Editorial

Let's have no more political appointments at universities

May 16, 2019-

In a welcome piece of news, a government task force has recommended that university officials be appointed on merit basis after proper evaluation of different leadership qualities, which, if implemented, will ensure a major departure from the longstanding practice of political appointment. The task force has also suggested making either the president or the vice-president the chancellor instead of the prime minister.

The report has set 10 minimum qualifications for a prospective candidate for vice-chancellor, which includes preferably a PhD but at least a Master’s degree, university professor and experience of having taken a leadership position. An additional requirement is that there should be no case of plagiarism against the candidate.

These are important recommendations and should be implemented immediately. There are nine universities in the country; and in most of them, the academic environment is precarious, to say the least. For the longest time, politicisation of higher education has plagued these universities. Along with politicisation, cases of nepotism are rampant too. But university appointments must be free from both politicisation and nepotism. Such a culture runs the risk of making the higher education system largely dysfunctional. As it is, our universities are in a state of disrepair. Especially Tribhuvan University where even important departments like history barely see any student enrollment. At the same time, students padlocking the offices of the vice-chancellor and registrar has become a common feature.

Partisan politics and a constant resource crunch continue to have a negative impact on the country’s higher education system. Instead of promoting autonomy and accountability of the institutes, unnecessary intervention by the government has squarely impacted the quality of education and the overall functioning of our universities. To mark a departure from this unhealthy tradition, the authorities concerned should work towards creating a culture where competence is the norm.

The recommendations made by the government task force are timely and need to be applied at the earliest. Favouritism and other opportunistic behaviours flourish in most of our public universities which is detrimental to the social and economic roles of the higher education system.

The only remedy to this longstanding problem is establishing a culture where meritocracy is valued over anything else. No country can move forward without a thriving higher education system. The government has grand plans of leading the country and taking it to new heights. This dream cannot be actualised if it fails to produce citizens who are progressive in their thought, critical in their assessment and stern about maintaining integrity and morality. And the only place where this kind of shaping takes place is in universities.  

 

Published: 17-05-2019 06:30

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