Monday, 5 June, 2023

Focus on Ranking and Research Allocation

Dr. Md. Shafiqul Islam

University ranking is an important factor in higher education. The Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2023 reveals the list of 1,799 best universities worldwide. Dhaka University and North South University, BUET, Bangladesh Agricultural University and KUET have been ranked in this ranking.

Dhaka University and North South University are ranked between 601 and 800 on this global list. Being in the top 500 in the rankings increases international importance, because Times Higher Education University Ranking reveals the specific contribution of those universities in higher education of international standards. In this ranking, no university from Bangladesh is in the top 500, but Five (5) universities in neighboring India and One (1) university in Pakistan are in the world's top 500. Also, Chinese Eleven (11) universities are ranked in the top 200. Why is our university outside the top five hundred? It is becoming imperative for us to think deeply about these questions and take long-term action.

Academic reputation and research (60% score) are the most significant among the indicators considered in this ranking. Among the indicators, the quality of teaching and research plays a vital role in achieving the university's academic reputation. Although there has been a lot of development in higher education in the past few years, research has yet to receive much importance. Financial allocation in the research sector is not enough, research is done, but more is needed to take place internationally.

Many of our colleagues have a track record of publishing their writing or research in good journals. But there is no incentive for interested teachers in research. We should emphasize the quality improvement of education and research in higher education. That is why it is crucial to have some policies to increase research allocation and financial incentives for teachers. For example, in academic research, many Chinese universities offer large cash bonuses to researchers who publish research papers in top academic journals, which can increase a Chinese researcher's total salary.

Also, most prestigious universities in India have entire buildings allocated for the residence of researchers or professors where they can live for free or at a very low rent. On the other hand, a university job advertisement in Sri Lanka states that every teacher will receive a research allowance of 35% of his basic salary. Even in Pakistan, the Higher Education Commission has funded PhD candidates fully registered in foreign universities. But in our country, many people not directly involved in teaching or research get higher education opportunities in other countries with government funding. Therefore, it is necessary to provide university teachers with opportunities for higher education or research in foreign universities through various government fellowships. Also, university professors in Australia spend 35.8 hours per week on research and 22.2 hours on other teaching activities. Because these policies increase research in different countries, research can implement sustainable economic development. If we have some such policy in our country, the number of promising research will surely increase.

In the fiscal year 2022-23, the government has allocated 12.1 percent of the total budget to the education sector under the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education and the Ministry of Education. As a signatory to the UNESCO Education Act, allocating 20-25 percent of the total budget to the education sector can strengthen the country's research sector. Bangladesh is one of the countries where less allocation is given to the education sector in the national budget. Bangladesh's expenditure in this sector as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) is the lowest among South Asian countries. Neighboring Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, and Afghanistan also allocate more money to education.

In the 2022-23 financial year, the announced budget of Dhaka University is Tk. 922 crore 48 lakh. In the budget, the allocation for the research has increased by Tk. 4 crore. In the financial year 2021-22, the allocation for research was Tk. 11 crore 5 lakh. In the financial year 2022-23, it increased to 15 crore 5 lakh taka, 1.63 percent of the total budget, which is very insignificant. If 1 or 2 percent of the total budget of a university is allocated to the research sector, how will the research be done? It's only the teacher's fault, they don't do research. It is imperative to have the adequate allocation for research. In the financial year 2022-23, 10 thousand 444 crore 4 lakh taka has been allocated in the budget for 50 public universities of the country. Out of which Tk. 150 crore has been issued for research. Compared to the last financial year, the allocation for this sector has been increased by Tk. 32 crore in the budget. In the last financial year 2021-22, the allocation in the budget was 9 thousand 577 crore 91 lakhs, and the allocation of 118 crore was considered for the research. The budget allocation for research increased by 0.20 percent. Analyzing these data shows how much importance we give to research. But the research allocation has not increased at the same rate as the main budget has increased.

Higher education can play a significant role in sustainable development if there is more research allocation and teachers do quality research. The future leadership will come from the university, which will play an important role in achieving sustainable development. While the universities of other countries are researching the discovery of test kits or vaccines for the coronavirus, the universities of Bangladesh could not play any role in dealing with the coronavirus. Lack of research equipment and low financial allocation is one reason for being unable to do this. Therefore, the government should consider this matter separately and allocate accordingly. It is only possible to implement sustainable development with a massive improvement in higher education research quality.

Higher education institutions should be developed so that universities become the source of the knowledge-based economy, and the government should take immediate initiative in this regard. University Grants Commission can play a strong influential role in the evolution of research through regular evaluation and adequate allocation.


The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Accounting and Information Systems, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Mymensingh