TU Under Public Scrutiny
Tribhuvan University is under public scrutiny these days. Several reasons attribute to it. The cases of gross violation of examination ethics and norms by the authorities of the Tribhuvan University Service Commission hogged media limelight last fortnight. The Service Commission office bearers have been involved in tampering and battering the norms of the service examination with a malicious intent to ensure that one’s own kith and kin succeeded in the examination at the expense of the several bona fide aspirants and competitors.
The CIAA has already brought suit to the special court to try and convict the accused officials including the chief of the service commission. Yet another case has won the media spotlight that has maligned and eclipsed the image of the university. The case is concerned with the personnel at the Controller of Examinations who have been accused of gross manipulation and miscarriage of the evaluation process of the Master’s level examination under the lure of the bribe and illicit income.
As part of obtaining clarification from the TU officials on the case, the relevant committee of the Parliament called the registrar, among others, to explain the reason why irregularities and misconduct have sapped and transgressed the vitals of the university to derogate its image and integrity. To add further, mismanagement and unchecked encroachment on landed property of the Tribhuvan University has been reported almost every other day raising serious concern over the excessive plunder of the public assets.
It is reported that at least 900 ropanis of land belonging to the university has been possessed and used by at least twenty agencies including police and petrol pumps in the TU compound whereas some TU departments have to be run in rented facilities. Moreover, recently the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also come under scrutiny, especially for the arbitrary allocation and expenses of the budget incurred in the wasteful foreign junkets.
The UGC officials are alleged to have gone for the foreign tours, according to the media reports, at the end of the financial year to hurriedly dispose of resources without assessing the academic returns and rationale of such initiatives. The statement of Prime Minister KP Oli, who is the chancellor of the TU, made recently at a programme is worth reflecting as he uttered candidly that the university has been mismanaged and misdirected to convert it into a workshop to produce the unemployed in the country.
In addition to the anomalies mentioned above, granting affiliation has emerged as the major cause to give rise to unethical practices and trade-offs in universities. The country at present has eleven universities, including the Tribhuvan and the Kathmandu Universities. It is disgusting to note that these seats of higher education indeed seem bent on granting affiliations to sundry private colleges and institutes to introduce and run classes on different subjects and disciplines. What astonishes one is that the Lumbini University established with a view to promote and support studies on Buddhist philosophy has awarded affiliation to engineering colleges.
Neither the Lumbini University has its own constituent colleges for engineering studies nor does it have relevant expertise, department and faculty to monitor the same. Similarly, the Nepal Sanskrit University has 14 constituent and four affiliated campuses which are not properly monitored and managed.
Moreover, in the same way, the Tribhuvan University has allowed the private campuses to introduce programme in different courses and disciplines with a view to enticing students. In this context, the Kathmandu, Purbanchal and Pokhara universities have not been an exception. Kathmandu University, which is known so far for its quality and excellence, has been ahead of others, especially in awarding affiliation to medical colleges. Out of 17 medical colleges, 10 are affiliated with it. Similarly, Pokhara University has four constituent and fifty eight affiliated campuses while Purbanchal University has 131campuses as constituent and affiliated institutions. Altogether 70 campuses affiliated to Purbanchal University are run in the Kathmandu Valley alone.
The above information reveals that the institutions established for higher education in Nepal are occupied with doing business through affiliation deals instead of concentrating for improving quality of higher education in Nepal. It is alleged that the university authorities prefer to deal with the private colleges and institutes since this can give them undue and ill-gotten benefits. It can be said that public universities and colleges in Nepal are indiscriminately politicised where the academic and administrative authorities are appointed on the basis of their access to and influence in the power echelon. What generally matters is their loyalty and support to the party leadership, not the academic credential and record. According to the reports the higher level positions in eleven universities are so allocated among the political parties that they have got their share in the major appointments in proportion to their size and clout in the political power equation.
Many public intellectuals and educationists who have intimate knowledge on the university education articulate the need to separate academics and politics and protect the sanctity and integrity of the academic institutions in Nepal. According to the news emanating from University Grants Commission (UGC) and independent studies conducted by academics it is learnt that hundreds of teachers do not teach in the universities nor do they get engaged in the academic activities thereby causing a severe drain on the university resources.
Unless academic institutions are allowed to work independently to uphold academic integrity, neither will the present day anarchy seen in granting affiliation will be contained nor the decline in the academic standards will be checked.
(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues)