bangladesh

--- Professor Ali Reza

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The city of Rajshahi is popularly known to all across the country as the city of education in Bangladesh and the city has gained this status through the beginning of Bauliya English School in 1828 which ultimately culminated in the final shape of today’s famous Rajshahi College, said Professor Dr. Ali Reza Muhammad Abdul Mazid, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.

In this context, the Principal informed us that the institution of Bauliya English School played a pioneering role in the history of modern education in East Bengal, established by the English officers in service in Rajshahi along with local elites with a view to creating an environment conducive to introducing and flourishing English education.

He mentioned that this small school eventually has been named as Rajshahi Collegiate School in 1836 and based on this institution, the first and the best college of North Bengal, Rajshahi College, emerged from the necessity of meeting the demand of higher education of the students of this school and the students of the north Bengal in 1873 as second class college and in 1875 as first class college through stating BA course in 1878.

The Principal informed us that as a first class institution Rajshahi College continued to gain its progress very rapidly from the very beginning and as a result, the college got permission to open Master’s Course in 1878. He also added that the gradual success paved the way for the introduction of other courses like BL class in 1883 and from the session 1884-85 Honours Course was opened but in1909 the affiliation of Master’s Course and BL Course was cancelled under the new Act of the University of Calcutta.

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A high profile educationist, Professor Reza said that despite starting its journey with only six students in 1873, the college stepped forward overcoming all its uncertainties and impediments and in 1878 the number of students was increased to one hundred and the following years witnessed a leap in the number of students and it became two hundred in 1900, 400 in 1910, one thousand in 1924, at present the number of students of the college is about 26000, and thus, for long 185 years of its efforts and success, Rajshahi College has been playing historic role in spreading education in Bangladesh.

He mentioned that the present infrastructure of the college is insufficient compared to the vast arrangement of classes of HSC, Pass-course, Honours course and Master’s course of 24 departments, adding that  a new academic building in the wide space of the college is under construction and the infrastructural limitation of the college is expected to be reduced if the commerce building along with several academic buildings is built. A highly learned academician, Dr. Ali Reza likes that the teachers should be very punctual and sincere and give their best efforts to make the classes as interesting as possible and along with the prescribed texts the teachers should also teach students moral values so that they can enlighten their community and make the world a better place to live in. He likes to see the students to be modern, scientific minded, patriotic and philanthropic.

In an exclusive interview, Professor Reza replied to several questions, covering the entire activities, facilities, problems, potentials, contributions and future plans of Rajshahi College. His deliberations are really nice, informative and educative as well. The excerpts of his valuable interview are presented here for The Guardian readers at home and abroad:

The Guardian: Please give us a brief introduction to the founding history of Rajshahi College through which it has come to its today’s position.

Principal: Rajshahi came into being as a city of education in 1828 through the establishment of ‘Bauliya English School’. The institution played a pioneering role in the history of modern education in East Bengal. Basically, the ‘Bauliya English School’ was established by the English officers in service in Rajshahi and local elites with a view to creating an environment conducive to introducing and flourishing English education. The small ‘Bauliya English School’ eventually has been known as Rajshahi Collegiate School since 1836. Rajshahi College, the first and the best college of North Bengal, emerged from the necessity of meeting the demand of higher education of the students of that school as well as the students of the north Bengal.

In order to set up a college in Rajshahi city Haranath Roy Chowdhury, the king of Dubalahati, donated a land property having an annual income of Tk 5000.00 (five thousand taka) from his estate to Rajshahi Collegiate School. In 1873 the government gave permission to promote it to a second class college. In the same year the higher secondary course FA (First Arts) was introduced with six students (five Hindus and one Muslim).

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For gradual success and reputation Collegiate School was proposed to be promoted to a first class college in 1875. Promathanath Roy, the king of Dhighapatiya, donated one lac fifty thousand taka to materialize this proposal. Being branded as a first class college, the institution started BA Course in 1878.

In spreading western education the role of the rich landlords and monarchs of the adjoining areas was significant.

