Tribhuvan University (TU) was established by the TU Act of 1959 and it started functioning from the year of 1960. In the initial years all the Masters Level classes English, Nepali, History, Political Science, Economics, Mathematics, Commerce, and Geography were conducted at Tripureswor Campus. The Central office of TU was also located in Tripureswor. It was only in 1967 that the University was relocated to its main campus in Kirtipur.
Several locations were suggested for the establishment of Tribhuvan University, Chhauni and Swayumbhu area, Maharajung, Lubhu area in Lalitpur and Tyangaltar of Kirtipur. Ultimately Kirtipur was selected. There were very few class rooms in Tripureswor and the departments conducted their classes at different hours—at least three shifts—spread over the day. For two years the courses were taught based on the syllabi of Patna University and examinations were also conducted with the help of the same University. Gradually, over the years, the syllabi for different academic levels were designed and implemented in TU.
In the initial period teachers were mainly deputed from the education service of the government. There were also quite a number of Indian teachers under Colombo Plan, but very few under the TU Service. It was only after TU was moved to Kirtipur that teachers were recruited as Professors, Readers, Lecturers and Assistant Lecturers under the TU service. I remember when TU decided to take all the M.A. classes to Kirtipur the then Vice–Chancellor Mr. Rudra Raj Pandey at one of the faculty meetings stated that he had a dream of developing a full-fledged university at Kirtipur.
Accordingly, a number of buildings were constructed within the Kirtipur Campus precincts, and they were for College of Education, Faculty of Arts, Department of Chemistry, Physics, Botany, and also the TU Memorial Hall, Central Library, Research Quarters, quarters for Professor and hostels for students. However, transportation from Kathmandu city to Kirtipur was a serious hurdle for the teachers as well as students, and this problem continued for many succeeding years.
The main focus of TU was on the expansion of departments under the Faculty of Arts, Education, Science and Commerce within the campus of Kirtipur. In the 1960s, there were five government colleges located in the Kathmandu Valley. All the other colleges in the country numbering about four dozen were private and managed by the Management Committees of the concerned colleges. There was great enthusiasm among the local intellectuals, businessmen, industrialists and politicians in the smooth management of these private colleges.
Thakur Ram College in Birgunj, Ramsworup Ramsager College in Janakpur, Mahendra–Bindeswori College in Rajbiraj, Prithivi Narayan College in Pokhara and Amrit Science College in Kathmandu can be cited as glaring examples in this context. These colleges were well managed and the local people had made substantial contributions by providing financial support and donations of land for the development of these private campuses. The government provided these campuses annual grants on a regular basis. Conducting annual examinations at different academic levels for the students of private colleges, government colleges and private students seemed to be then, one of the main tasks of Tribhuvan University.
Under the New National Education System Plan (NESP), initiated by the then Government, Tribhuvan University was reorganized as a National and State University. All the government colleges as well as private colleges were brought under the umbrella of Tribhuvan University and designated as constituent campuses of the university. All the expenses regarding the regular budget and development activities were borne by the government. The higher education under NESP was virtually nationalized and to discourage private initiatives, a provision for penalization was made. If anybody initiated the establishment of private college in the country they would have had to pay rupees five thousand as fine.
The most important dimension of NESP was the National Development Service (NDS). All the Degree students and Graduate students of the technical institutes had to serve in the rural areas for about one year for the completion of their academic courses. It was made mandatory and each student had to submit a Village Profile Report at the end of the NDS programme. This provided an opportunity to the graduate students to work as teachers, social and development workers in the remote areas of the country.
The NDS programme could not continue for a long time and with the National Referendum in 1980 NDS was suspended. However it was considered to be a very successful programme. The multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies were very eager to support the NDS programme. Efforts were later made by the National Planning Commission to run NDS in a different way.
Then the managing committees of all the private campuses were dissolved and the campus chiefs were designated sole authorities in the management of those campuses. Of course, the Deans were given more effective administrative, financial and academic authorities. They were relatively free in running the academic programmes. In addition the Deans had to shoulder the responsibility of the management of one of the main campuses under the concerned institute. The Dean of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences had to take up the responsibility of managing Prithivi Narayan Campus in Pokhara.
TU had twelve institutes in the initial period of NESP. Later two institutes were converted into Research Centres, Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) and Research Centre of Applied Sciences and Technology (RECAST). Except for the technical institutes, the semester system that was imposed under NESP was in fact a fiasco a number of pertinent reasons and after a few years the Annual System had to be reintroduced.
Mahendra Sanskrit University was carved out of Tribhuvan University in 2043 B.S., and its status is more or less the same as a State University. But even with the establishment of new universities, like Kathmandu University in 2048 B.S., Purbanchal University in 2051 B.S., Pokhara University in 2054 B.S. and Lumbini University in 2063 B.S. the pressure of students has not in any way reduced at
Tribhuvan University. After few years, TU constituent campuses could not provide admission to the fast increasing number of students in the country. As a consequence, Tribhuvan University in 2037 B.S. had to grant permission for the establishment of new affiliated private and community campuses. Immediately, quite a number of affiliate campuses were set up and since then the number of such campuses have been increasing day by day. By the end of 2065 (2008-2009), the number of affiliate campuses was 561in the country.
In 2047 B.S. the government decided to phase out Certificate Level gradually from Tribhuvan University. This has been a very painful process. The government has already declared Higher Secondary (10+2) as an integral part of Secondary Education. The number of students enrolled at Certificate Levels has been declining significantly and hopefully it may eventually phase out in near future. However, there are some complications in certain technical institutes, like the Institutes of Medicine, Engineering and Forestry in the phasing out of the Certificate Level.
The government of Nepal has already adopted multi-university educational policy. There has been a proposal for establishing four additional universities, University of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Forestry, and one university in the Mid-western Region, another in the Far-western Region and a National Open University. Out of these officially proposed universities, three will probably be carved out of the existing TU campuses.
At present Tribhuvan University has become a very big National University with 60 constituent campuses and well over 600 affiliated community and private campuses. Altogether around 300,000 students are enrolled in the constituent and affiliate campuses of TU. It has been a Herculean task to monitor and manage properly all these constituent campuses. With a view to resolve the administrative, financial and academic problems, TU has initiated the granting of decentralization authority to all the constituent campuses on the basis of Decentralization Regulation 2055 and autonomy to a few major constituent campuses on the basis of Autonomy Regulation 2062.
The main purpose for granting autonomous status to the technical institutes and major constituent campuses has been to enhance their capacities, and make them generate resources with their own efforts for further development and thus properly manage their academic programmes. This was initiated with the mission that these constituent campuses in near future could be converted into separate autonomous universities and would contribute to the academics of nation providing higher education in the specified regions.