How Bad Are Papua New Guinea’s Universities? Awful Beyond Belief and Still Declining!

By OHE Insider

Recent public statements by UPNG SRC President and law student Bobby Yupi show a tragic lack of intellectualism and overall knowledge about the world outside of PNG that now generally characterises PNG’s university students.     The decline in how PNG university students as a whole think and reason is a simple reflection of the bad education they receive.  

How Bad Is the Education That PNG’s University Students Now Receive?

PNG’s colleges and universities deliver a horribly low quality of education to the future leaders of this country.  Because students are ignorant of what an excellent learning environment would display, they usually say nothing and quietly take what’s thrown at them in the pretence of education.   Professors don’t bother to show up to class.  University academics lead by example by teaching in tok pisin, writing down as little as possible, and plagiarising the writings and ideas of foreign academics as if these came from their own brains.  Students rarely have textbooks to supplement the skeleton information presented in lectures.  The curriculum is out of date, libraries only contain books not considered worth stealing by past students, and student cheating is rampant.   Labs have insufficient or broken down equipment that prevents students from practicing enough to make perfect the skills they need to apply in their desired careers.

A 2009 report commissioned by the Somare government and approved by the O’Neill government entitled “PNG Universities Review” (Garnaut and Namaliu) noted the astonishing decrease in government service expenditure per person:    As the population increased 65% between 1993-2009, government recurrent expenditure per person was reduced by 29%.   They concluded: “Such a large decline in real public expenditure per person is, so far as we can gather, unique in the world, except in countries that, unlike Papua New Guinea, have descended into comprehensive civil disorder.”

PNG’s four public universities have been hit harder than most other public services.  Never have students or their tuition paying parents ever spoken out forcefully that the university’s needs to provide students with a good education be paid for and supported.  Thus, the quality of PNG university education has being going downhill since independence.

The “PNG Universities Review” notes that above all else, “inadequate funding of the State universities is a sufficient condition for failure to meet adequate standards. Funding in real terms per student has been declining since Independence. The decline accelerated sharply through the economic instability of the mid-1990s. Currency depreciation and inflation in the absence of significant increases in nominal funding stripped the universities of many internationally competitive staff. Expenditure on maintaining assets and investment in the quality of the teaching environment was cut to negligible levels. Quality reviews involving academics from other 13 institutions could not be funded and stopped. Real funding per student continued to decline after the stabilisation of economic activity and institutions in the early twenty first century.”

The youthful human resource that now graduates from this broken down PNG University system are mostly like the UPNG SRC president (Mr Yupi), whose recent behaviour suggested strongly that he has little ability to intelligently debate issues while relying on facts rather than rhetoric.

But Yupi is just one of countless red flags that are warning us that the next generation of leaders in PNG will be much worse than the present.    Our current university graduates rarely have the knowledge nor necessary skills to operate effectively in their discipline of training.  They lack critical analysis abilities so essential to competing effectively in today’s global economy.   The “PNG Universities Review” notes that “employers in all fields report that new graduates are poorly prepared to take their places in responsible positions without high levels of on-the-job training.  This message came to us from representatives of all of the business and professional organisations to which we spoke in the course of the Review, and also from leaders of the public service. The general assessment was that there had been substantial deterioration in standards in recent years, and that the decline is continuing.”   That’s why globally competitive companies operating in PNG hire so few graduates and so many foreigners in their place.

Rather than being terrified by the tragic state of PNG’s universities and take drastic action, as any responsible government and public would be, the people of PNG, the PNG government and its higher education bureaucracy move like snails.  Government vigorously opposes any student activism that might produce pressure on them to move faster.  As a result, things get worse, while university students and their parents mostly close their eyes and pretend things are ok.

World University Rankings Reveal The Harsh Truth

The oldest, most respected university ranking system is the Times Education World University Rankings (UK).   Another well know, respected ranking list is China’s Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).   However both cover only the world’s top 500 universities.  None of PNG’s universities make those lists.

The Webometrics “Ranking Web of Universities” is the only respected rating system that captures the best and worst universities.   It is run by the Cybermetrics Group of the Spanish National Research Council.   Information related to university academic performance is gleaned from a variety of data sources.

Webometrics rankings correlate well with results from other university ranking systems, especially those that emphasise research excellence.  However, the Webometrics ranking also takes into consideration other missions of today’s universities.   Thus, a university that focuses on teaching and public service and de-emphasises research is not disadvantaged in Webometrics rankings.

