There is good news for the University of Dhaka to make its centenary celebration a little more enjoyable. It has made it to the 801-1,000 slots of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2022 after five years. In 2016, the DU was placed in the 601-800 bracket but the next year no higher seat of learning including the DU found a place in the THE rankings. In 2018, the DU was ranked lower than the top 1,000 universities in the world. The same happened to it and other universities for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021. So it is a turnaround for the Dhaka University but still way behind its 2017 ranking. If the DU has recovered somewhat, the other two universities of the country to have made it to the THE ranking have slid down the grades. The Bangladesh Agricultural University has been ranked among the 1,001-1,200 world universities but the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) has gone down by 200 slots to earn its position behind the top 1,200 universities of the total 1,661 in the list.
The Times Higher Education prepares its university rankings on 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to measure a higher seat of learning's performance across four fundamental areas of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. For the past five years the University of Oxford has topped the ranking although another prestigious organisation the Quacquarelli Symonds usually has American universities such as the Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the top contender. But along with the California Institute of Technology and the Stanford University of America, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge of the UK usually make it to the top 10 in the ranking.
Well, the criteria for judging the standard of a university may vary slightly but essentially the ranking organisations more or less agree on the fundamental principles of teaching, research and practical application of the knowledge created and its transfer. The latest ranking has definitely put extra emphasis on the utility of research in the real life in the context of the pandemic. The University of Oxford has a clinching factor in this regard. Its collaboration with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, was responsible for developing the AstraZeneca vaccine. This research programme certainly has been a huge contribution to fighting against Covid-19. No wonder, the University of Oxford has topped the list.
So, the lesson is clear: universities are not only meant for awarding certificates to students of higher studies. Creation of knowledge and research studies devoted to the well-being of human society, environment and the living world count very highly. In this part of the world, research is never a priority. Fundamental research together with the development of advanced and affordable technology has, in fact, gone into the making of what modern civilization today is. Pathetically, universities receive a paltry allocation for research and experiment. Even more galling is the fact that universities cannot even spend that meagre allocation. One of the important criteria for improving quality of studies and research is academic exchange programmes with foreign universities. This also needs fund but it has to be managed either from the government or from large businesses or industries through collaboration.