- Written by Jeremy Goro, Research Fellow, Education Research Program, PNG National Research Institute Jeremy Goro, Research Fellow, Education Research Program, PNG National Research Institute
There are numerous benefits for increasing postgraduate programs in univeristies in Papua New Guinea. It has the potential to provide the country with more high-level manpower, increase productivity of graduates and increase government revenue from taxes that accrue from tuition fee paid by postgraduate students from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and abroad. PNG can also benefit from postgraduate programs through research conducted by postgraduate students that generates new knowledge that can assist policy-makers and planners in making informed decision and develop evidence-based policy. However, several universities in PNG does not have postgraduate programs in various subjects and they do very little research. High tuition fee restricts aspiring postgraduate students from accessing the few postgraduate programs available in the universities. It is important for Government of PNG (GoPNG) to fund universities to provide facilities needed for establishing postgraduate programs and subsidise tuition fee so that most students can afford it.
Only a few students graduate from postgraduate programs
In terms of students that graduated from some universities this year, only a few were postgraduate students. For instance, of more than 2,000 students that graduated from the University of PNG (UPNG), less than 10 percent were postgraduate students. For the case of University of Goroka, it was not different from that of UPNG, only a few postgraduate students graduated. Divine Word University, which is a private-owned university had more than 10 percent students who graduated from postgraduate programs. The general trend has been that most of Papua New Guineans who want to undertake postgraduate studies often go abroad. The implication is that postgraduate programs in most universities in PNG continued to remain underdeveloped, which impinges on the development of high-level manpower for economic development. In fact, some Papua New Gunieans who go abroad for postgraduate studies do not come back to the country resulting in brain-drain. There is a need for GoPNG to invest more in postgraduate studies to enlarge its manpower base to provide the needed quality manpower to harness the countries resources to boost the economy of PNG.
Some challenges faced by postgraduate education in PNG
Postgraduate education in PNG often faces challenges such as the following:
- Financial challenges: Tuition fee for postgraduate program is not often affordable for most students who wish to enrol in the program. Thus, only a few people access postgraduate education. This tends to reduce the willingness of universities to provide postgraduate programs.
- Capacity of manpower: Some of the univeristies do not have adequate capacity to provide prograduate programs. Providing quality postgraduate programs need experienced lecturers and researchers that can teach and serve as supervisor to postgraduate students. However, in PNG, most schools in the universities often have shortage of personnel that have advanced academic qualifications such as Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). This makes it difficult to deliver postgraduate programs. Apart from shortages of competent manpower, there are also shortages of facilities needed for the smooth running of the programs.
- High attrition rate: The rate of enrolled postgraduate students who do not graduate within the normal study period has continued to increase as a result of different challenges such as financial problems, family related issues and poor supervision of research students. This often discourages some people from enrolling in postgraduate programs. It also discourages potential supervisors from accepting to serve as a supervisor for research students.
Potential ways to address challenges faced by postgraduate education
- The GoPNG should consider investing more in postgraduate education by providing scholarships to cover tuition fee for deserving students and subsidise the fee for other students.
- Provide infrastructures in universities where they are lacking and conduct regular maintenance work on existing ones.
- GoPNG should consider providing more incentives to attract more qualified senior academics including Papua New Guineans who live abroad to the univerisities.
- GoPNG, through the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology should allocate more funds for research, innovation and development.
This article was first published in the Post-Courier’s 5 August 2021 edition and on its website’s commentaries and features page.