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UGC chair: We need more rankings like this

  • Published at 02:20 am November 13th, 2017
UGC chair: We need more rankings like this

What is your view on the Dhaka Tribune – Bangla Tribune Private University Rankings 2017?

This is definitely a good initiative. There are many popular and reputable university rankings around the world, and like this one, several of them are published by media organisations, in particular print media organisations. For example Times Higher Education in the UK, in the US, the US News and World Reports ranking, in India the ranking published by India Today. There are also professional agencies, for example, QS rankings. In many places the government accreditation council publishes rankings of universities. I hope that there will be more rankings like this in Bangladesh, others should do it as well, Dhaka Tribune should continue doing it. Both public and private universities can be covered in rankings, or they could be separately rated. The primary goal of these rankings is that they must be as objective as possible. There should not be an element of bias. Not everybody will agree with all the rankings, but the rankings need to be objective.

How useful do you think university rankings can be for students? For universities?

We are not used to this in Bangladesh, so you cannot expect that everyone will accept this concept easily overnight, but I hope that they will take it positively. This is a good thing, and I hope that it will be appreciated by people. Everybody should also point out or voice their opinions if they feel that something is lacking in the study, or they feel that they disagree with some aspects of it. That is okay. Any good work should be open to criticism and outside views.
We are not used to this in Bangladesh, so you cannot expect that everyone will accept this concept easily overnight, but I hope that they will take it positively. This is a good thing, and I hope that it will be appreciated by people
Parents and students can use rankings as a way to choose from different universities, to understand which are the good ones. In the United States, when an institution performs well in the surveys continuously, those universities get more grants from the government. Their students get more assistance, or easier loans. In England, they have professional development colleges. The government’s Higher Education Funding Council for England, or Hefce, regularly evaluates colleges, and the students who study in these colleges get many advantages. Students in the Hefce gold-rated colleges get to study for almost no cost at all. So there are many different ways the rankings can be used.

Any surprises for you in the private university rankings?

I see that the oldest, first-ever private university, North South University is high up in the rankings, and then Brac University which was founded much later on, which has come up in the rankings as well. I take this is a good sign. Despite being relatively new, some of these universities have been able to show the public that they are doing well. I think some universities who have been around for a long time and have been issuing certificates, they will realise that despite having operated for a long time, and having certification and passing out graduates, employers will be looking at surrveys like these when they want to hire the graduates. That is what happens abroad.

Can you share your views on different university rankings published around the world?

In many world university rankings, the parameters they use are very different. For example, while the Times Higher Education rankings consider teaching an essential element of the scoring process, they also look at research volume, income and reputation. This means that a lot of research at top universities can not only be measured in terms of their volume and reputation, but also how much money that university is making by marketing that research. Rankings can also consider universities’ international outlook, how many international faculty and students they have. Some universities are ranked for how many Nobel laureates they have, how much they earn from selling patents, how much alumni endowment they have. Harvard has I think about $40-45 billion annual endowment. So we cannot compare our rankings with these. We have not reached that place. We can do our own ranking, in the way Dhaka Tribune has done, and others can do. What they need is professionalism and objectivity.

How will the Higher Education Commission change the tertiary education scene?

We have been trying to move to a Higher Education Commission for some time. The chairperson before me also pushed for this. Recently we have held a series of meetings with the Education Ministry. I have spoken to the prime minister. We feel that things are moving forward. When the UGC was created we had only six public universities. The commission’s task is no longer limited to issuing grants to public universities, the scope of our work has expanded greatly. There are now 42 public universities and 96 private universities in Bangladesh, and approximately 3.5 million students at the tertiary level. The resources and legal structure that we have, it is no longer sufficient to oversee all the necessary tasks. So when we call for a higher education commission, we do not want anything new, we just want to enhance the framework and the legal capabilities of the UGC. Commissions like this already exist in all countries around the region. India had an UGC, now they are transforming it into Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency or Heera, which will not only cover universities but technical institutions, medical colleges - all institutions that provide tertiary education. The Education Ministry cannot always pay attention to all the tasks in the higher education scene, but for many crucial things the commission is still reliant on the ministry. We can only make suggestions to them, and they are not always able to accommodate that. There will be more universities in the country in the near future and more students will be pursuing higher education. So we need the higher education commission to meet the demands of time. And hopefully because the prime minister is personally interested in making this change, there will be positive results soon.