Not about numbers

  • Govt must endorse Higher Education bill before establishing new universities
Not about numbers

Feb 12, 2015-

University education in Nepal is ridden with problems. The problems start right at the bottom with a lack of desks and chairs for students. Teachers are few and non-committed dubbed ‘helmet-teachers’ as they are always in a hurry to leave on their motorbikes for another college. Students unions, on the other hand, do everything but work for the welfare of students. Research in science is almost non-existent as most laboratories lack equipment and are non-functional. Libraries, likewise, are devoid of resource materials. Fixing all of this does not seem to be on the agenda of high-ranking university officials as most of them are politically appointed, lack academic credentials and have dubious expertise in the field. To make matters worse, the government is also intent on establishing new universities instead of making the ones that currently exist more efficient. It is in the process of setting up two new universities, one in Nepalgunj and the other in Janakpur.

According to the University Grants Commission, a government body to regulate universities, the number of students attending higher educational institutions increased from 284,973 in the fiscal year 2008/9 to 452, 571 in 2013/14. The number of colleges also increased from 880 to 1,276 during the same period. Clearly, there is a demand for more academic institutions. But sustaining new universities is as important as establishing them. In 2010, the government set up three new universities—Far-Western University in Mahendranagar, Mid-Western University in Surkhet and Agriculture and Forestry University in Chitwan. All three universities are currently facing lack of infrastructure and struggling to run their classes and expand academic programmes. Furthermore, academicians argue that instead of opening new universities, the government should first endorse the Higher Education Policy draft which has been pending at the Education Ministry despite directives from parliamentary Education Sub-committee to speed up the process. The policy would set educational priorities while another Higher Education bill, also pending, would guide the establishment of new universities.

In the immediate, the government must rethink its decision to establish universities and instead equip existent ones. As suggested by Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University in an interview with the Post, the government could upgrade the current infrastructure of Ram Swaroop Ram Sagar Multiple Campus in Janakpur and gradually turn it into a university instead of opening a new one. Meanwhile, it should endorse the Higher Education Policy and also the bill. Establishment of new universities should be based on rigorous research on the demands for a particular course and the national need for expertise in a certain field. Preparing a white paper on the status of different courses and need for human resource in various fields—for instance, veterinary science, agriculture, forestry, medicine, engineering, microbiology among others—would be a good start. As buildings and land alone do not suffice for critical learning, well-equipped laboratories and libraries, must also be a prerequisite for establishing universities. Higher education in Nepal needs an overhaul, not addition of new universities which are replicas of the existing mediocrity.

Published: 13-02-2015 09:13

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