Poor Employability As A PNG University Graduate Is Peter O’Neill’s Legacy: PNG University World Rankings Remain As Bad As Ever

by Retired Educator, UPNG

It is an open secret that the current government has been destructive of the PNG education system from top to bottom.    New planned institutions are using money that should be used to prevent the collapse of existing institutions.   PNG university graduates are suffering because government not only doesn’t seem to care about them, but is undermining their future without the students realizing it.  This article provides facts to back up these statements. 

Community and High School Education Today in PNG
The Free Education policy of Prime Minister O’Neill has been excellent in providing contracts to his friends and allies to build overpriced classrooms and make other, often noncritical school infrastructural improvements.  However, you will not find one library in the country that has received any significant funding to purchase books under the O’Neill government.  Today classrooms around the country are stuffed with students, but never enough teachers.   Most classrooms in rural areas do not have even the basics for teaching.   The teacher talks, the students listen, but there are no workbooks or much of anything else to learn from.
As I write these words, I hear reports from all over the highlands of schools closing down completely due to lack of funds.  There is now hardly any money left in the government to provide for the two most basic services in any society, Health and Education.   Forecasts for the next several years look bad or worse.  It would almost appear that our Prime Minister wants to keep the PNG population mostly uneducated and unable to participate effectively as citizens.   A nation of uneducated citizens is nearly always taken over by strongman authoritarian leaders, sometimes from the army, sometimes not. 

University and College Education Today in PNG
More than 30 years of steady deterioration in our PNG colleges and universities have created a situation today nearly as bad as in the high schools.  University students don’t have working equipment or up to date textbooks in their courses.   Computers are at a premium and now students are being forced to buy their own, which deprives poor families with smart children from even going to university.   So many current graduates are unemployable because they know so little. 
University administrators have always played the game of holding up a few of their most accomplished graduates as living proof that the universities are performing well.   This is biased propaganda and let the truth be known:  PNG’s universities are abysmal and getting worse.  It is disrespectful and impolite to say that university students have “baby sense” as a recent PNG Blogs article labeled them.   However there is no denying that most PNG university students are far behind the rest of the world in the development of their thinking skills, not to mention what they know about the fields in which they are studying to get a degree.   Multinational companies in PNG usually won’t touch PNG university graduates for jobs whose work tasks directly fit their degree specialty unless they are the highest achievers in the class or were lucky enough to have studied under international curriculum during their high school years.

Current World Ranking of PNG Universities
PNG’s universities for many years have been ranked extremely poorly compared to colleges and universities elsewhere.   There are 6 major PNG universities currently in operation and here are their world rankings (1=best university in the world):  
University of Papua New Guinea (7852),
Divine Word University (9160),
Papua New Guinea University of Technology (11167),
Pacific Adventist University (14901),
University of Goroka (15455),
University of Natural Resources and the Environment (too poor to receive a ranking number).   
The above rankings come from a programme (www.webometrics.info) funded by a government research organization in Spain.  It is the only ranking system that rates all world colleges and universities.  Its ranking criteria, while different from other ranking services that rate only the top 500 universities of the world, produce results quite similar to what the other ranking services come up with.  
PNG’s poor rankings have continued year after year, with relatively little change (sometimes DWU is ranked higher than UPNG, sometimes the other way around, but overall the numbers remain bad).
There is always the tendency for administrators in very poorly ranked universities to blame everyone but themselves for how badly their universities perform.  They will usually complain that the ranking system is unfair or inaccurate.   This is a bit illogical, considering that all the available ranking systems for world universities yield such similar results for the universities all of them rank, despite the different ranking systems the use.   Like it or not, these ranking systems are widely accepted.   They play a major role in defining a university and the employability of its graduates.   

PNG Universities As The Worst Of The Worst
Comparing PNG’s rankings with similar developing countries that are highly corrupt or in ugly states of transition, the saddest results of all can be seen:
-          The most corrupt country in the world, Somalia, still has a university (Kismayo) that is ranked higher (8259) than the best university in PNG (7852).

-          Completely chaotic Libya, which doesn’t have any real national government at the moment and is run by competing tribal warlords, has 2 universities (Libyan International Medical University and Misurata University) that are ranked far higher (5129, 5981) than the best PNG university (7852).

-          Sudan, in the top 10 as world’s most corrupt countries, and still suffering the aftermaths from a long civil war, has an astonishing 6 universities that rank higher than PNG’s best university. 

