Monday, 24 January, 2022

Are universities losing interest in research?

A worrisome report published in this daily on Friday informs that about 27 private universities and eight public universities did not spend a single penny on research in 2020, while some conducted research in name only with a meager funding. Ensuring quality education is a buzz word these days, but apparently the state of our education kept going south only. One of the main reasons for the declining standard of higher education is the unwillingness of students and teachers to conduct innovative research.

The bitter truth is instead of conducting research and contributing to the development of society, most of the private universities are being driven by the sole objective of profit maximisation. Moreover, in public universities a section of teachers and students spend more time in petty party politics than academic activities. Independent researchers are seen as trouble makers and are often harassed by several vested quarters as they tend to present unpleasant truths.

In this backdrop, academic excellence and research has taken a backseat. It is often reported that the universities are slashing research fund, while some others do not have any fund for research at all. In some universities allocation for research is less than that of the fund for teachers’ refreshment, which is clearly a sign of an ailing university.

It is alarming that our tertiary education system is largely producing graduates with no specific skills. Students are acquiring knowledge mainly through memorization of some selective notes and books, whereas there are ample scope for hands-on learning and conducting research. Of late, research papers of even some of the teachers have turned out to be copy-paste job. It is a very sad and disturbing development and it will take the country backward.

The key problem the country’s higher education sector is facing now is lack of democratic leadership. Those who run the public universities are handpicked by the party in power. They largely implement the agenda of the ruling party and, therefore, are far out of the sync of the academic community. Thus the system is undermining original intellectuals, while churning out pseudo intellectuals. Only time can tell how self-destructive it can be for our higher education sector and the nation as well.