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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 137 | September 20 , 2009|


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Career Pro

Industry-University Collaboration in Bangladesh:
A Story of Lost Opportunities

Quazi M. Ahmed

Having been productively engaged in both the university and industry spheres in various capacities during the last 15 years, I can safely conclude that the partnership between university and industry is an idea yet to gain momentum in Bangladesh. Although there have been sporadic efforts by various quarters, the concept still remains largely ambiguous to most of us in the academia and also in the industry. When I see things through the university lens, I find that university-industry ( U-I) linkages can create significant career development opportunities for both faculty and students and yet we are hardly doing much to capture the potential.

There are numerous benefits that derive from university-industry relationships, including benefits to society, universities, and companies. Research in the western world has revealed the following motivations on the part of industry: (a) access to human resources, including motivated students and knowledgeable faculty; (b) solutions to specific problems or professional expertise, not usually found in an individual firm; (c) access to university facilities, not available in the company; (d) assistance in continuing education and training; (e) obtaining prestige or enhancing the company's image; and (f) being good corporate citizens or fostering good community relations.

On the other hand, the reasons for universities to seek cooperation with industry appear to be relatively simple and these are: (a) industrially sponsored research provides students and faculty with exposure to real world research problems; (b) by developing a working relationship, universities can get easy access to job and internship opportunities for the would-be graduates; (c) industry provides a new source of money for university whether for training or research; (d) industrial money involves less "red tape" than government money as getting budget allocation from government in public universities is so tough; (e) industrially sponsored research provides university researchers a chance to work on intellectually challenging research programs.

Let me cite a few examples of relationships between universities and companies from Bangladesh scenario. First example comes under the banner of 'General Support" which can also be termed as a CSR or corporate philanthropy activity. If you happen to visit the library at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) at the University of Dhaka, you will be pleasantly surprised by the state-of-the-art look and feel of the place. same university. I spoke at the Hall a couple of years back, and I presented a career planning workshop organized by Prothom-alojob.com just a month ago. What a difference in ambience and décor as a result of the companies' sponsorship!

Second example of an industry university alliance can be presented under "Research Centre/Institute" creation: Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Ltd., under its corporate social responsibility programme, funded Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) a 3-million U.S. dollars for establishing wireless communication laboratory.

What is known as the "Contract Research" is the third category of partnership among universities and organizations in the corporate and/or development sector. For instance, an intervention on Rural Marketing by the Services Group at Katalysta multi-donor funded project for improving the competitiveness of the private sector led two private universities, namely, American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB) and Eastern University (EU) to closely collaborate with corporate houses such as Unilever, ACI Group, Pran Group and Bata to develop case studies to be used in rural marketing courses in the BBA and MBA programmes.

The 'Industrial Attachment"the fourth type of U-I collaboration, is a well-known practice in technology or science-oriented universities; BUET or similar other institutions have been practicing it for ages when they place students at companies such as BOC Bangladesh, Rahimafrooz or Apex Adelchi. These programmes have been designed to integrate students into the workplace through the completion of an industry based project.

Despite the benefits of university-industry partnerships, one particular disadvantage is also apparent. For instance, university teachers want to share their findings of the industry-sponsored research with peers and in journals but the companies often don't want to share these as they consider the outputs as trade secrets.

(The author is CEO of FutureLeaders™ & welcomes your feedback at quazi.ahmed@futureleaders-bd.com)

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