The country's top educational institution Dhaka University (DU) has been neglecting academic research for years and spends less than one percent of its annual expense on research.
Though academic excellence and research are considered to be two major parts of higher education, DU has been lagging behind in this area.
University Grants Commission’s records show that DU spent only 0.29 percent of its annual expense on research in 2015, 0.75 percent in 2014 and 0.86 percent in 2013. On an average, the country’s most prestigious university spent only 0.62 percent of its annual expense on research from 2013 to 2015.
Noted educationist Prof AK Azad Chowdhury, also a former vice-chancellor of DU, told daily sun that negligence of research at Dhaka University reveals a sorry state of research-led knowledge in the country’s higher educational institutions.
“Our varsities are running low on research due to insufficient allocation in higher education,” he said.
DU Vice-Chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique also admitted that DU’s research spending from its own funds is not sufficient.
“We are not investing much in research as we have to spend most of our funds for paying salaries. But our teachers carry out a good number of research projects with funds from international organisations. If you take the overall situation into account, our research spending is higher than any other varsity in Bangladesh,” he claimed.
The DU VC also observed that the government should allocate more funds for public varsities for carrying out research projects.
Over the last 10 years, the expense of the varsity has become two to three times bigger, but on the contrary, research spending has been decreasing every year.
Total research spending at DU was Tk 2.72 crore in 2013, Tk 2.64 crore in 2014 and Tk 1.08 crore in 2015. The annual expense of the varsity was Tk 370.54 crore in 2015, Tk 351.72 crore in 2014 and Tk 314.53 crore in 2013.
Ironically, DU’s expense on transportation and electricity were much higher than research expenses in 2015. In 2015, the varsity spent Tk 10.22 crore on transportation and Tk 5.46 crore on electricity while it spent only Tk 1.08 crore for research.
Statistics available shows that DU spent 0.51 percent of its annual expenses on research in 2011. Its annual expense in 2011 was Tk 247.01 crore and it spent Tk 1.26 crore on research in that year.
The varsity spent 0.80 percent of its annual expense on research in 2006 and 0.70 percent in 2007.
The annual expense of DU was Tk 140.55 crore in 2006 and Tk 162.49 crore in 2007 while the research spending was Tk 1.13 and Tk 1.14 crore respectively.
Data available shows that annual expense of the DU was Tk 103.10 crore in 2001 but it spent Tk 7.18 lakh for conducting research in that year.
AK Azad Chowdhury said a university should spend at least 5 percent of its budget on research for creating new knowledge making new discoveries to enrich education.
“The US spends 2.7 percent of its GDP on higher education. It spends 4 to 5 percent of GDP for the education sector. But the allocation is only 2 percent of the GDP in Bangladesh,” he said.
“Of the education budget, 70-80 percent is spent on the salary of teachers and staffs. If we want to bring qualitative change in the education sector, we have to spend more for research and education in general,” the former DU VC added.
Azad Chowdhury said the UGC provided at least 30 research projects, aided by World Bank and other international organisations, to DU in last 3 to 4 years.