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World Class University: Is It a Need or Luxury?

2017-02-22 02:59:46

In the recent decades, the world has seen an intense and increasing competition among the rising and powerful economies to have at least one University that will be ranked within top 100 of the global university ranking. President Vladimir Putin has made it a key policy that will push at least five Russian universities into the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings by 2020. On the other hand, President Shinzo Abe has targeted minimum 10 Japanese universities to keep in the world top 100 by 2023. Singapore has committed S$19 billion for R & D for just two universities in the next five years. China is aggressively investing in research institutions and bringing famous expatriate scientists back to home with special incentives. These are just some representative examples but in reality every country wants a world class university of its own. Now my big question is why this unbridled completion that is not so easy to achieve. In fact, world Class University cannot be built over the night; it needs a marathon race, just a sprint cannot afford it.


Anatomical dissection of the top 100 universities (51 in USA, 11 in UK, 7 in Germany, 5 in Japan, 4 in each of Canada, Sweden and France, 3 in Switzerland, 2 in each of Australia and Singapore, 1 in each of Russia, Israel, Finland, Austria, Italy, Norway and Denmark) of the World reflect that they need to meet a number of criteria which are summarized below:

[1].  Average expenditure per student: US$30,000-52,000 per annum

[2].  Student to faculty ratio            : 6.0:1 to 10.8:1

[3].  Faculty to support staff ratio: 0.3:1 to 1.1: 1 to faculty and students in systematic teaching and learning

[4].  True presence of international: Hires 20 per cent of its staff from abroad

[5].  Significant research and publications in top ranking journals, 43% of that must have an international coauthor.

[6].  Quality of graduates which is measured by job placement and entrepreneurships.

[7].  Have a student body made up of 19% international students.

The above criteria demonstrate that a world class university cannot be achieved just by an overnight dream or Aladdin’s magical lamp. It definitely needs a long term planning and significant spending. According to Phil Baty, the editor of the THE World University Rankings, “First, you need serious money. Significant financial resources are essential to pay the salaries required to attract and retain the leading scholars and to build the facilities needed. Second, providing an intimate and intensive teaching environment for students, where they can expect to truly engage with leading academic staff that can really help. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a world-class university must be genuinely international. It must be a magnet for the planet’s most talented staff and students, wherever they happen to come from; it must bring people together from a range of different cultures and backgrounds to tackle shared global challenges; and it must work and think across national borders.”

Now my business question is why we need them when many of our people cannot eat and they don’t have shelter to live; many of our hungry people could be feed with this huge money and also could be built good quality housing for them as well as roads and highways. If you think like that way, I think you do not to come for university education; you can just drive an autoriskshaw or take care of your family business; that way you can earn your bread.


Just to share, in 2010, I was listening a lecture of an MIT professor in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) in BioMalaysia Exhibition and Conference. The theme of this big scientific gathering was to attract investment into Malaysia but the speaker was asking do you have any world class university in Malaysia? Malaysian representative said, we have very good quality infra even many developed country have not got it, so why do we need so high quality university; those people will not work with your machines. No doubt, you have excellent infra; but we also need excellent university. Our experiences really reflect big big industries have marketing outlets in developing countries but they never do R & D in those countries.


Look at the Singapore which has a dot like appearance in the world’s map but it has got headquarters of all Asian businesses. These businesses need huge skilled man powers that bring employment, businesses and revenues for the country. Many people mistakenly believe, Singapore’s development is because of the port; indeed port is a significant blessings for Singapore but it is not the main pillar of Singapore’s economy. Many countries have ports but they cannot attract so much foreign investments; Singapore’s economy is based on knowledge which is an invisible power that nobody can fight back. Singapore has got two universities and both of them are ranked within top 100. Surprisingly, only 6-8% faculty members in Singaporean Universities are local; the remaining 92-94% is highly qualified foreign staffs who are the real leaders in their respective fields. Those leaders of knowledge are the Editor or editorial board in top rating journals that disseminate knowledge and also make business with knowledge. Furthermore, if you look at the MIT or Stanford graduates, they are even not looking for jobs but 90% of them are entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and giving jobs to other university graduates. When we are memorizing the proverb, “knowledge is power”, those graduates are putting it into effect. 

Now the question is who will come forward to build up a world’s class university? Studies reveal that out of the top 100 world-class universities, only 10 are privates and 90 are public universities. The reason is simple, private entrepreneurs want to make money within the shortest possible time and so that may not look the longer benefit of the country. So government must come forward with fresh investment and long term strategies.

On the other hand, our university professors and policy makers should not be complacent to think that they cannot do it because of the lack of resources and lack of government initiatives; but my observation is saying that they are not utilizing the underutilized resources that we already have in hand. In order to be matured, a baby needs to be 8-9 month in mother’s womb; a stupid might think that his baby is having suffering in a small place in the mother womb where there is no ventilation and greeneries. But keep in mind any premature delivery of the babies will lead to its serious injury or mortality in total. It is really happening in our university premises. I feel very sad when I found some associate or so called full professors from my country are doing PhD in Malaysia or elsewhere and proudly telling people that they are university professors in BD. It’s a great shame for our nation and quality of our education. How a person can be promoted to such a highly dignified position in the 21st century when there are no shortages of PhD holders? When many of our PhDs are jobless, why a master holder will be given such as a big post; are they super charismatic like Newton or Einstein? This is definitely, a premature promotion which is degrading our university teachers and making us a laughing stock to international communities. If they were a full term baby, may be they would be able to learn from the circumstances and tactfully hide their status in the mother land. In my university, even Malaysian cannot get a lecturer position without a PhD. In order to be senior lecturer, they need minimum 5 papers in the web of science and supervise completed 2 masters or a PhD. When the circumstances are like that how can they say they are associate or full professor in Bangladesh Universalities? I have also seen some full professors in BD universities but have worked in my University as Senior Lecturer but in their email writing they have clearly written at the bottom head that they are professors in Bangladesh Universities. Definitely, these premature babies were not taught commonsense by which they can understand the circumstances and could take appropriate action.

Finally, we have many giant professors in BD Government Universities who have received their doctoral degrees from very famous universities across the world but their publications and research creativity have halted once they have moved back to BD. The bogus belief that research and publications are not possible from BD have made them disable and brought the death in their scientific careers. Of course, the infrastructures and resources in our universities are not world class but I cannot believe that nothing can be done. I have seen some colleagues who have been working in private universities that have poorer infrastructures than those of the government institutions but have continued to produce in good standing journals. If experimental data is not available, there is nothing wrong with our professors to produce at least one review paper in a year. The simple reason of this parody is that they know it very well they do not need to show good quality publications or creativity to run the highest position in their career. You cannot just blame that your consumers are using excessive natural gases because you have not yet fixed a meter. If meters were fixed at the right time for our professors, may be our finance minister could not dare to fix a higher pay scale for our secretaries who are working for the ministers and also could not imagine to make fun with our professors. Very unpleasant and very sad but someone has to put his shoulder to show our blind riders to take their horses and wagons in the right direction.


Editors Notes:    0

The opinions expressed and information shared are those of the writer's and commentators; do not necessarily reflect that of Scientific Bangladesh.Scientific Bangladesh accepts no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the accuracy or content of writers' and commentators' opinion and information.

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