Some observations and comments on
"Constructing Knowledge Societies: New challenges for Tertiary Education."

1. General observations :

The Report is quite exhaustive and has encompassed appropriate issues relating to tertiary education in the developing and small countries of the world. It has captured the multi-faceted aspects of tertiary education such as changing global environment, contribution of tertiary education, constraints and emerging issues in tertiary education and the role to be played by the world Bank. Indubitably it will spear head the efforts for formulation of effective policy options for expansion and improvement of tertiary education in the developing countries. However, without dwelling upon all the issues addressed in the Report, I have focused on some specific areas which, in my opinion, deserve careful consideration.

2. Specific observations :

a) In discussing the future Bank support, a number of strategic and enabling frameworks have been highlighted in the Report. Factually I have no disagreement with the kind of support earmarked for tertiary education in the developing countries. However, I think, few more specific points should be accorded cognizance in order to play more effective role for pragmatic approaches to tertiary education in the developing countries. There is no denying the fact that in the process of expansion of tertiary education, universities of developing countries indulge in indiscriminate expansion of faculties without considering the priority dictated by the market forces. This leads to ever widening gap between the demand for and supply of graduates passing out from the universities. This situation has been perpetuating over the years in the Asia and Pacific regions. It happens because the universities of the region have hardly adequate information as to the market demand for university graduates due to absence of continuous survey or research on market phenomena. Such imbalance/ mismatch between demand and supply in the job market amply reflects the extent of unemployment of the educated youth and creates unspeakable frustration among them. In this backdrop, the world Bank may play a supportive role in promoting tertiary education in the developing countries as follows :

i. World Bank may finance the study/research on market situation of the university graduates.

ii. World Bank may provide some guidelines to the universities in conformity with the market demand and consequential impact of globalization on the job market in the developing countries.

iii. World Bank may suggest to minimize cost and efforts by limiting less important faculties and encouraging highly demanded ones in the universities.

iv. World Bank may suggest for more effective role by the organizations like University Grants Commission in the Asian region in reforming tertiary education (both public and private) by accrediting more power to such monitoring authority.

v. World Bank may arrange for more frequent tri partite dialogue among the Bank, Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission (where exists) representing the universities.

vi. World Bank may support the authority in charge of tertiary education (viz. UGC or HEFC) financially and in framing policy based on the experiences of other countries.

b) In order to promote enabling framework the Report visualizes some steps with regard to brain drain, collaborative academic programmes, intellectual property rights and quality assurance. I appreciate the measures suggested by the Report. However, I intend to supplement the measures suggested by the Report as follows :

i) Although the donor agencies sometimes frame regulations to ensure return of the professors and students after completion of their study/research abroad, compliance of such rules in many instances, is lacking. In many cases, students stay back and deprive their universities and educational institutions of their skill and expertise. The parent universities hardly can do anything in this instances. The donor agencies in collaboration with the countries where these scholars are absorbed should ensure return of the professional immediately on completion of their study abroad. Relaxation of rules in these instances perpetuates such practices and nothing beneficial is achievable by simply propagating the rules.

ii) As an alternative approach to avoid brain drain, "Sandwich" or joint degree programmes have been suggested. I think this alternative approach may, of course, serve the purpose for which it is intended. However, apart from such "Sandwich" or joint degree programmes or German Academic Programme (DAAD) a number of other alternative programmes may be considered. In this context I would like to mention some academic programmes which are being practised in some of the Asian countries. AIT in Bangkok has started a two-step Master's programme with Vietnam and post-graduate degree programme with Sri Lanka (Colombo university) on cost-sharing basis. If larger number of universities in Asia and pacific region can be brought under the network of such programme, the loss due to brain drain may be minimized in the future. Ranpakur Dissertation Programme (JSPS) linking different universities of Asia and Pacific has been serving useful purpose in this context for the last few decades.

iii) The Report has rightly focused on the issue of intellectual property rights for on line programmes and courses and for access to digital libraries and information. In order to avoid complication arising out of diversified stream of thoughts as to property rights, the World Bank may, of course, play a significant role in establishing partnership among public companies, universities in advanced countries and educational institutions in charge of tertiary education in the developing countries. Besides, the World Bank can subsidize the cost involved in the use of on line programmes, digital libraries and digital information by the tertiary education institutions in the developing countries. Alternatively the World Bank may negotiate for "Charge-Holiday" for some period from the date of its first use by the tertiary education institution in the developing countries. These alternatives may help the developing countries get conversant with the latest information, courses and different on line programmes and reap benefits out of it.

iv) Finally, I intend to focus on the issue of Quality Assurance in the tertiary education institutions in the developing countries. This important issue has not been dealt with exhaustively in the Report. Although mention has been made of Bank's financial and technical support, it has not been clearly spelt out what type of tertiary education to be comprehended in such programmes. Of late, tertiary education is being imparted by Traditional Universities as well as well Distance Education Universities. The latter type of universities are growing fast in the Asia and Pacific region. As such the quality assurance in the tertiary education institution has become a concern. The issue of quality assurance of Distance Education institutions has to be taken into cognizance along with traditional tertiary education institutions. However, quality assurance mechanism needed in these two types of tertiary education institutions is not exactly the same. Divergent approaches need to be earmarked for two types of universities in the developing countries. The Report should throw some more light on the issues particularly with regard to quality assurance in the distance education system in the developing countries.

Professor Dr. ATM Zahurul Huq
University Grants Commission of Bangladesh