The following statistics on how PNG’s universities compare with those in the rest of the world come from the latest Webometrics “Ranking Web of Universities”  (http://www.webometrics.info/en).

How PNG’s Universities Compare Against the World’s Other Tertiary Institutions

1. Divine Word University  (DWU)

Divine Word University (DWU) probably has the best reputation, domestically and internationally, of any PNG university today.   That’s why its low ranking of 9630 is so shocking (higher numbers mean poorer academic performance).    Many Australian or New Zealand tertiary institutions that rank better than DWU are actually near unknowns in their own countries.   Unlike the pretentious Divine Word University, however, they don’t even pretend to call themselves universities:  Manukau Institute of Technology (ranking 6529), Australian College of Physical Education (ranking 7640), Kangan Batman Institute (ranking 8097), and JMC Academy (ranking 8336).    DWU isn’t even close to catching up with Fiji’s University of South Pacific (ranking:  1766) and ranks well below University of South Pacific’s small VANUATU campus (ranking 6475) and College of Micronesia (ranking 6579), both located in Pacific island nations considered poorer than PNG.   DWU’s ranking is much worse than destitute Burkina Faso’s (Africa) Universite de Ouagadougou (ranking: 6649), famine-famous Ethiopia’s Jimma University (ranking: 5732), politically unstable Egypt’s Al Azhar Al-Sharif Islamic Research Academy (ranking: 6276), and war-torn Rwanda’s Kigali Institute of Science & Technology (ranking: 8023).  DWU’s ranking is worse than 31 different universities in the almost unknown country of Kazakstan!   Even Putland State University (ranking: 6570), located in the failed state of Somalia, substantially OUTRANKS DWU.   Simply unbelievable!

The fact is that Divine Word University’s reputation for “educational excellence” is a deceptive fairy tale created by DWU President Jan Czuba to keep his job, attract infrastructure building donors, and fool parents who struggle paying DWU’s high tuition.  ‘Father’ Czuba is a hardass about demanding full tuition payment or immediate termination from studies, but what kind of education do students get in return?   Well, they each get a laptop that Czuba makes them pay for.  However, it appears that the greatest achievement of the laptop programme is to allow DWU to stop buying computers for computer labs.  More impressively, the laptop programme has stimulated the local economy by creating a market for stolen DWU student laptops!   To be fair, in the job market DWU’s graduates tend to outcompete those from PNG’s public universities.  But DWU’s graduates generally can’t compete with the rest of the world and their capacity is looked down upon by nearly all employers.

2.  University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG)

PNG’s top ranked public university and best known PNG tertiary institution, earns a horrible 10,673 ranking.  Even Australia’s unknown Raffles College of Design and Commerce (ranking 10081) does better, even though its main “campus” consists of one small building.   Ten tertiary institutions in small Pacific island countries beat UPNG as does desert-poor Botswana’s University of Botswana (ranking 3398), genocide-ravished Cambodia’s Royal University of Phnom Penh (ranking 3568), impoverished Bangladesh’s Rajshahi University (ranking: 5178), overpopulated Malawi’s University of Malawi (ranking: 5867), and impoverished, desert-covered Chad’s Univesite de N’djamena (ranking 8455).  Even tiny Bhutan’s little Royal University of Bhutan College of Natural Resources does better (ranking: 7121).   All these universities also rank higher than DWU!

UPNG’s poor ranking partially reflects its small annual budget.  The government of the “island of gold and copper, surrounded by seas of oil, gas, and tuna” has no real interest in supporting higher education.  Instead the national budget is now mostly devoted to funding foolishness in Waigani, nonsustainable loyalty buying activities in the districts, or is stolen outright.

Compared to universities struggling to operate in various poor developing countries, UPNG ranks LOWER than 34 universities in Belarus, 30 in Algeria, 20 in Uruguay and 6 universities in civil war-torn Syria.   In the basketcase dictatorship of Zimbabwe, 3 universities rank higher than UPNG.   Pathetic!

UPNG’s independence era reputation was pretty good, but today it has a terrible reputation, bordering on awful.   Yet UPNG SRC president Yupi, along with VC Mellon and OHE Director General Kavanamur, believe that it’s more important for students to shut their mouths and read their lecture notes at one of the world’s worst universities than use the time to vigorously protest the abysmal education they get because of the continuing disappearance of literally hundreds of millions of kina under this government.   Who had their priorities straight until last week?  Looks like it was UPNG’s students!