In this regard, Haranatha Roy Chowdhury of Dubalahati, King Pramathanath Roy of Dighapatiya, Raja Promod Roy and Basanta Roy, Queen Saratsundari Devi and Hemantku-mari Devi of Puthia, Kumar Sarabindu Roy of Balihar, Khan Bahadur Emad Uddin Ahmed, translator of Kimia-E-Sa’dat, Mirza Mohammad Yousuf Ali, Haji Lal Mohammad, Khan Bahadur Rashid Khan Chowdhury, Natore Jaminder family, Khan Bahadur Ershad Ali Khan Chowdhury, Deputy Speaker of the Bengal Legislative Council Barrister Ashraf Ali Khan Chowdhury were eminent.

Besides, Jaminder family of Natore made arrangements for free accommodation and meal of about twenty poor Muslim students of Rajshahi College in their residential quarter ‘Chowdhury Lodge’ at Hetemkhan. Their role in the development of education for the backward Muslim society was significant.

As a first class institution Rajshahi College continued to gain its progress very rapidly from the very beginning. The college got permission to open Master’s course in 1878. The gradual success paved the way for the introduction of other courses like BL class in 1883. From the session 1884-85 Honours course was opened, but in 1909 the affiliation of Master’s course and BL course was cancelled under the new Act of the University of Calcutta. That step appeared as a part of education depreciation policy of the East Bengal British Government.

Despite starting its journey with only six students in 1873, the college stepped forward overcoming all its uncertainties and impediments. In 1878 the number of students was increased to one hundred. The following years witnessed a leap in the number of students and it became two hundred in 1900, 400 in 1910 and one thousand in 1924. At present the number of students of the college is about 26000.

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The Guardian: Would you give us some idea about the present infrastructural facilities of the college?

Principal: At the beginning of its establishment, Rajshahi College had no building of its own. The leaders of Rajshahi Association took initiative to set up the first building of the college. The present administrative building was built at the cost of Tk 610700.00 under the plan of a skilled English Engineer in 1884. The deep red coloured two-storied building has still been standing upright behind the main and ancient road of the city withstanding the eclipse of years.

With the change of time five science buildings, two arts buildings, and a separate building for English Department were made. There is a gallery building to the western side of the pond. The gallery building established in 1888, was known as Rajshahi Madrasha and latter it became familiar as Gallery No. 17. At present this building is known as ‘Hajji Mohammad Mushin Building’ which was built with the donation of famous patron Hajji Mohammad Mushin.

Mohammedan Fuller Hostel, an outstanding emblem of architectural beauty was established in 1909 in the college. Now the building is being used as the offices of the Departments of Bangla, Manage-ment, Accounting, Urdu, Sanskrit, Philosophy, Islamic History and Culture and Economics. There is a Shaheed Minar in the front side of the campus and there are a library and an auditorium building at the western side of the Shaheed Minar.

A two-storied quarter for the principal was built on the eastern side of Hajrat Shah Makhdum (R) Majar, situated on the northern bank of the Padma. In this building the famous educationists of the subcontinent lived. The present Principal of the college has also been living here. The building made in the art of British architecture remains still undamaged. At the eastern edge of the residence of the principal there are two three-storied residential quarters for the teachers. A hostel was established with six blocks initially for the students, and later another block was constructed. Two girls’ hostels were built at the northern side of the college.

The present infrastructure of the institution is insufficient compared to the vast arrangement of classes of HSC, Pass-course, Honours course and Master’s course of 24 Departments. A new academic building in the wide space of the college is under construction. The infrastructural limitation of the college will be reduced if the commerce building along with several academic buildings is built.

The Guardian: Please inform us about what subjects or groups are taught at HSC level.

Principal: The following subjects of arts, science and business studies are taught at the HSC level.

The Guardian: Please inform us about the number of students’ present enrolment in different groups at HSC level.

Principal: The number of enrolment of the students at present is as follows.

The Guardian: Please inform us about the present seat capacity of the college in Honours and Master’s  level in different subjects.

Principal: We have a good number of seats in different subjects. Subject-wise seats in Honours and Master’s courses are mentioned here.

The Guardian: So far we came to know that the Administrative Building of Rajshahi College is one of the architectural beauties in Bangladesh. Please tell us something about this.

