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Prime Minister must not have power to sack university officials, say former vice-chancellors

  • Around a dozen retired university officials have demanded that the prime minister respect the autonomy of universities and not pass an amendment bill
- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

May 18, 2019-

Retired vice-chancellors from different universities in the country have demanded that the government withdraw the Bill to Amend University Acts, which allows the prime minister to remove officials from the government’s higher education institutions.

 The amendment bill, which is under consideration at the federal Parliament, authorises the prime minister, as an ex-officio chancellor of varsities, to initiate a process to relieve the vice-chancellor, rector and registrar of their duties as long as one-fourth of senate members agree. The former vice-chancellors say this is an attempt by the executive head to centralise power and that it is a direct attack on the globally accepted principle that universities are autonomous entities.

 Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former Tribhuvan University vice-chancellor, said that the government is taking a regressive course by attempting to tighten its grip on universities.

“Our universities are already deteriorating due to politicisation. The new move will only ruin them further,” said Mathema at a press meet on Friday. He also said that the government isn’t concerned with improving the quality of education, but is more  focused on non-issues simply to centralise power.

 Around a dozen retired vice-chancellors unanimously said at the press meet that autonomy is the soul of the universities and that no university can progress when power is concentrated in the executive. The move to revise the existing universities act comes at a time when there is a growing voice to remove the existing practice where the prime minister leads the varsities as chancellor.

Various task forces have time and again suggested that either an academic or the president should be the chancellor, instead of the prime minister.

 “Even our neighbouring countries have set examples by appointing academics as chancellors,” said Suresh Raj Sharma, former vice-chancellor of Kathmandu University.

Incumbent Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, in his first stint as executive head, had committed to this change. In March 2016, Oli made an announcement at the Kathmandu University senate, saying he would work to revise legal provisions that make the country’s executive head the ex-officio chancellor of all universities. The commitment made at the senate meeting, held on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the university, was recorded in its minutes.

 Three years later, the Oli government has now come up with an amendment bill that contradicts his 2016 commitment.

A group of retired vice-chancellors has also met with influential leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, demanding that the government either revoke or revise the amendment bill.

 The vice-chancellors, led by Kamal Krishna Joshi, another retired Tribhuvan University vice-chancellor, met Subash Chandra Nembang, deputy parliamentary party leader of the ruling party, on Wednesday and explained why the bill should not get through the House in its present form.

“We got a positive response,” said Joshi. “We are hopeful that there won’t be regressive provisions in the bill by the time it gets endorsed.”

Nepal currently has 13 universities, including the Health and Science academies.

Published: 18-05-2019 08:16

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