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Public varsities fall behind in research

Allocation poor, teachers give importance to politics

Published : 11 Dec 2020 11:14 PM | Updated : 12 Dec 2020 09:08 PM

Public universities in the country are gradually lagging behind in the research arena despite it is one of the major tasks of universities.

One-fourth of the universities are not doing any research. Besides, more than 90 percent of the researches are not being published in international journals because of below the standard, sources said.

As a result, the world ranking of public universities has drastically declined. No public universities of Bangladesh could earn any place among 1,000 universities in global ranking, according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings in 2020. Where, only two universities featured in the in the top 1,000 list of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings this year.

Concerned teachers say that meritorious teachers are turning away from research due to lack of goodwill, lack of good labs, inadequacy in allocation for research, non-recognition of good research, and giving priority to political ideology over research in promotion. 

According to them, universities have now become mere certificate provider institutions. There is no difference between a school and a university if there is no research. The condition of private universities is more miserable.

Scientist Dr A A Mamun, Professor of Physics at Jahangirnagar University, told The Bangladesh Post, “There is not enough information about research in our university teacher’s profile. If you visit our university profile, most of the teachers have no research paper or publication in their profile. Even who have publications in international journals, do not incorporate it into his or her profile.”

“When university teachers see that political influence is the key factor to become a Vice-Chancellor, Po-vice Chancellor, UGC Member rather than research, they do not practice research. If you want to go higher post, you must practice politics. As a result, our university teachers are more inclined to politics than research,” said Prof Mamun, who is one of the top two percent scientists (130th position out of 43,218), according to a journal of Stamford University, USA.

According to the UGC’s 2016 annual report, 41 out of 131 public and private universities in the country had no allocation for research. Of these, 10 are public and 31 are private university.

Bangladesh is one of the worst performers in the higher education sector compared to other countries in the world. According to Global Knowledge Index 2020, it ranked 129th out of 138 countries in the world with a score of 24.1 out of 100. 

Besides, the country achieved only 16.4 in the Research, Development & Innovation sector and ranked 96th. Moreover, Bangladesh ranked 97th with a score 43.1 in the ICT sector.

In the (latest) annual report of UGC in 2017, it was seen that eight out of the 37 public universities and 47 of the 90 private universities had no research projects.

There has also been a reluctance to accept PhD and MPhil fellowships. Although UGC has 100 PhD fellowships, only 58 teachers accepted it in 2017. Of these, 25 are university teachers and 33 are college teachers.

According to the Rajshahi University administration, 116 researchers were admitted to the MPhil and 51 to the PhD programs in the 2015-16 academic year. In the 2016-17 academic year, the number of researchers admitted to MPhil decreased to 49 and to 22 for PhD. Within a year, the rate of research participation in the university has decreased by 58 percent.

In this regard, former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Abu Ahsan Mohammad Shamsul Arefin Siddique told The 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.

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.

In the budget of Dhaka University for the financial year 2017-18, Dhaka University allocated Tk 14 crore for the research sector. At the end of the year, the university spent only Tk 8.42 crore in this sector. Dhaka University could not spend 40 percent of the allocation. 

From the following year, the research allocation of Dhaka University was reduced to Tk 9 crore. Although, the research allocation for Khulna University was Tk 1 crore, no money had been spent in this sector. 

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. 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 set aside only 1.23 percent for research or Tk 4.2 crore out of total budget of Tk 339.18 crore. The condition of other universities is worse.