The first ever Private University Rankings 2017 in Bangladesh, jointly conducted by the Dhaka Tribune and the Bangla Tribune, has been a good initiative and it should be done regularly every year, academics and researchers have said at the Bangla Tribune’s latest Boithoki roundtable held in its Dhaka offices on November 30. The programme, titled “Private University Ranking” and moderated by journalist Munni Saha, was telecast live on ATN News and the Bangla Tribune’s official Facebook page
‘Despite some errors, it was a positive initiative’
At the roundtable, Prof Abdul Mannan, chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), said: “Despite some errors, this ranking was certainly a positive initiative. But it is also true that no research is 100% accurate beyond doubt.”
However, he said: “One of the biggest flaws in this ranking was that it used data from 2014 for its 2017 research.”
Mannan added that ranking the universities was not UGC’s job since they ensure quality of education at these academic institutions.
“The Education Ministry could do this ranking, since no UGCs in the world conduct such research. “In most countries, private companies conduct such research and rank the universities.”
‘This will help parents-students make decisions’
Bangla Tribune Editor Zulfiqer Russell stressed that the private university ranking would help concerned students make the right decision for themselves before seeking admission.
The universities would now also begin taking steps to improve their ranking too, he added.
Russell said: “University rankings are done in many countries across the world. Yet, no such research was ever conducted in Bangladesh. This was the first time such initiative was taken here and by the Dhaka Tribune and the Bangla Tribune.”
Explaining why the research was conducted, he said: “Many guardians and their children do not realise which university will be the better choice considering their financial capability.
“This ranking will facilitate them making the decision best for them. In addition, the academic institutions can also improve their standards too.”
He further said: “It look a lot of time and effort to complete this research. An advisory committee was formed which set the research index. After taking the index, the study was conducted using two methods through OrgQuest Research.”
“As it was done for the first time, the research may have some flaws. However, we hope to do better in future.”
‘Weaknesses in the Perceptual method’
Addressing the Boithoki, Abdur Rab, vice-chancellor of International University of Business, Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT), said he believed there were some weaknesses in the Perceptual method used in the ranking. “The results from the study could have been better if random samplings were used. Hence, the ranking will receive some criticism, but this research was a great initiative.”
He said: “We hope for a better ranking and assure any assistance required to conduct the research in future.”
Rab also added: “As UGC tends to have old and incorrect data, the information should be crosschecked when the list is being made. It is not possible for the UGC to conduct such extensive research, so researchers will have to do this.”
‘There is no reason to be biased’
The secretary general of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB), Benazir Ahmed, told the roundtable that private universities cannot be looked at one-sidedly or compared with the public universities in Bangladesh. Private universities are not only bringing the country economic prosperity, but also providing opportunities for students to pursue higher education, he said.
“Since the number of public universities in the country and their educational standard were low, many meritorious students had been opting to go abroad for higher education.
“This is where the private universities played a pivotal role, allowing many students to study here. As a result, these private universities also played a big role in the economic prosperity,” he said.
Regarding the data issue in the Private University Rankings, Benazir said: “APUB always helps the Education Ministry and UGC with various data and information, whenever requested. Though sometimes, it becomes impossible to provide information immediately. However, the information is always provided following a process. “In the case of this ranking, information may not have been sought from the universities through that process. But I do applaud such initiative.”
‘We used the only available data’
M Manjurul Haque, chairman and managing director of OrgQuest Research, which carried out the research, said they had collected and used the latest data and information that was available for the Private University Rankings 2017.
“We had to use the data from 2014 as factual information for the rankings, since that was the only recent and substantial data available when we started our research. We agree that the data is outdated and this was a limitation.”
Manjurul said: “As you saw, the research used two methods – Factual and Perceptual. Since the Perceptual method is based on conceptions and personal opinions, the information first came from university staff and employers.
“On the other hand, we were forced to use the 2014 data provided by the UGC for the Factual method. This is because, when we asked for the factual data from the universities, no one responded. That’s why we used the three-year-old data.”
‘The ranking could have been better with the latest data’
Although this was a great first initiative in the country, not many parents and students would be influenced by the Private University Rankings. However, if this research is conducted regularly, it would be beneficial, believes Rasheda Rawnak Khan, a teacher of anthropology department at Dhaka University.
She said: “The ranking would have been more accurate if the universities were ranked based on latest data, making it more beneficial for the students and guardians.
“It will not be fair to judge this year’s ranking, which is based on three-year-old data. This is because a lot of universities have changed since 2014. For example, North South University’s condition deteriorated after the Holey Artisan terror attack.”
She further added: “The results from the research also matter on how much information was actually collected from the respondents during fieldwork. Besides, if information were also collected from students, the ranking could have been better too. “I think that it would have been better if the research also consisted of subject-based data.”