UGC recommendations: Why is research neglected in universities?

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

If we consider universities as the hub of generating knowledge, there must be appropriate research there. But the more the education policy makers and entrepreneurs in Bangladesh are interested in setting up universities one after another, the less they are interested about research.

Citing the University Grants Commission (UGC), Prothom Alo reports that 15 per cent of the private universities didn’t allocate even a single penny for research in 2022. Meanwhile, some of the universities have allocated so little that it’s impossible to conduct any quality research.

The report from the year before showed zero allocation for research in 21 universities. This means those universities have ignored the fact that research is an integral part of higher studies. This is blamed onto the scarcity of funds.

Currently there are 169 approved universities with 55 public and 114 private. And the number of student enrolled in them is more than 4.7 million (4,756,747).

According to UNESCO’s recommendation, six per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) is supposed to be spent on education sector. But only 1.76 per cent is spent in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has the lowest allocation in education among the countries of South Asia.

Again, the majority of the allocated amount is spent on infrastructural construction and on salaries of teachers and staff. There remains almost no allocation for research.   

Our educational authorities do not even want to understand the fact that the weakness and inadequacy of research is one of the reasons behind Bangladesh constantly falling behind in the standards of world’s best universities. According to international standards, two per cent of the total allocation on higher education needs to be spent on research.

However, many of the renowned universities in Bangladesh also spend less than one per cent of the allocation. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that some of the top public and private universities have become more focused on research and have increased the allocations also.

Academic activities continue in those 15 per cent universities with zero allocation on research mentioned in the UGC report. Some of the universities have given the excuse of the pandemic. However, it cannot either be said that the picture of research was very promising there before the pandemic.

There needs to be experienced tenured teachers to do research. But, majority of the public and private universities of the new generation are running with novel and part-time teachers. Quality research cannot be expected under this circumstance.

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about there not being appropriate number of quality research on university level. The UGC is also trying to encourage research work in different ways.

The reason behind still there being not enough research is that excluding the exception maximum private university entrepreneurs are prioritising profit and political influence over education.

To increase research work the UGC report made 14 recommendations, including special financial incentives for teachers, special awards for young researchers, and a hike in grants for PhD programmes.

But making recommendations isn’t enough. They should also be monitoring whether the public and private universities are implementing the recommendations or not.

Activities of the university cannot be limited within just taking classes and tests. Every single university has to work as an institute of knowledge creation, which will attract foreign students alongside locals.

Universities that have been neglecting regular research or not keeping any allocation for this must be brought under accountability. Otherwise, UGC’s recommendation or advice won’t come to any use.

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