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Bangladesh Strengthens its Higher Education to Thrive in the Knowledge Economy

October 9, 2016

World Bank Group

  • Bangladesh is helping its university students compete in global knowledge economy.
  • Bangladesh is strengthening its higher education sector with World Bank support through since 2009 through the The Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (or HEQEP)
  • Make-a-Thon 2016 incentivizes Bangladeshi graduate students to build prototypes, set up fabrication labs.

Bangladesh’s leadership has long understood that its future prosperity is closely tied to educational progress. The government’s dedication to that idea is already bearing impressive fruit, as the percentage of students enrolled in primary and secondary schools grows, alongside gains in poverty reduction and other significant advances in human development.

Those efforts extend to the higher education sector, where the government works to improve opportunities to build Bangladesh’s capacity to produce new technologies and for its students to seize opportunities in a global economy that increasingly puts a premium on knowledge.  

The Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (or HEQEP) is one of Bangladesh’s primary implements in this quest. With World Bank support of $238.1 million since 2009, HEQEP’s toolbox includes a funding mechanism known as the Academic Innovation Fund (or AIF), which offers public and private universities competitive grants for gains in teaching and learning, enhancements to academic research and innovative research that results in technology transfer to the private sector and university-industry collaboration.   

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From Concept to Reality

AIF funded, for example, a contest in May called “Make-a-Thon 2016” to incentivize Bangladeshi graduate students to build prototypes for new technologies, set up fabrication labs in their universities and, overall, move promising new projects from concept to concrete reality. Over three days, they developed 32 prototypes addressing challenges in healthcare, transport and infrastructure, agriculture, biomedical engineering, energy generation, physical challenges and sustainable energy management.

“I really like the prospects of the prototype contest,” said one university student who participated in the challenge. “It is a nice idea to be able to make things and not just make marketing plans and stop there.”

HEQEP also established the Bangladesh Research and Education Network (or BdREN), which provides universities with high-speed internet connectivity that is imperative to share knowledge within the country and with leading researchers and research databases around the world. 

" I really like the prospects of the prototype contest. It is a nice idea to be able to make things and not just make marketing plans and stop there. "

A university student who participated in the challenge

The payoff of these and related interventions is already apparent. AIF has awarded 345 academic innovation grants awarded to 27 public and 9 private universities around the country, supporting, for example, research on enhanced methods for breast cancer detection, vaccination for farm animal disease, as well as 194 peer-reviewed academic journals.

BdREN connectivity is fully functional in 35 public and private universities, and a University Grants Commission digital library is now allowing, 44 member universities and research institutions access to more than over 30,000 research databases, e-journals and e-books.

Another HEQEP program called Institutional Quality Assurance Cells is now operating in 61 universities and has thus far resulted in 800 self-assessments, embedding a culture of quality assurance in Bangladesh’s higher education sector.   

As it continues its foundational activities, HEQEP is also establishing technology transfer offices and university-industry partnerships and supporting the expansion of fabrication labs.

Strengthening Bangladesh’s higher education and research sector remains an unfinished work, but it is essential to the country’s continued social and economic progress and to claiming its share of the burgeoning global knowledge economy.