Principal: The main building, constructed in 1884, is now the administrative building of the college. This two- storied building of deep red colour situated beside the oldest main roadway in the heart of the city bears the emblem of British architecture. The addition of China architecture with the help of wooden arches at the outer sunshade emhanced the beauty of the building.

Overall, the architectural and beautiful red building attracts any passerby. There are the offices of the Principal and the Vice-Principal in the eastern part, staff room in the southern part, examination control and meeting room in the western part of the 1st floor of the building. In the whole ground floor of the building there are the administrative units, accounting unit, examination and cash unit. There is a common room for the female students in the western part of the building. This administrative building creates wonder, joy and pride to the new students.

The Guardian: Would you discuss the present scenario of different infrastructural facilities of the college?

Principal: As one of the oldest institutions of the country, Rajshahi College has numerous establishments and infrastructures for academic and extra-academic activities. These are:

Academic Building

Classes of HSC, Degree, Honours and Master are arranged in Haji Muhammad Mohsin Building, Arts Building, Political Science Building, Fuller Building, 1st Science Building, Physics Building, Chemistry Building, 2nd Science Building, 3rd Science Building, and Building of English Department.

Library

The library of Rajshahi College is one of the symbols of its tradition. With numerous rare books and journals this library is situated at the western side of the Administrative Building. The number of books in the library is about 73 thousand. The students and the teachers of the college and the researchers of different institutions come regularly to study here.

Recently, the library has been rearranged to ensure reading environment. A particular corner has been made for keeping the books on the War of Independence of 1971 and students can read these books sitting there. It has been connected with the outer world by introducing internet facility. Results of different examinations and the latest information of the institution is available for the students in the library.

Foreign Language Training Centre

Foreign Language Training Centre (FLTC) was inaugurated in 2007 by the Ministry of Education. It is on the 1st floor of Arts Building. Three-month long courses are run on English, Arabic and Korean languages.

Information and Communication Technology

The college has got an ICT Centre where Master’s level students can take a 180-day long training before entering the job market.

Residential Facilities for Students

The first hostel of the college PN Hindu Hostel was instituted with the donation of Raja Pramathanath of Dighapatia and financial assistance of the government in 1894. ‘Maharani Hemanta Kumari Hindu Hostel’ was founded with the financial help of Jamindar Hemanto Kumari Devi of Puthia in 1902.

Adminitatib Building copy

Being initiated by the first Muslim Headmaster of Collegiate School, Alhaj Khan Bahadur Ahsan Ullah the Fuller Mohammedan Hostel was built for the Muslim students in 1909 with the financial help of Sir Bumfield Fuller, the Governor of East Bengal and Asham. At present it is used as offices of Commerce and Arts Faculties.

Six two-storied buildings were built at the western side of the college campus during the tenure of Principal Rai Kumudini Kanto Benarjee Bahadur (1922-23) and in 1923-24 fiscal years. These buildings for boys’ hostels are known as ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’ Block and in 1960s another three storied-building was constructed at the North-Eastern side which came to be known as ‘New Block’. The blocks of the hostel have been renamed after the seven `Birshrestha’ by the present Principal, Prof. Dr. Ali Reza Muhammad Abdul Mazid.

Despite the introduction of co-education in 1933, there was no girls’ hostel until 1964. During the job tenure of Principal M.A. Hai, a two-storied girls’ hostel having 56 seats was built facing Hemanta Kumari Hindu Hostel. Later, three more floors were built on it between 1984 to1990.  At present, the hostel with 112 seats is known as ‘Main Building’. For the gradual increase of female students, later few more buildings were  made. The construction of the three-storied New Block was started under the supervision of Facilities Department at northern side of the main building.

When Agricultural Institute, an organization adjoining Rajshahi College, became dysfunctional, the building came to be known as B.K. Hostel. The foundation of a two-storied building for girls was laid by Principal Prof. Dr. Md. Ashraful Islam in 1985. The construction ended in 2006. The hostel is known as ‘Rahamatunnesa Girls’ Hostel’. With the initiative of the present Principal Dr. Ali Reza Muhammad Abdul Majid, a four-storied Shaheed A.H.M. Kamruzzaman Academy cum Examination Bhaban is under construction. Besides, the 2nd Science Building and the 3rd Science Building have been expanded to four storied-buildings.

