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n My View Bangladesh performs poorly in global ranking of universities

n My View Bangladesh performs poorly in global ranking of universities

Syed Badiuzzaman

Bangladesh performs poorly in global ranking of universities
Bangladesh performs poorly in global ranking of universities

One of my biggest regrets in life is I did not graduate from Dhaka University even though I am sure I could have easily done that. It happened due to an error of judgement primarily on my part. After finishing my HSC back in 1969 from the prestigious 149-year-old Rajshahi College, I opted for Rajshahi University instead of Dhaka for doing my BA (Hons.) and MA in Economics.

With my first division from the humanities group in HSC, I could have easily enrolled at Dhaka University and pursued my BA (Hons.) and MA in either Economics or English — my two most favorite disciplines back then for the graduate program. And with more than 75 percent marks in both subjects in my HSC exam, I would be easily accepted by either department of the nation’s number one university for admission.

But instead of coming to the capital and enrolling at Dhaka University, I chose to stay back in Rajshahi and pursue my higher studies at Motihar, the lush green beautiful campus of Rajshahi University. Had I ever wished to come to Dhaka University for my graduate program in 1969, my parents would not raise any objection to my decision either. It was entirely I who made this decision and I alone was responsible for it.

So, the regret is also entirely mine. Frankly speaking, I have this repentance for all these years and I am sure it will remain for the rest of my life. Even though about 15 years later I enrolled at an American university in Boston, Massachusetts and obtained my second MA in Journalism, I still feel some kind of sadness deep down my heart for not doing my first MA from Dhaka University. But I also love Motihar meaning the University of Rajshahi.

Soon after our HSC results were out, many of my college peers headed to the nation’s capital and enrolled at Dhaka University. Among them were my friends Sraboni Endow Chowdhury, Fazle Selim and many others. But I fell in love with Rajshahi, a charming town on the bank of the Padma and more love with Motihar, the lush green beautiful campus of Rajshahi University with a circle of eucalyptus trees spreading fragrance in the air all day and night in front of the administrative building.

But even though I didn’t graduate from Dhaka University, I truly love this temple of learning. This is the most prestigious academic institution of Bangladesh which is literally a dream for every brilliant and ambitious student of the country for pursuing their higher studies at. Located in the heart of the capital, the 101-year-old university is the Oxford, Harvard, MIT — you name it — of Bangladesh. The rich and famous of the nation also eye Dhaka University for studies of their children.

Once selected by Asia week magazine as one of the top 100 universities in Asia, Dhaka University is performing poorly nowadays in comparison with other top universities on the continent and across the globe. In the latest edition (2022-23) of the largest ranking of global universities, the number one academic institution of Bangladesh once again performed very poorly — even though slightly better compared to the rankings of last two years — which came as a shock to many Bangladeshis at home and abroad who love Dhaka University and feel proud of being its alumni.

Among the top 2000 universities worldwide, Dhaka University ranked 1773rd, only above Tribhuvan University of Nepal ranking 1855th in South Asia. Indian universities performed magnificently with capturing as many as 67 spots among the Global 2000 while Pakistani institutions did extremely well receiving 10 positions on the long list of universities across the world. Two universities of Sri Lanka holding national rank first and second are also among the top 2000 – both are above the ranking of the lone university of Bangladesh.

India has over 1000 universities and many among them are globally recognized. So it was natural for 67 Indian universities to secure their places among the top 2000 in the world. Pakistan also performed quite well in the global ranking. Ten Pakistani universities out of a total of 174 in the country secured their positions on the list of 2000. But only one Bangladeshi institution among as many as 160 universities nationwide made it to the list of Global 2000. The performance of Sri Lanka was also far better than Bangladesh. Two Sri Lankan universities from only 27 in the country are among the top 2000 in the world. And both have ranked higher than Dhaka University.

The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)head quartered in the United Arab Emirates ranked a total of 19,788 institutions worldwide and the top 2000 among them made the list of Global 2000. While ranking these institutions, the CWUR assessed their quality of education, alumni employment, quality of faculty and research performance. Under the methodology of research performance, the CWUR evaluated research output by total number, high-quality publications in top journals, influence measured by the number of research papers appearing in highly influential journals and citations.

In the Wikipedia also known as the free encyclopedia on the Internet, Dhaka University has been clearly described as “a public research university.” It has been further said that “today it is the largest pubic research university in Bangladesh.” However, the oldest and the premier “public research university” of the nation has received regrettably quite poor score (1707) for research from the Center for World University Rankings. The research score of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences of India which is at the bottom of the latest edition of Global 2000 is 1926.

So, what’s wrong? Why the ranking of the nation’s top varsity is so low in comparison with other universities in South Asia and across the world? Then again, why only one university among so many in the country is on the list of the Global 2000? Let us not talk about India as this country has been far ahead of Bangladesh in many sectors including of course education. But Pakistan too has done ten times better than Bangladesh in the latest ranking of academic institutions all over the world as ten of their universities or institutions have found their places on the list of the Global 2000 (2022-23).

No person is more authoritative than the vice-chancellor of Dhaka University Professor Md. Akhtaruzzaman. Let us hear what he had to say about the poor showing of his institution in the global competition. “We are not concerned about any ranking. But, we are trying to improve overall academic activities of the university,” the digital edition of the Business Standard quoted him as saying in a report about two years ago. This comment of the vice-chancellor of our beloved Dhaka University has baffled me.

So, I want to ask him a straightforward question. Why are you not concerned about the ranking of your institution, sir? According to the latest CWUR rankings, Dhaka University is behind 1772 academic institutions of the world. How come you are not concerned about it? You are the chief executive and academic officer of your university. If your institution ranks poorly in comparison with other universities in Asia or across the world, why shouldn’t that bother you? Ranking is an essential part of the education system. Whenever there is a competition among individuals or institutions nationally or internationally, there is always a system of ranking them. Dhaka University currently ranks number one in Bangladesh. If its national ranking goes down to number fifth next year, will you still not be concerned about it?

There has been a mushroom growth of universities in Bangladesh over the last two decades or so. But none of them has succeeded in securing a single spot on the list of the latest edition of Global 2000. If they are not counted nationally, regionally and also internationally as good academic institutions, then what does their existence mean other than just a university for the sake of a university? The website of the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh has a list of 52 public and 108 private universities in the country. Each of these universities has their respective authority for not just running these universities efficiently but also ensuring quality education to their students so that they can get good jobs in the country and also abroad like many Indian students.

We love our schools, colleges and universities. When they go down in any international ranking or competition, we also go down with them. These academic institutions educate our nation. But they must make sure that they provide quality education to their students, not just education. Scapegoating government for the failure of a college or university can be an easy way out of a problem but that cannot solve such a problem. If you need financial assistance or something else from the government, make a case for it. The government will consider every deserving case.
The writer is a Toronto-based
journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun as a guest columnist

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