Allocation for research in higher education
University ranking is an important issue in the world. The Education and Research Organization (QS), a ranking assessment body, recently released a list of the world's top 1,000 universities. Unfortunately, no university of Bangladesh could secure its position in the top 500 in this list. Two universities in Bangladesh, Dhaka University and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) have been ranked among the last 200 out of 1000 universities. The top 500 universities in the rankings get more international importance because QS expresses the specific position of those universities by international standards.
Although no university from Bangladesh is in the top 500 in this ranking, 6 universities of neighbouring India and 3 universities of Pakistan are in the top 500 in the world. Also, 51 universities of China are in the ranking. Why a single university of our country is not in the list of top five hundred? It is becoming imperative for us to take initiatives and take long-term action on the issue.
Among the indicators considered in this ranking, academic reputation and research (60% score) are the most significant. The quality of education and research in the index plays an important role in achieving the academic reputation of the university. Although there has been a lot of improvement in higher education in the last few years, research has not got much importance. Even if our financial allocation in the research sector is not enough, research is going on, but it is not enough to achieve desired recognition in the global level.
Many of our colleagues have records of writing and publishing research in reputed journals. But there is no incentive in research for interested teachers. We should focus on improving the quality of education and research in higher education. Therefore, it is important for teachers to have some policies of increasing resource allotment and financial incentives. For example, as far as I know, a PhD fellow in China conducts research under the supervision of a teacher. If the research of the said fellow is published in an index-bearing journal, then that teacher gets an honorarium of 6 lakh in Bangladeshi currency.
In China, if three or more PhD students do research under a professor, then that teacher does not have to take any course in the department in different academic years. As a result he can spend more time in research. Also the most prestigious universities in India have a whole building allotted for the accommodation of researchers or professors where they can stay for free or at very low rent.
On the other hand, the job advertisement of a university in Sri Lanka shows that every teacher will get 35% research allowance of his basic salary. Even in Pakistan as of September 2018, the Higher Education Commission has funded 1,814 fully registered PhD candidates in foreign universities. But most of the candidates pursuing higher education in my country with government funding are not directly involved in research. Therefore, there is an urgent need to provide university teachers with opportunities for higher education or research in foreign educational institutions through various government sponsored scholarship.
University professors in Australia also spend 35.8 hours per week on research and 22.2 hours on other educational activities because it is the policy of different countries to give importance on research. These countries strongly believe that research can assist sustainable economic development of a country. So, if there was such a policy in our country, the number of quality researches would definitely increase.
In the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, the government has allocated 15.1 percent of the total budget for education and technology. As a signatory to UNESCO's education documents, allocating 20-25 percent of the total budget to the education sector could strengthen the country's research sector. Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world where the allocation for education sector in the national budget is very small proportionately. Neighbouring Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives and Afghanistan also spend more on education.
A budget of Tk 610.42 crore was presented for Dhaka University in the 2019-20 Fiscal Year. The total allocation for research is Tk 40.606 crore which is 5.04 percent of the budget. In the 2018-19 FY, the research allocation was Tk 49.7 crore (6.62 per cent of the budget). In comparison, the allocation for research was reduced.
Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a budget of Tk 8485.12 crore for the 46 public universities of the country in the FY 2020-21. This amount was Tk 8088.49 crore in the last FY, resulting in an increase of 4.90 per cent this year as compared to the last year. For the research of public universities in higher education, an allocation of Tk 66.65 crore has been allotted in the main budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, which was Tk 64.58 crore in the previous financial year. Compared to the last year, the allocation in this sector has been increased by 3.20 per cent. But the rate at which the original budget has been increased has not been increased the allocation for research.
Higher education can play a massive role in achieving sustainable development if there is more allocation in research and teachers conduct quality research accordingly. While universities in other countries are doing research to invent test kits or antidotes for coronavirus, Bangladeshi universities have not been able to play a significant role to face COVID-19. Lack of research equipment and low financial allocation are some of the reasons for this inability. Therefore, I am sincerely requesting the Ministry of Education to consider this issue separately and increase allocate for conducting research based activities in higher education institutions. It is impossible to achieve sustainable development without improving the quality and quantity of research in higher education.
The writer is PhD Fellow, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, China and Assistant Professor, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Mymensingh