University rankings: How much do we need to go down to wake up

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Teachers of public universities in Bangladesh are demonstrating and demanding the revocation of the prottoy pension scheme and implementation of a higher grade when a pale and shameful scenario of our universities came to the fore at an international ranking system.

Recently, US News and World Report, a US-based media company publishing news, consumer advice, rankings, and analysis, released a ranking by evaluating 2,271 universities across 104 countries. But, no university from Bangladesh made it to the top 550 in the list with Dhaka University being ranked 560th among the world's best universities and 146th among Asian universities

Rajshahi University was ranked 1,076th globally and 342nd in Asia, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) at 1,396th globally and 488th in Asia, Jahangirnagar University 1,414th globally and 500th in Asia and Bangladesh Agricultural University 1,775th globally and 689th in Asia. Previously, Dhaka University was ranked 554th among the world's best universities in the QS ranking.

When compared to universities in India and Pakistan, the poor state of our tertiary education is easily noticeable. A total of 140 and 32 universities have been featured from India and Pakistan respectively in the rankings that were prepared based on several indicators including global and regional research reputation, teacher-student ratio, research allocation and international collaboration.

Our university administrations and teachers want to say that it should not be right to compare the universities of Bangladesh with European and American ones because education opportunities are unlimited there and huge funds are allocated to research. Since we cannot compare with European and American universities, it would not be a crime to compare with the universities in India and Pakistan. Dhaka University celebrated its century three years ago, and how much of the expectations of the people has this century-old institution so far been fulfilled? Why has BUET, which was once known as the country’s top university, gone down this much? The socioeconomic state of Bangladesh does not differ much from India and Pakistan, but the viewpoints of their government, university administration and teachers are not the same on education.

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Teachers of the universities are demonstrating in demand to raise their privileges and facilities, and we do not want to see it in a negative way. It cannot be the sole task of the teachers of the higher educational institutions to raise salaries, allowances and perks. Had they demonstrated for the standard of education along with their demands for raising professional parks and privileges we would have been more elated.

In Bangladesh, most public universities have less number of teachers than the number of positions whereas there are more professors compared to their posts. Many traditional and big colleges under National University have been converted to universities without raising facilities in the country over the past decade, and the move still draws flack. Many universities could not raise infrastructures properly. There is also a lack of various facilities for study. On the other hand, the appointment of teachers on partisan consideration instead of meritocracy has grown relatively more than before. There is no end to the criticism of the recruitment business in universities, and no exemplary action is taken against those either.

How the quality of higher education will increase amid such a situation and reality? The number of unemployed graduates is also on the rise due to a lack of realistic practical and qualitative education.

There is no alternative to taking a policy on increasing the quality of higher education than raising the number of universities. More institutions mean more projects and some people make money out of it. Allocation to education must increase compared to GDP and that fund must be best utilised to increase the qualitative standard of education, as well as on research. The quality of higher education must increase for the welfare and development of society, state and politics, and the government and the policymakers must realise this.