-          Zimbabwe, with its famous dictator Robert Mugabe, who presided over the complete collapse of the economy several years ago, and has destroyed his country’s once vibrant economic base, has 3 universities that rank higher than the highest ranked university in PNG.

PNG Government Support For PNG Higher Education Worse Than Many Failed States Provide
These statistics are very disturbing.  They show that some of the most corrupt governments in the world, some led by some of the cruelest dictators, still manage to put more money, resources, and effective governance into their institutions of higher education than does Papua New Guinea.   No wonder our students are getting angry, and that’s only because of what they see.  Few uni students have any idea right now how worthless their degrees have become and how poor is their education level.
PNG’s universities have been badly supported by the government for many years.  This has caused frighteningly poor education being delivered by our PNG institutions of higher education.   Any statement that PNG’s universities have any quality to them ignores the facts in front of our eyes.    

O’Neill Government Purposely Destroying the Future of PNG University Graduates
No PNG government nor Prime Minister genuinely has shown an interest in creating a well educated PNG population.   This is likely because they would never be able to get away with such rampant  corruption if the average citizen had learnt the skills to analyse a government budget, or use their mental skills to figure out that something didn’t make sense about the size of a government contract.   No one with well developed thinking skills would ever vote for candidates to make empty promises backed up by fast money and alcohol, never make good leaders.   One can excuse those who have never been to school for having such bad judgment, but today in PNG it is even college graduates who show an almost childish way of thinking.  
Unlike previous governments, the Peter O’Neill government callously takes away resources from PNG educational institutions that are already starving.  They are using that money meant for improving higher education in unethical, even illegal ways.  
The best example is the Western Pacific University plan of the Prime Minister.   Located in his electorate, and in a location that anywhere else in the world would be laughable to locate anything more than a very small college, the Western Pacific University has already devoured tens of millions of kina with nothing to show for it.
The Western Pacific University is to be located on the old Ialibu Airstrip.  This is State Land.  It was already bought from the landowners many years ago.    The landowners will gain nothing but benefits from any development on that piece of land, as opposed to leaving it a grassy field for another hundred years.   Yet, the Prime Minister has unethically redirected at least K20 million in this year’s budget alone to make a land payment to his relatives who were the original owners of the Ialibu airstrip land.   Todays article published in The National gives the details:

One could not find a better example to illustrate why today’s PNG university graduates are coming out with a worthless degree, with increasing numbers being unemployable in any kind of job apart from scanning food at the Stop n Shop, or doing other mostly unskilled labour.   The Prime Minister has taken money meant to improve the infrastructure of the existing PNG universities and redirected it behind everyone’s backs to essentially bribe citizens whose vote he wants next year in his Ialibu-Pangia Electorate. 

Massive Protest Is the Only Hope for PNG’s University Graduates of 2017 And Beyond
Educational services in PNG have been on the decline almost since independence but now the deterioration is accelerating.   The amount of money allocated to PNG educational institutions is going down in real kina terms.  Behind the scenes, budgeted money is being redirected to political rather than genuine higher education objectives.  Western Pacific University is the example of a political tool being used to strengthen the Prime Minister’s re-election prospects.    
Forty years of decline in our universities has led to declines in university graduate skills and ability to analyse everyday situations accurately.   This has led to their decline in graduates being employable in higher level types of jobs that overseas students would be able to get easily if they were to apply for those same jobs.   These decades of decline in our universities have not been slowed down or halted by any government or Prime Minister.  The current government, however, is by far the worse in denying young people the right to the quality of education that fully can develop their minds.
Only a massive, sustained protest by students in our higher educational institutions throughout PNG has any chance to stop this continuing trend of destruction.    We all must play a role to support our students at this critical time.   As parents, we should praise our children in schools when we hear they want to mount peaceful protests and sitdown strikes around the country.  Only by bringing PNG to a state of paralysis the ravages of the current government against higher education be stopped. 
Once we can stop the current government’s purposeful destruction of higher education, all of us students and nonstudents alike, should continue our strike to commit the government to a legally binding contract that forces the government to either allocate an agreed upon proportion of GDP to higher education or be subjected to freezing of government bank accounts until that commitment is honoured each year.
These days it is better to not go to a PNG university at all than to go thinking that one is getting a good education then finding that their degree is practically worthless and their employability is close to nil.

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