3.  PNG University of Technology (Unitech)

Unitech, with its terrible world ranking of 12,624, performs a lot worse than Billy Blue College in Australia (ranking: 11,476).  What and where is Billy Blue?  Hardly anyone knows, just like hardly anyone outside of PNG ever heard of Unitech.  Actually, Billy Blue is a school that teaches design.  It is one of many examples showing that small Australian schools of art can beat the pants off PNG’s universities!   Billy Blue operates out of rented space and has no real campus, yet outranks Unitech.   Also outranking Unitech are the desert covered impoverished Yemen’s Yemeni University of Science & Technology (ranking: 5569), corruption ridden Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (ranking: 2164) and corruption ridden Nigeria’s Federal University of Technology Acure campus (ranking: 5776), impoverished and overpopulated India’s Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur campus (ranking: 1803), war-torn Iraq’s University of Technology (ranking 5940), and hardline muslim fundamentalist Iran’s Isfahan University of Technology (ranking: 807).    All these institutions not only outrank Unitech, they outrank UPNG and DWU too!  Absymal.

4.  Pacific Adventist University (PAU)
5.  University of Goroka (UOG)
6.  University of Natural Resources (UNRE)

PNG’s three other so called “universities” aren’t even close to achieving the academic standards of a true university.   Adding “university” to their names is nothing more than a lie designed to fool the students and parents of PNG and make the administrators of those institutions feel important and deserving of high salaries.   An objective and deep analysis of the academic standards achieved by these 3 institutions reveals 3 ugly truths:  
PAU’s world ranking is an embarrassing 13,400, yet it has the highest fees of any PNG university.   We keep hearing PAU is such a great school.  Hello???

UOG, the PNG university that produces all our high school teachers, plays a critical role to the future of PNG’s education level.  But look at UOG’s ranking:  15,031.     This single number reveals why so many of our secondary school teachers can’t even teach their lessons in English anymore, much less deliver the required high school curriculum effectively.

UOG’s ranking, as bad as it is, doesn’t even come close to matching that of the “Mother of PNG’s Pretend Universities”, run by the late Sir Anthony Siaguru’s brother, Professor Philip Siaguru.   UNRE’s miserably low ranking of 20,998 is beyond shameful and good proof that PNG’s university administrators are incapable of feeling shame.    Just to give you a better feeling for what UNRE’s ranking compares against, consider these facts:

NOT ONE of New Zealand’s 48 tertiary institutions rank as low as UNRE.
NOT ONE of the UK’s 299 tertiary institutions rank as low as UNRE.
NOT ONE of Japan’s 1004 (yes, 1004!) tertiary institutions rank as low as UNRE.
NOT ONE of the 17 tertiary institutions in war-ravaged stateless Palestine rank as low as UNRE!
ONLY ONE of Australia’ 101 tertiary institutions (Melbourne School of Fashion, tucked into a third floor suite of an office building) ranks worse than UNRE.
ONLY TWO of 121 tertiary institutions in the former war torn developing country of Vietnam rank lower than UNRE.
ONLY FOUR of 178 tertiary institutions in Pacific Island countries rank lower than UNRE.
17 out of 25 tertiary institutions in the tribal war lord run failed state of Somalia rank HIGHER than UNRE.    Good Lord, this is unreal

An Unbelievable Decline In University Education Passively Accepted By the People of Papua New Guinea

No matter what data you use or where it comes from, the report card on PNG’s public and private institutions is worse than appalling and exceeds being a national embarrassment.  It is a death sentence for human resource development that kills the potential of nearly every young person so unlucky to be schooled in PNG.   The fact that one university inSomalia ranks higher than PNG’s best university, with nearly half of that failed state’s higher education institutions ranking higher than UNRE, would be laughable if the affect on PNG’s aspiring young minds was not so tragic.   Against this reality, any description of PNG’s resource wealth becomes an obscenity.   Longlong sounding university students like the current UPNG SRC President, should be pitied, for they know not how they sound to the truly intellectual.  They’re blissfully ignorant of how badly they’ve been educated, and are blind to how much they’re being manipulated.   The government can only hope that today’s PNG university students never see the bitter truth of their career dreams until they’ve graduated and are thrown into the sea of life’s struggles.