Academicians question plan to add two more universities

- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Nov 27, 2014-

The government is planning to establish universities in Nepalgunj and Janakpur. A bill has been tabled at the bill committee of the Cabinet to set up the universities in Nepalgunj and  Janakpur.

The bill will be tabled in the Parliament shortly after it gets the approval from the Cabinet. According to Hari Lamsal, spokesperson at Ministry of Education (MoE), the establishment of the two universities is the government’s priority project.

The government has claimed the universities are being set up as per the demand of the people in Nepalgunj and Janakpur. Some education experts have said that the government move is politically motivated. The proposed university in  Nepalgunj will be set up  in Banke district, the electoral constituency of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Similarly, another university  has been proposed in Janakpur, which is the home town of Nepali Congress leader and Minister for Local Development Bimalendra Nidhi.

Mana Prasad Wagle, an education expert who led Education Policy Committee under MoE 10 years ago, recalled lobbying for Nidhi to establish a university in Janakpur. “Nidhi had long been advocating for the university, so were the Madhes-based political parties,” said Wagle.

The lawmakers from the Tarai region had sought a commitment from the government to establish three universities in the region while endorsing the Act for Far-Western, Mid-Western, and Agriculture and Forestry universities five years ago.

Education experts believe that adding new universities in the country is unnecessary at a time when a majority of varsities are struggling for sustenance. They said the budget allocated for higher education is decreasing every year. The share of budget for the university education which was nine percent of the total education budget three years ago now stands at seven percent.

A report of University Grants Commission (UGC) shows that three out of nine universities in the country—Far Western, Lumbini, and Agriculture and Forestry— have students in three digits figure. “This clearly shows the product of the political interests never serve the academic needs,” said Wagle.

Academicians said that this is not the proper time to set up new universities as the country is expecting a new constitution with the provision of federalism. The country should first endorse Higher Education Policy to set the priority of higher education before establishing new universities, they added.

Seven years ago, the MoE had finalised the bill for Higher Education Act, an umbrella act governing the setting up of higher education institution, which would guide the establishment of new universities. But the political parties are reluctant to endorse the bill as it will set up tough criteria to add new varsities. “We don’t need general universities. The need of the time is specialised universities focusing on technical education,” said Wagle.

According to UGC, around 569,665 students are enrolled in around 1,256 constituent and affiliated colleges of nine universities.

“My sincere concern is how the lawmakers who are lobbying for federal Nepal through the new constitution due for January 28 next year will react in the parliament after the bill for the universities is tabled,” said Wagle. “History shows, unlike other, the Acts for setting up new universities has never been rejected by the Parliament.”


Published: 28-11-2014 09:14

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