TU In Need Of Reforms
Dr. Satish Devkota/Madhukar Pandey
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published an article in 2015 that was written by Eric A. Hanushek and his co-authors Jens Ruhose and Ludger Woessmann. Eric was the professor of economics at Stanford University and his co-authors Jens and Ludger were a PhD student and a professor of economics at the University of Munich, respectively. According to the research, differences in the quality of education among states account for 20 to 35 per cent of the state-level variation in per-person GDP in the United States. Generally, economists define education or human capital in terms of average years of schooling and cognitive skills. While the number of years of schooling is important for human capital formation, so is the cognitive ability measured by test scores gained from those years. Even if the student spends years at the university, they may not gain significant improvements in productivity if the quality of their education is poor. Thus, it is critical to emphasise the “quality” of human capital to achieve sustainable growth in the country.
There is another study published by the Casey Foundation in 2009. As per that study, students who are unable to meet a standard proficiency level by the third grade are likely to become some of the United States’ lowest-income, least-productive, least-skilled, and costly citizens in the future. That finding can be generalised to every country around the world. Even though the quality of education at the school level is the foundation for success at a higher level, the quality of education at the university level is equally important from the long-run growth perspectives. To enhance the quality of education at the Tribhuvan University (TU), the government has to restructure the TU and has to keep it away from politics.
With the completion of the tenure of incumbent vice-chancellor, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has taken the initiative to appoint a new vice-chancellor of TU. A search committee was formed under the chairmanship of Minister of Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel. His current portfolio is political rather than academics at the university. This is a major concern and it raises a question if the government can search a better academician as a vice-chancellor of the oldest university of the country. We need a visionary academician at this position who can convert our university into a purely academic institution that can generate a well-deserving prestige globally.
Most recently, the government has appointed a new head of the university service commission. This appointment has gained some faith in the government’s decision that spread the hope of positive change among the Nepali intellectuals at the university. If he can establish a merit-based, fair and competitive system in the appointment of faculties and other employees, this will be the first step towards reforms. That has a direct effect on the quality of teaching and research at the university. The government is expected to appoint a better academic leader who has a very strong teaching, research and service portfolio in the past.
As a stakeholder, we have further hope to enhance the quality of education from the new leadership at the university. It is sad to note that the TU leadership has been indulged in different scandals for decades.
For that, we have the following expectations from the new management:
Excellence in Teaching and Research: Teaching excellence is viewed as an academic process by which students are motivated to learn in ways that make a sustained, substantial, and positive influence on how they think, act and feel. It is also viewed as a process that elevates students to a level where they learn deeply and remarkably because of the teachers’ attributes. Part of the excellence in teaching comes from the excellence in research by both faculties and the students. The research includes a broad spectrum of scholarly and creative activities undertaken by faculties, staff and students that lead to original findings, products, and services. An important underlying objective of the research is the sharing and dissemination of the results of these activities, typically through the conference presentations and the standards of peer-review publications. Thus, for the excellence of both teaching and the research, the new management must hire new and fresh PhDs using the new and innovative faculty hiring techniques. It must contact and collaborate with government, bilateral and multilateral donors, and the private sectors and develop a very clear guideline to use research fund at the university.
Value Guided Faculty and Student’s Union: For the check and balance with the government and the university, the management basically on the issues of wage discrimination, hours, and working conditions collective bargaining via faculty union is most effective. Most researchers have concluded that collective bargaining for full-time faculty in public higher education has at best had only a modest impact on the average levels of faculty salaries. However, the research suggests that faculty unions have had more of an impact on how salary increases are distributed and on faculty governance, including grievance procedures.
Likewise, Student Union contributes to student success in so many crucial ways. Acquiring knowledge of leadership begins in the classroom but acquiring the skills of leadership also occurs in social spaces outside the classroom, as students put their knowledge into practice. They also serve as incubators of intellectual understanding, interpersonal growth, and citizenship.
Class Size, Exams, and Grading: In Tribnuvan University, class sizes are pretty large, and a very traditional examination and grading system are in practice. The new management has to reform and redefine the class size, and the examination and grading policy. We should not allow more than 50 students class in the lower level courses and not more than 20-30 students in the upper-level courses in undergraduate. Likewise, we should not allow more than 25 students in master’s level classes. We should provide the teaching and research assistant facilities to the faculty. Even though the exams are run by the office of the controller of the examination in TU, the answer sheet of the students must be graded by the same faculty who teaches the course in the class. It should revise the syllabus in every five years by the subject committee in each department and give the full right to the faculty on teaching and evaluation of students.
University Infrastructures: Infrastructures are another key for quality that includes better classroom settings, clean and well-maintained toilets, and bathrooms, well-documented library system, access to many international peer-reviewed journals, and a system to check the plagiarism. Better buildings, intra-departmental connecting roads and walkways, gardens, and playgrounds are among the basic infrastructures in the universities. The new management has to focus on that too.
Size of the University: Is it the right time to think about the size of the university? TU is very large. So, let us split the campus outside the Kathmandu Valley and allow them to establish as an independent university if they have more than 3,000 students or allow them to merge with other regional universities at their respective States.
There are so many challenges for the new set of leadership at the university. However, if they can at least fulfill those sets of expectations listed in the previous paragraphs, they can set a milestone for the upturn of TU.
(Dr. Devkota is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Management at University of Minnesota-Morris while Pandey teaches at Megha College, TU.)