Residence of the Principal

To the south of the college play ground, the quarter of the Principal stands on the bank of the Padma. This palatial building has an office for the principal on the ground floor. It adds beauty to the college.

Teachers’ Quarters

There are two three-storied buildings with 12 quarters on the south-east side of the college play ground.

Due to lack of necessary reconstruction, these lay vacant for a couple of years until the present principal has taken initiatives to renovate and make them worth-living.

Teachers’ Club

The activities of teachers’ club are run in the staff room on the first floor of Administration Building. There are a television, newspapers and facilities of indoor games. Teachers come here for recreation and pass their leisure in the evening.

Health Centre

A health centre was set up at the time of the foundation of the college for the students, teachers and employees. The health centre is run by an experienced medical officer and it is situated at the north-east side of Physics Department.

Auditorium

The auditorium of the college is on the 1st floor of Library Building. Besides, freshers’ ceremony, farewell, debate competition and the seminar on national dates and different cultural ceremonies are organized here. About three thousand people can be accommodated here.

Botanical Garden and Natural Aquarium

There is a botanical garden between the ancient building (Gallery No. 17) Hajji Mohammad Mushin Bhaban  and Administrative Building. There are many rare species of plants in the garden. The garden is in the charge of Botany Department. There is a pond as natural aquarium in the garden for increasing the practical knowledge of the students of Zoology Department. The pond has increased the beauty of the botanical garden.

Transportation Facilities

The transport service of the college was introduced with a bus gifted in 1993 by the then Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Later, the service was expanded including five more buses.  This bus service helps transportation of students from eastern, western and northern part of the city.

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Canteen and Common Room for Students

There is a canteen in the campus near the Physics Building for the refreshment of students.

There is a common room for the students on the ground floor of Political Science Department. The students pass their leisure time in playing different indoor games.

Facilities of Sports and Cultural Activities

For sports and physical feats, the students of Rajshahi College are playing glorious role nationally and internationally. Before and after liberation many students emerged as famous sports men from this college. Saidur Rahman Don, the ex-student of this college and the fastest man of the country, upheld the flag of Bangladesh for the first time in the world’s biggest sports event Olympic Games in Loss Angeles in 1984. For maintaining the activities of exercise and sports for the students, there is a Physical Education Department. The department is supervised by a physical education teacher.

The big and eye-catching playground is an attraction of Rajshahi College as well as of the city. Many students who practice in this field have been successful to manage a position in the national team. Once, the inter-departmental and annual sports of the college were very fascinating among the citizens of Rajshahi. The college field, for its congenial atmosphere, has become the sporting place for the students again. At present the inter-room and inter-departmental sports are organized occasionally for the enthusiasm of the students and the teachers.

Gymnasium

A gymnasium has been set up in Rajshahi College, having the philosophy in mind, ‘sound mind goes with a sound body’. This gymnasium is in the southern part of Haji Mohammad Mushin Bhaban that is at the western side of the botanical garden. There are modern facilities of exercise in the gymnasium. Here many students exercise regularly.

Cultural Organization

Rajshahi College has established Drama Association `Varendra Theatre’, literature and cultural organization `Aunneyson’, Debating Club `RCDS’, Rajshahi College Nattya Sangsad to accelerate co-curricular activities in the college.  RCDS has been arranging inter-departmental debate competitions for every year. In addition Mirror Debating Club of English department also arranges English debate within the department and inviting students from all other departments.

BNCC

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Rajshahi College Unit of Bangladesh National Cadet Core (BNCC) is playing an active role for the development of humanity to serve the country and the whole world, flourishing leadership, building up co-operative attitude and making trained manpower for the defense of the motherland in times of national calamites and crisis. The unit is relentlessly working with its three platoons: two for male and one for female students. Every year 100 cadets (male 65, female 35) get training. BNCC Rajshahi College Unit is run under Mohasthan Regiment. The office of B-company, 1-Mohasthan is situated here. The activities of BNCC are run in a one-storied building, 20 meters away from the Shaheed Miner of the college.

