Public universities are gradually lagging behind in the research arena compared to those at different universities around the world. The world ranking of the country’s public universities has also drastically dwindled over the last couple of years. No public universities of Bangladesh could earn any place among 1,500 universities in global ranking.
According to global university ranking, in 2019, among the country’s top public universities, the University of Dhaka secured the 2,096th position, University of Chattogram was 3,050th, and BUET, 1,867th in world ranking. The position of other public universities was more woeful. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, established in 2001, was in the 16,416th position in university ranking.
This situation is demeaning the quality of higher education at public universities and depicting the poor educational status of a nation as well, experts said. They suggested increasing funds in research for public universities and patronising researches to secure better position in global ranking while developing the quality of education.
Former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Abu Ahsan Mohammad Shamsul Arefin Siddique told Bangladesh Post, “We have to ensure more funding in order to increase research at the public universities. We have to create posts for research so that young researchers will be enthusiastic to come into the sector where senior professors will guide them.”
He also said, “After completing graduation, most of the students, even science background students, are running for bank, bcs and other jobs. They do not get interested in research as there is no funding. If the authority gives the researchers at least the salary of a lecturer, they will compete to do research.
Public universities allocate between 1 and 5 percent of their total budget for research whereas the lion’s share of the budget is spent for construction work, salary, allowance and other staff. However, experts said that the allocation for research should be at least 10 to 15 percent of the total budget.
According to a report of UGC, seven out of 37 public universities did not conduct any research work in 2017. Of them, four had no budget for research. In 2019-2020 fiscal year, UGC announced a Tk 8,088 crore budget for 45 government universities where it allocated only Tk 64.4 crore for research, [0.8 percent] less than one percent of total allocation. However, the allocation for development work was Tk 2,999 crore.
The University of Dhaka in its budget for the 2019-20 financial year proposed Tk 810.42 crore whereas Tk 40.8 crore was allocated for research, only 5.4 percent of the total budget. However, the university allocated 6.62 percent for research in the previous fiscal. Jahangirnagar University allocated only 1.15 percent, or Tk 3 crore out of Tk 259.97 crore for the 2019-20 financial year.
Besides, University of Chattogram had set aside only 1.23 percent for research or Tk 4.2 crore out of total budget of Tk 339.18 crore.
Education Minister, Dipu Moni recentlycriticised the university authorities saying that they were more interested in constructing buildings rather than patronising research work. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was more interested in providing support for research activities and developing library facilities.
“Whenever we approach the prime minister for funds for development projects at the universities, she asks about the progress in academic activities, research and library developments,” the minister said. “Infrastructural development is important. But, the universities must also pay attention to research for developing higher education quality in the country,” she added.
Dipu Moni said that allocation in education sector was three per cent of the GDP and it would be increased after finishing the on-going mega-projects. Accreditation Council Chairman, Professor Mesbahuddin Ahmed said, “We have of course some success stories in the research sector. Public universities should patronise more research for securing better positions in the global rankings.”
When asked why the public universities give more emphasis in building construction than research, Dhaka University VC, Professor Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman, told Bangladesh Post, “Infrastructure development is important. Research is also important. Now, we have to focus more on research.”
According to the UK-based renowned magazine ‘Times Higher Education’, which publishes reports specifically on higher education, no public university in Bangladesh could earn any place among 1,000 universities. They use five performance indicators in university ranking that include teaching (learning environment), research (volume, income and reputation), citations (research influence), international outlook (staff, students and research) and industry income (knowledge transfer).