Feb 10, 2015-
Five years ago, the government decided to set up three new universities at the regional level. The Parliament on June 17, 2010, endorsed three separate Acts, paving the way for establishing new universities on property owned by the Tribhuvan University (TU).
The Parliament unanimously voted for converting Siddha Nath Campus and Siddha Nath Multiple Campus of TU into Far-Western University (FWU), and Surkhet Campus (education), Birendra Multiple Campus and Public Science Campus into Mid-Western University (MWU). It also endorsed converting Agriculture and Animal Sciences Campus based in Rampur and Forestry Campus in Hetauda into Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU). Five years down the line, all three universities are struggling for a same thing: acquiring the property they were authorised by the Acts due to TU’s refusal to comply with the provisions, claiming that, as an autonomous body, it is free to make its own decision. In the lack of adequate infrastructure, the three universities are struggling to run their classes and expand their programmes.
“This greatest obstacle we are facing,” says Jaya Raj Awasthi, vice-chancellor at FWU. “The time we had to invest in expanding our programme is going for lobbying to acquire the property that is legally ours.”
The FWU has been set up in a rented building while the infrastructure of Siddhanath Campus has been left without use, because of the TU’s denial to give them the space to establish the campus. The FWU has started constructing a new building to accommodate its students and faculty members. Two buildings are being constructed for the central office and academic programme. The Rs 170 million project is expected to be completed by next five years. Awsathi says a huge amount of money is being invested for infrastructure which could have been invested to start new programmes and better education had TU agreed to handover its property to build the university.
Similarly, the AFU is also facing problems running its daily administration due to lack of infrastructure. AFU and the Agriculture Campus of TU are sharing the same administrative compound after the latter denied to leave.
According to AFU Vice-chancellor Kailash Nath Pyakurael, they have been running various programmes from Bachelors to PHD despite infrastructure shortage.
“We are compelled to fit more than 180 students in a classroom meant for 80 students,” says AFU Registrar Surya Kanta Ghimire.
Both the AFU and TU’s college are sharing laboratories, classrooms and infrastructure.
Adding to its woes, AFU is suffering from budget deficit after the University Grants Commission (UGC) failed to allocate the budget it needed for smooth operation. “We had asked for Rs 1.35 billion, but received only Rs 33 million,” says Ghimire. “The university is compelled to generate its own source in the lack of adequate funding by the government.”
The scenario is not better with Mid-Western University as TU has not handed over Surkhet Campus Education, its constituent campus, despite provision in the Act. The MWU Act mentions that the campus as its part, but the TU has yet to initiate the transfer process.
Efficient performance of routine tasks has been hit as teachers and other employees of the campus have been working in this state of perplexity.
The problem started since the Act was formulated for political reasons without practical consultations with TU, according to Dr Mahendra Kumar Malla, registrar at MWU. “The Act has the provision but no discussions were held regarding the management of the teachers, staff, and property which are under TU.”
Moreover, the UGC has halted the pay of MWU employees. Malla says the campus has been operating with the help of internal resources and TU sanctioned budget in the absence of funds from UGC for the last two and a half years. “The campus falls under MWU as per the Act. Therefore, the UGC has halted pay as the Office of the Auditor’s General keeps arrears. The Finance Ministry has even entrusted MWU with vacancies in the campus due to which UGC has halted pay,” according to Malla.
Established in 1991, Surkhet Campus Education was operated in Nepalgunj for 11 years due to infrastructure inadequacy and was later shifted to Birendranagar in 1995. The campus facility expands over four acres and includes hostels. The campus which has around 4,000 students was supposed to be MWU’s central campus. MWU Preparation Committee, which has been collecting money for university establishment since 2004, has handed over Rs 50 million along with physical properties to university officials. The amount has been deposited in five different banks in Surkhet.
(Chitranga Thapa from Mahendranagar, Motilal Poudel from Surkhet and Bimal Khatiwada from Chitwan contributed to the report)
Published: 10-02-2015 10:10