Rover Scout

Rajshahi College Unit of Rover Scout has been working form 29 December 1973 with the slogan ‘Be Prepared for Giving Service in the Open Field’. The Rover Scout group is formed with three units of which two are for boys and one is for girls. In every unit, the teacher-in-charge plays his/her role as a leader. Twenty four Rovers are trained up from each unit in every year. The Principal of the college holds the post of the Chairperson.

Bank Booth

There is a booth of Rupali Bank in the college campus for the students to pay admission fees and do other transactions.

The Guardian: So far we’ve heard Rajshahi College publishes some valuable journal and magazine. Would you tell us something about this?

Principal: Yes, we have a number of publications here. An international journal named `Bangla Sahittiki’, little magazines named ‘Anuvab’, `Chetona’ and `Anneysha’ are also published regularly. The college published a magazine named ‘Rajshahi College Magazine’ from 2012 and another one is going to be published this year.

The Guardian: Would you say what facilities remain at the college for performing social and religious ceremonies of different communities?

Principal: The students of Rajshahi College observe religious services spontaneously. Rajshahi College Central Jame Mosque was constructed with the donation of teachers, students and officers. The Mosque is situated to the western side of English Department. About 1200 devotees can say prayer in 70 feet long and 50 feet wide Mosque. There is a library with 700 books on the first floor of the Mosque. To run the library, there is a committee consisting 4 members. The library remains open from Asar to Magrib. There are a Pesh Imam, a Muajjin and a Khadem in the Mosque.

The Hindu students also observe different religious rituals. They arrange Swarashwati Puja and other religious festivals every year.

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These religious rites help develop the moral character of the students, develop patience for other religions and fellow feelings among students belonging to different religions, cultures and communities.

The Guardian: Would you say what role the college is playing in upholding our language movement?

Principal: The Shaheed Miner stands to the south of Library building. This is the Central Shaheed Miner of Rajshahi where people of all walks of life pay their tribute on 21st February in memory of the martyrs of Language Movement. The students of Rajshahi College  played a pioneering role in the Language Movement. People of Rajshahi feel proud of the first Shaheed Minar of the country that was constructed at the night of 21st February 1952 on Rajshahi College Campus.

The Guardian: So far it is learnt that the college provides scholarships and awards. Please discuss this.

Principal: The college has a long tradition of giving awards and scholarships from funds raised from the donation of benevolent personalities and donors. Among them Mohinimohan Prize Fund, K.C. Sarker Scholarship, Rani Manomohini Scholarship, Rajshahi College Scholarship, Meyo Memorial Scholarship and Mohoshin Scholarship are mentionable. ‘Abu Taleb Award for Meritorious Students’ (ATAMS) for good results in Test Examinations and ‘Rajshahi College Award for Meritorious Students’ (RCAMS) for successes in Honours Final Examinations have been reintroduced by Professor Md. Shams Ul Haque. Moreover, scholarships are also awarded to HSC students for good results in the internal examinations of the college.

The Guardian: We’ve heard that the eminent educationists of the time were the teachers at Rajshahi College. Would you tell us something about the roles and contributions of those great teachers as well as of the students at that time?

Principal: The prominent educationists for whom the tradition of Rajshahi College has developed include Prof. Sree Kumar Banarji, Prof. Shunity Kumar Chattapadhay, Dr. P. V. Shastry, Dr. Kudrat-E-Khudha, Humayun Kabir, Prof. Abu Hena, Prof. Souren Mujumdar, Prof. Khemeshchandra Dey, Dr. Shneh-amay Datta, Prof. B. C. Kundu, Dr. Golam Moksud Hilali, National Prof. Kabir Chowdhury, Dr. A. R. Mallikh, Prof. M. Shams Ul Haq (Ex-Foreign Minister), Dr. Abdullah Al Muti Sharfuddin, Dr. M. A. Bari, Dr. Kazi Abdul Mannan, Dr. Abu Hena Mustofa Kamal and many others.

