Research Capacity of the Higher Education Sector in Developing Countries

Authors

Bikas C. Sanyal and N. V. Varghese

Abstract

Knowledge production used to be an activity coordinated mainly by public authorities, with public universities playing an important role. With the emergence of a knowledge economy, investment in knowledge production became a highly rewarding activity, and hence it has become an important corporate concern.

We argue that the knowledge divide is deep and is heavily tilted in favour of developed countries. Developing countries suffer from a lack of both financial and human resources in R&D. They need to improve their capacity to produce knowledge domestically and absorb knowledge produced elsewhere. This can happen when the allocation of financial resources to R&D activities increases, human resources are trained in adequate numbers and an institutional framework to carry out R&D activities is created.

Assumptions

The present phase of development is characterized by knowledge-based production. The knowledge economy places greater value and stronger emphasis on the production and distribution of knowledge – R&D. Knowledge production used to be an activity coordinated by the public authorities and public universities played an important role in R&D activities. At present, knowledge production in many developed countries is critical for industrial production and has become an important corporate concern.

While universities play a less significant role in funding and carrying out research, their role remains unchallenged in the area of research training. Changes in the investment priorities in education during the structural adjustment regime paved the way for a decline of higher education and research in public institutions of higher education in developing countries. There is a need for reviving and strengthening the university system in developing countries to strengthen their research capacities. This change should be reflected in resource allocation to higher education and research, and in the provision of opportunities to expand graduate programmes and improve female participation rates.

Conclusions

The experience of developed countries shows that the private sector investment in R&D increases when the research environment and facilities improve in the country. Therefore, the initial investments to strengthen research capacity in developing countries have to come from public sources.
Even when universities play a less significant role in funding and carrying out research, their role remains unchallenged in the area of research training. Therefore, there is a need to revive and strengthen the university system in developing countries to enhance their research capacities.

To do so, we can suggest adopting the following policy measures:

Effecting an increase in public resource allocation to higher education and research;
Encouraging the private sector to invest in R&D activities;
Expanding graduate programmes;
Improving female participation rates in graduate programmes and research activities.

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