Reversing the brain drain

  • Unlikely as it may seem, Nepal has the potential to become an education hub for foreign students, say experts and practitioners
- Binod Ghimire

Sep 16, 2018-

It might surprise many to learn that Nepal does not just export students to foreign countries, but is also a destination for foreign students, primarily from India, who come here to study medicine. For these students, medical colleges in Nepal are not just cheaper but are also reputed for being of a certain quality. This has allowed policymakers room to argue that Nepal could be  turned into an educational hub, reversing the present brain drain into brain gain.

Joining these policymakers to make a case for Nepal are the managers of foreign-affiliated colleges and education consultancies, who argue that the country has great potential to attract international education ifthe government comes up with practical polices by taking the private sector into confidence. Among the strengths that Nepal boasts, in addition to its colleges, are the weather, diverse geography and cultures, and the large Nepali-speaking community to the south and another large population to the north that wants to learn English. Nepal could potentially also tap into large numbers of students from as far away as Myanmar and Cambodia. 

The proponents of this idea claim that foreign students are already coming to Nepal to study, even though the government hasn’t taken any steps to create a more conducive environment to attract them. Currently, The British College has around 50 students from a dozen of countries while 10 foreign students are enrolled at Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE), along with a few in other colleges as well. 

The government needs to come up with a clear position on how it is going to attract more students, says NarottamAryal, vice-chair of the Education Providers’ Association of Nepal (EPAN).  If this takes off, Nepali colleges and universities could bring foreign currency into the country, earning Nepal millions every year. 

“The position of the government changes frequently,” says Aryal. “We often feel like the government doesn’t have a positive attitude towards us, sowe cannot realistically expect changes.”

Lacking a clear policy, foreign students currently have to go through various bureaucratic hassles to obtain student visas, say college operators. The government also asks potential foreign students to show at least $3000 in their bank accounts as a guarantee despite the fact that students have to pay all their fees in advance. These provisions discourage many students, especially hospitality students from affiliate universities who want to come to Nepal for their final years of study and internship. 

“I get many inquires every year, but they get disappointed after learning the bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining student visa,” says KhemLakai, chief executive officer at GATE. 

Furthermore, the Directive for Foreign Educational Institutions Running Higher Level Educationmakes it mandatory to obtain permission from the Ministry of Education before adding a programme is making things unnecessarily difficult, say EPAN members.There have been instances where it took some colleges three years simply to get approval for a programme that they wished to run. However, the directive changes with every government, leading IEPAN to demand a separate Act through Parliament to supervise their operations. 

Nepal has potential for a great many other programmes than those currently on offer, says Rajen Kandel, CEO of The British College. These include disaster management, mountaineeringand hydro engineering,in affiliation with foreignuniversities. Such programmes could attract students from across the globe. “The government needs to be more open about allowing colleges to offer new education programmes,” says Kandel. 

Education experts point out the need for an amalgamation of global and local contexts in the curriculum that colleges with foreign affiliation provide to generate new knowledge which could be lucrative for both Nepali and foreign students. 

“The world is changing and so is the interest of the new generation,” says Bidhya Nath Koirala, an education expert. “We need to understand and be in tune with what the new generation wants to study.” 

Published: 16-09-2018 09:23

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