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Innumerable successful students of Rajshahi College have become famous in national and international levels. Some of them are Shree Radhika Mohon Moitrya, Promoth Nath Bishi, Sir Jadhunath Sarker, Akhshai Kumar Moitrya, Kabi Rajoni Kanto Sen, Kazi Motaher Hosen, Khan Bahadur Emad Uddin Ahmed, Mirza Golam Hafiz, Dr. Kazi Abdul Mannan, Dr. Mazharul Islam, Dr. Golam Mawla, Justice Bodrul Haidar Chowdhury, Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman, Dr. Enamul Haque, Rittik Ghatak (famous film director), Anwar Pasha, Dr. Ebne Golam Samad, Dr. Emaj Uddin Ahamed, Dr. Oazed Ali (scientist) and Nazma Jesmin Chowdhury.

The college has successfully upheld the reputation of quality education over the ages. Even today, the performance of our students in various internal tests and final examinations of National University and the Education Board bear the emblem of success and quality education of Rajshahi College.

It is to be noted that before the establishment of the University of Dhaka in 1921, Rajshahi College was the only institution to offer Honours and Master,s courses in the then East Bengal. At that time, students not only from remote areas of undivided Bengal but also from Assam, Bihar and Orissa used to come for studies in this college. Rajshahi became very renowned in undivided India only because of Rajshahi College.

This century-old institution has not been confined to spreading knowledge only but turned itself into a field of study for researchers and scholars also.  For example, a researcher named Dr. Md. Monjurul Kadir from North Bengal University of India was awarded the PhD Degree after completing his research on Progress of Higher Education in Colonial Bengal and After-A Case Study of Rajshahi College (1873-1973).

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At present a good number of researchers are pursuing their research works on the role of Rajshahi College in spreading education. Eminent Prof. of English language and literature and former Vice-Principal Prof. Abu Hena has termed Rajshahi College as the pride of Rajshahi in his book ‘Reaction and Reconcilement’.

The Guardian: Would you mention the names and tenures of the principals of Rajshahi College till to date?

Principal: Of course, here are their names and tenures.

The Guardian: In the end, would you please give your valuable message for teachers, students and future generation of Bangladesh?

Principal: I like to see my teachers to be very punctual and sincere and give their best efforts to make the classes as interesting as possible. Along with the prescribed texts, the teachers should also teach students moral values so that they can enlighten their community and make the world a better place to live in.

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A year long programme on moral values has been taken for which a committee is formed.

I would like my students to be modern, scientific minded, patriotic and philanthropic.

Profile of Professor Ali Reza

Professor Dr. Ali Reza Muhammad Abdul Mazid was born in1954 at the village Rupgram under Naogoan district. Rupgram is situated beside the Dibar Dighi which is famous for its history and heritage and diversity with natural beauty.

Dr. Ali Reza Muhammad Abdul Mazid passed his S.S.C. in 1969 from Mandain High School and H.S.C. in 1971 from Rajshahi College. He received his Honours and Master’s degrees in Bengali Language and Literature from Rajshahi University in 1974. He earned his Ph.D. degree from the IBS of Rajshahi University. The title of his thesis was`Bangladesher Kobitay Samaj O Kal’. He joined the BCS General Education Cadre Service in 1981. He is well-known to all, especially to the teachers and students for his sincerity and devotion to profession. He joined as the Principal of Rajshahi College in 2008. From 2008 till now he is discharging his duties with high reputation as the Principal of Rajshahi College.

When he was the student of class twelve in Rajshahi College, he took part in the War of Independence in 1971. He is a renowned freedom fighter and a poet. In his credit, there are a few books of poetry which were published long ago. These are `Bisad Sindhu’, `Anowara’ `Premer Kadar’. He has also written valuable essays on Rabindranath, Nazrul and Sukanta. His poems and articles are published in national Dailies and Magazines. Some of his recently published books of poetry are `Kobitar Songey Mitali’, `Saptarisir Atta Katha’, ‘ Basanta Gitika’, `Nadi Boye Jay’ and one more waiting to be published soon is `Somudreyi Gantabbay’.

 

He is a member of Academic Council of National University. He is also academic and senate member of Rajshahi University. He is an adviser of International Research Journal `Bangla Sahittiky, published from the Bangla Department of Rajshahi College. He is also a member of Rajshahi Association and the chairman of the Editorial Body of `Rabindra Journal’. Rajshahi College is flourishing day by day by the efficient administrative capacity of Prof. Ali Reza Muhammad Abdul Mazid since the day of his joining.