Lack of support for research and a dearth of quality publications are the main reasons for Bangladeshi universities lagging behind in most of the world rankings, said educationists.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, four eminent teachers of three different universities said not recruiting qualified teachers, non-participation of foreign teachers and students and the unavailability of latest information on university websites are among the causes.
On Wednesday, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) published the world university rankings for 2022, in which Dhaka University (DU) and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) failed to make any progress.
QS evaluates 1,300 universities across the world according to six metrics: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio, and international student ratio.
Like the previous year, both universities were placed in the 801-1,000 bracket.
DU Vice-chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman told The Daily Star on Wednesday, "Ranking is not our focus. We are working on improving the quality of education and basic research. If we can continue it, we will achieve a better ranking soon."
DU, which was in the 601-plus bracket in 2012, slipped to the 701-plus bracket in 2014 and slid further in 2019.
Contacted, retired professor of Dhaka University Syed Manzoorul Islam said, "We are far behind in all the criteria that are set for ranking. If we look at the state of our research, library facilities, the number of foreign students, the administration system, transparency in teacher selection process, etc., we will know the causes.
"We have publications but they do not have international acceptability," said Manzoorul Islam, who is now a professor in University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.
"It is important to be well-ranked in terms of the amount of researches that are being cited in other studies. Several universities in India, China and Singapore are moving forward. If we look at them, we can understand our shortcomings."
"Every stage of education -- from primary to higher education -- is interconnected. But not a lot of planning goes into our education. We had an education policy which was inactive; we had a strategic plan [2017-2030] but that is also in deep freeze."
"Our budget for education is very poor. We should have allocated 25 percent of our national budget or six percent of GDP for education to improve its quality. All in all, we need a political will for it [to improve]," he added.
Anu Muhammad, an eminent professor of Jahangirnagar University, said most of the research in Bangladeshi universities was conducted by researchers on their own; institutions are not usually involved in it and do not even record those work. Rankings are related to the accessibility of information on the universities' websites.
"We have a lack of qualified teachers and quality research. When we look into our teacher recruitment process, we don't see any better situation in the future. The government does not want universities to improve; it thinks of the institutions as their own to do with them as it pleases.
"The government doesn't like people who come forward with competent and independent initiatives in education and research. This attitude is a threat for students," he added.
Prof Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan of DU international relations department said rankings have some criteria which are not suitable for Bangladeshi universities, such as foreign teachers and foreign students.
"We had some international students before 2012; now it's decreasing. We have reduced focus on the research sector, where the institutional effort is most important. While teachers are doing well, they don't have any good platform to exhibit it," he said.
"A website is the identity of a university, but we have been quite inattentive about it. In addition, our provided PhD and Mphil are not up to standard. Most of our teachers go abroad to get an advanced degree. We have some advanced research in science-related faculties, but the scenario of other faculties is poor."
Tanzimuddin aims to focus on publications, academic environment and teacher recruitment process to improve the rankings.
On the other hand, Salim Reza Newton, a Rajshahi University professor, said criteria of such rankings hurt the university's main spirit.
"We have to decide for ourselves what kind of universities we want. I don't think our universities are running well. We have lots of opportunities to develop our institutions, but it should be discussed among ourselves. If we decide to let rankings dictate to us, it will not be auspicious for us," he said.
Bangladeshi universities have no "systematic effort" to improve themselves, he opined.
The Daily Star tried to contact BUET VC Satya Prasad Majumder but failed to reach him over phone.
Twenty-six Asian universities were named in the global top 100 in the latest ranking like the previous year, the highest number from this continent till date.
In Asia, the top two universities are the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, also in Singapore, at 11th and 12th spots in the global rankings respectively.
Eight Indian and three Pakistani institutes have made it to the top 500 in the latest rankings.