Incoming TU Leadership Challenges And Opportunities : Jeevan K. Prasain

Tribhuvan University (TU), the oldest and largest state-funded university, has been in a state of turmoil for decades. TU as well as other universities are mired in party politics, and despite their reform efforts, they lack the basic infrastructure to provide quality education at the post graduate levels.

Sadly, this has led to an exodus of students to foreign countries in pursuit of quality higher education. While the TU campus at Kirtipur has been touted as a centre of excellence for decades, very few activities have been taking place in this university. It should be a place of intellectual meetings where cutting age research, seminars and symposiums are to be conducted.

There is an unprecedented aspiration for quality higher education in Nepal. This can only be fulfilled when the young generation is equipped with new skills, knowledge and hands on experience. Given the myriad problems faced by our universities, the new leadership of TU has to come up with pragmatic solutions to reform the current state of higher education in Nepal. Improvements will have to come in a variety of ways, and only the new leadership of the university can make this possible.

Autonomy

The undue involvement of political parties in the affairs of the university is a major concern. Even though our ministers frequently talk about academic autonomy in the educational institutes, they often look for their ideological loyalties in the key positions. Political affiliation but not the track record of academic excellence seems to play roles in acquiring the highest positions. Therefore, the new leadership at TU should take all stakeholders into confidence to create an apolitical environment in the university. Without full autonomy, our universities will remain unable to devise and implement their strategies. Of course, we need support from all quarters.

We all recognise that TU simply does not have the required infrastructure and that investing more in basic resources is a key step that can have a tremendous impact. The university needs more laboratories, libraries and seminar halls more than ever. However, funding is just the bottleneck of the problem. Current funding received by the Nepal government is not enough to cope with the need of the university.

Developing a public-private partnership is a necessity in order to upgrade the infrastructure and to foster innovation. TU has a lot of untapped resources such as space, networks and a workforce with expertise, and that can be utilised in solving the problems of the private sector.

Drastic reform is also needed in the hiring and promotion system of the faculty members. The existing criteria of faculty promotion is outdated and has failed to attract competent candidates.  Quality education demands a quality faculty. And, therefore, advertising faculty positions in the national and internally-recognized magazines and journals is the best way to search for competent faculty members.

Since TU is an autonomous institute, it is not necessary to seek parallelism with government employees in terms of salary and other benefits. In fact, the salaries of the faculty members should be determined based on his/her credentials and the needs of the department. It is hard to expect much output from low salaried faculty members.

Communication with alumni

Establishing communication between the university and its alumni is an important step in maintaining the overall state of the institution. Nowadays many TU alumni are associated with some of the world-reputed universities, and they can serve as ambassadors and advocates for collaborative research and training.

Given the rapid urbanisation, increase in per capita income and unparalleled aspiration of the young generation for quality education in Nepal, TU has a huge potential to turn into a modern, vibrant national university, provided the new leadership goes for proper reform. If Nepal is to achieve its goal of economic growth and poverty reduction by utilising its natural and human resources, reforming higher education is vital.

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