The just approved annual budget for the University of Dhaka for the year 2020-21 has once again seen a slash in the percentage of allocation on education and research. This is for the second consecutive year it has happened. In the year 2018-19 and 2019-20, the percentages of outlay for the sector were 6.66 and 5.04 respectively but in the latest budget, this has come down to 4.7 per cent only. Of the total budget of Tk 8.6956 billion, Tk 0.4019 billion is earmarked for education and research. Then only Tk 95 million is specifically allocated for research. But again of this amount, Tk 75 million will be distributed among 56 departments, projects and centres of the DU. The rest Tk 20 million will be used as special grants for research projects.
What a puny amount each department is going to receive. Such meagre allocations speak volumes about the research undertakings at the premier university. Pure science subjects, life science subjects and health science are sure to find allocations for research much too inadequate. The picture is hardly encouraging for the country's premier university that alone could find a place among the world's top 2,000 universities ranked by the UAE-based Centre for World University Rankings. It also ranked, along with the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) between the top 801 and 1,000 universities on the UK-based World University Rankings but still draws, for valid reasons, criticism for not doing enough research works. The emphasis has been mostly on teaching not on research. In fact, no effort was expended to turn the universities in this country into research-based ones. But as the leading universities the DU and the BUET should have by now given priority to research. Amid the gloom, the only silver lining is the allocation of Tk 10 million each for supporting teachers in publishing research articles in peer-reviewed international journals and for students' exchange programmes. The first may help encourage research.
The country surely has resource constraints but its GDP (gross domestic product) could direct focus on research with issues that particularly concern countries like Bangladesh. The Oxford University of the UK now leads the pack in developing vaccine that hopefully will give immunity to people against coronavirus. In the United States of America (USA), the institutes and universities belonging to the Ivy League have produced more Nobel laureates than perhaps the entire world has done. The US universities and institutes are dedicated to research in collaboration with famous laboratories in the private sector. Universities there have developed a legacy of collaboration with the corporate world which finances research.
Bangladesh has been producing the superrich at the highest rate in the world. It is time some of the money of these superrich went into research projects and the universities like the DU and the BUET expanded their research and laboratory facilities. The country does not lack talents and inventive minds. In the context of climate challenge and proliferation of diseases like Covid-19, countries like Bangladesh face challenges different from the developed countries in the West where population density is much thinner. So there is need for inventing solutions to the special kinds of problems facing the country. Universities and institutes must take lead in research on such issues in the interest of the nation's well-being.