Compared to the previous year, Dhaka University's global ranking doesn't draw a blank this time around but that brings a little solace to be sure. Last year the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) magazine did not even consider Dhaka University (DU) for the ranking but this time it has been placed, much to one's discomfiture, well below the 1000 mark among the world's 1,396 universities. It is also learnt that no other university of the country qualified for the reckoning. Read against this, the inclusion of 56 Indian and 14 Pakistani universities in the list of 1,396 apart, even Pakistani universities have achieved ranking in the band of 401-500. Of the 56 Indian universities, 23 are among the top 800 and two of those find places between 301 and 350.
That the country has a surfeit of universities may not be in doubt. With 44 public universities and 104 private universities, the nation gives the impression of taking higher education seriously. However, a reality check is likely to project a completely different picture. What kind of universities and how many of those would have been enough for it is anybody's guess. When the once Oxford of the East-famed Dhaka University trails the list at the bottom, the propriety and relevance of setting up universities one after another without a sizeable campus, full-time and highly qualified academics, well-furnished laboratories, libraries and other facilities are surely questionable. When post-graduation degrees such as Master of Arts and Science or PhDs should have been a preserve for the most brilliant corps of scholars who would pursue research, teaching at universities etc., the current trend is to churn out certificates of higher degrees for as many young people as possible. Whether creation of knowledge is there, it is no one's concern. It is because of this, a student of literature with the highest university degree or an engineering degree serves at a bank or a buying house of readymade garments.
No wonder that the popular tendency for private universities is to open business and commercial faculties. For those who want to pursue a career in commerce and business, a graduation degree would have been enough. This could be complemented by short courses and on-the-job training. The main responsibility of universities should have been generation of ideas and knowledge - ones that have the potential to change life and the world. All those should lead to invention and discovery in case of science and technology and didactic theories, answers to social and economic problems in case of philosophy and economics and literary appreciation giving deeper insight into human life in case of literature.
All this is not happening. Commercialised, education is serving a few to get highly paying jobs at best but leaving the rest struggling for employment at worst. Even the scholars among the academics often find themselves constrained by lack of funds and facilities. Clearly, allocation for research is a priority and collaboration with industries and business houses can be an effective source of fund for top universities. Knowledge generated must have its practical application to business and industries. But scholarly articles or theses must get published in reputed international journals for peer reviews first to earn higher ranking for universities.
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