HEQEP Logo Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP)
A project of
University Grants Commission of Bangladesh
Ministry of Education, Bangladesh
UGC Logo  Education Ministry Logo

Bangladesh, with 145 million people and a per capita GNI of $599, has recorded impressive progress in poverty reduction and a number of human development outcomes. Per capita GDP growth has been above 5 percent since early 2000s, while headcount poverty has declined from 59 percent in 1991 to 40 percent in 2005. Gross primary enrolment rate is around 90 percent, secondary enrolment has more than doubled since independence, and the gender parity target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has already been achieved both at primary and secondary education levels. At the secondary level, the Ministry of Education (MoE) oversees a unique system of public-private partnership. More than 98 percent of the secondary schools are managed and operated by the private sector with financial support from the government.

However, the higher education scenario is different. Until now, no major external funding has been received in this education Sub sector. The MoE has the overall responsibility for policy formulation, strategic leadership and preparation of budget for public funding in higher education. In 1973, it commissioned the University Grants Commission (UGC), the oversight apex body for all public and private universities, as the intermediary between the Government and the universities for regulating the affairs of the universities. At present there are 81 universities - 30 of them are public and 51 private.

The higher education sub-sector currently faces many deeply rooted and intertwined challenges. These include: low quality of education; limited access to tertiary level institutions; low level of research; weak governance and management practices; weak sector planning and monitoring capacity; inadequate funding level and mechanisms. In view of these challenges, the Government prepared a Higher Education Strategic Plan 2006-26, which was fully homegrown with participation of front-line academics from both public and private universities and representatives from think-tanks and the private sector. This plan, widely recognized as a groundbreaking initiative signaling a strong commitment by the government to enhance investments in higher education, comprehensively identifies issues and challenges and recommends solutions to the problems to be tackled over a period of 20 years.

Quality and Relevance - There are growing worries over the quality of provision in the private and public sectors, particularly in the newer private universities and in the vast number of colleges under the wing of the National University. Currently, there is no tertiary level quality assurance system. Neither are there any known internal quality assurance cells within public universities. The Strategic Plan for Higher Education has proposed the establishment of an independent accreditation Council catering for both public and private universities.

Access to Resources - Most of the universities do not have access to the latest books, journals and research articles. The poor quality of English language and IT skills of many staff and students leads to them being cut off from much of the literature and electronic resources in their disciplines. Skill development opportunities for teaching staff are scarce. Weak Internet connections limit communications and exchanges both within and amongst academic communities.

Enrolment - Less than about six percent of the eligible age cohort are enrolled in universities, degree colleges, or other forms of tertiary education. This gross tertiary enrollment rate is one of the lowest in the world. However, this situation is changing with the rapid growth of the private universities. Some 34 private universities were established in the last seven years. Private universities now cater for 64 percent of the university students while it was only 30 percent in 2003.

Research - Bangladesh does not have a national strategy for research and the role of universities in undertaking research is affected by many constraints. An effective mechanism to link programs between universities (and research institutes) and industry and business, whether at home or abroad, is still to be established. Finally, there is a lack of an appropriate funding mechanism on a suitable scale to encourage basic and applied research in the universities and in different research organizations.

Strategic Capacity -UGC, the apex body of the government for the universities, is not adequately staffed to effectively play its strategic role. The universities also lack the staff and the capacity to, and the interest in, laying out their own strategy

Financing - In 2005/2006, Bangladesh apportioned about 2.3 percent of its GDP to education, and about 0.12 percent to tertiary education -a very low share by all standards. The low levels of government funding and the very high percentage of that funding allocated to salaries, leave inadequate funding for equipment, computers, books and journals and building maintenance. Besides, these scarce resources are also not utilized efficiently. Budget allocations to institutions are based on precedent or influence and not based on a strict formula applying across universities and linking funding with outputs. Managers have little flexibility in spending their budgets. Under severe budget constraints, activities of the departments and institutions are limited to the bare minimum. The inevitable casualty is quality enhancement

Against this backdrop and with a view to address the above strategic issues the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission have decided to formulate the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). The project will endeavor to strengthen and develop the quality and standard of university education in Bangladesh. As development partner the World Bank is likely to provide necessary financial and technical support for implementation of this project.

The Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) will comprise of the following 4 (four) components: (i) promotion of academic innovation in teaching-learning and research through an Academic Innovation Fun (AIF) allocating funds on a competitive basis to public and private universities; (ii) institutional capacity building at the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the universities; (iii) connectivity capacity building for universities and research centers through the development of the Bangladesh Research and Education Network (BdREN) ; and (iv) support to the operation of the project implementation unit.

The window will also cover investments in scientific equipment needed at university level and in library improvements/automation and online journal subscription. It will also allow to reward initiatives aiming to set up partnerships amongst departments and/or universities.
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