Building a better Tribhuvan University for quality education

2015-01-07

edusanjal

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Source: The Rising Nepal July 1, 2014

Tribhuvan University (TU) is the oldest state-funded public university in Nepal. Since its inception, TU has made unparalleled contributions to providing higher education and human resource development in the country. TU has been at the forefront to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of fields. It’s among the biggest universities in the world based on undergraduate and graduate student enrollment. And while there are a number of newly established universities in Nepal, TU is still considered by many as the best institution for higher learning and producing talented professionals in the country.

This being said, there are various issues that have affected the quality of higher education in Nepal. TU has not been able to come out of its traditional mind-set of faculty hiring, promotion, and running the university administration. Excessive influence of non-academic elements in the administration and student enrollment is becoming frequent and a usual business in TU. Lack of basic infrastructure such as clean water supply, electricity and well equipped libraries are some of the things that have contributed to its underperformance.

Deteriorating academic environment

The deteriorating academic environment of the university is pushing many graduate students out of the country, and there is growing anxiety about the future of the university as it is yet to experience the necessary transformation in order to create a comfortable academic environment.

To add to this, the Nepali government doesn’t seem distraught in any way about it. It is disappointing to see that no political party of Nepal has brought up issues related to academic independency or quality of higher education into the formal discussion either in a public forum or the parliament.

Drastic reforms are required in order to transform the current state of affairs at Tribhuvan University to the level of the best South Asian universities, such as the Indian Institute of Technology. This vision is accomplishable, but only if it begins to move in the right direction as an institute of learning. This requires multiple steps to be completed in a lengthy transformation process.

Sustainable infrastructure is the fundamental for quality teaching and research. The future of any good university depends on modern infrastructure with state of the art facility. Investments in infrastructure like clean water supply, vehicular parking, electricity, computers, internet, libraries and research equipment are the basic needs. Strengthening the science and technology infrastructure in the central departments and colleges is also the key for pursuing research in the modern sciences. Without such resources, one can’t think of quality education and research. TU, for decades, has had old infrastructure with little or no maintenance. Maintenance of the existing facilities, including buildings, instruments, lawns and gardens is essential.

Safety and cleanliness of the university should be other important concerns for the faculty, students and visitors. TU at Kirtipur campus is located in a wonderful, quiet, hassle-free place. However, the campus is not a clean and secure home for its students. Herds of cattle grazing in the pastures in front of the Central Departments do not add any grace to the university. For an institute like TU, cutting tall grass and building more gardens around the campus are simple and accomplishable tasks. And as other new universities improve their respective qualities, it’s important that TU does the same to keep itself up. 

We all agree that TU has a great responsibility to provide affordable quality education to the majority of the population. On the other hand, we are living in a global society, and the world is rapidly changing. In order to catch up with the rest of the world, students and faculty members at TU should be involved in research-oriented projects.

Research is fundamental for creating knowledge, and students can demonstrate their creativity if they’re involved in research activities. To create a more research-friendly environment, TU should not hesitate to embrace new innovative ideas. We are witnessing some of these alterations even now. It has started a graduate programme leading to a PhD degree which offers opportunities for basic research. PhD programmes should provide extensive training and expertise in a specialised subject. By doing so, students will have enhanced abilities to communicate in writing and presenting in front of colleagues/mentors in theoretical, conceptual and experimental results. To build upon these improvements, however, graduate students seeking a PhD should take a graduate course and pass the qualifying exams as well.

 We all acknowledge that the funds allocated by the government are not enough to run the university due to its ballooning expenses. Therefore, a public-private partnership is a necessity. TU can work together with the private sector and the government to improve its academic and research quality. There has been an upsurge in interest in investing in higher education by the private sector in Nepal. TU can provide the space, networks and workforce with expertise to solve the problems of the private sector.

And if the private sector can provide funds for research and infrastructure development of TU, the national in general can benefit. It’s a win-win approach benefitting all the parties involved. It’s definite that without partnerships among the government, universities and private sector, no world class university could be where they are today.

Creating performing art and culture centers in TU, inviting recognised musicians, artists, and arranging talk programmes for nationally and internationally renowned scientists, career politicians or diplomats to present their findings or talents will make the university more attractive and friendly. Holding these types of events will also provide opportunities for both students and faculty members to learn from their potential and share experiences. We rarely see these activities in TU at the moment.

 Attracting competent people

Providing reasonable salaries and a working environment to those who are working in foreign institutions as research scholars wishing to return to Nepal is just another way to attract competent people. The pursuit of higher education outside the country is one of the main reasons of the brain drain from developing countries like Nepal to the developed world. To change this, the quality of the university’s education should be upgraded. If our university’s education is stagnant, the trend of the new generation leaving the country will continue to grow. It needs to make sure that finance shouldn’t stop qualified students from receiving an education at TU as well.

In conclusion, TU has the potential to evolve as a modern vibrant national university, provided it takes the needed reform measures. Great location, favourable weather and the landscape of TU at Kirtipur campus can be capitalised to attract not only Nepali graduates, but also foreigners from various parts of the world.  It should also protect the interest of students without compromising on the quality of education. However, this will remain wishful thinking unless TU decides to take action.