Watch and wait

  • There is no need for the govt to be in a hurry to establish new universities
Watch and wait

Aug 4, 2015-

Last week, on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education registered two separate bills in Parliament to establish Nepalgunj University and Rajarshi Janak University. Three days later, the Minister for Health and Population Khaga Raj Adhikari presented another bill relating to the establishment of Pokhara Academy of Health and Sciences in Parliament for discussion. If all the three bills are endorsed, there will be 11 universities in Nepal along with four deemed universities. The latter have the freedom to conduct their academic programmes but cannot grant affiliations to other colleges.

This push for increasing the number of universities comes at a rather inopportune time. To begin with, the Ministry of Finance’s recently released Economy Survey Fiscal Year 2014/15 shows that student enrollment at Tribhuvan University (TU) dropped by almost 33 percent from 604,437 in FY 2012/13 to 405,341 in the following year. Additionally, of the Rs 98.64 billion allocated for education in this year’s budget, only Rs 8.07 billion (eight percent) has been earmarked for the University Grants Commission to improve the quality of higher education and develop the infrastructure of the universities.  Given the fact that around 75 percent of the amount is spent in administrative expenses, there are legitimate concerns as to what the government can accomplish. The plan to add more universities further cuts into the funding available for existing universities.

If these are not reasons enough to delay establishing these universities, the state of the three universities—Far-Western University, Mid-Western University and Agriculture and Forestry University—should serve as an example. Established five years ago, these institutions are currently struggling to run and expand their academic programmes owing to lack of infrastructure.  The three universities were earlier constituent colleges of TU but are now facing problems because the latter has refused to hand over its property to them. Given that the modality to establish the two new universities is no different—Ram Swaroop Ram Sagar Multiple Campus and Mahendra Multiple Campus, both under TU, are to be converted into Rajarshi Janak University and Nepalgunj University respectively—and as TU officials contend that the government is unilaterally pushing for the establishment of new universities, problems related to property handover are likely to resurface.

Educationalists further argue that establishing new universities, which are no different from TU, academics and structure wise, is an exercise in futility.

In addition, this move comes at a time when the Higher Education Policy draft is yet to be endorsed by the government. Thus unless Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi are pushing for the universities because they want a legacy for themselves in their respective constituencies in Nepalgunj and Janakpur, as has been alleged, there is no justifying this move.

Published: 05-08-2015 08:30

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