Amid pressure to grant affiliations to new medical colleges, the Kathmandu University has opted for a middle path by extending its own medical programme in two different colleges outside Kathmandu Valley.
Starting from the November-December intake, the Biratnagar-based Birat Medical College and the Rupandehi-based Devdaha Medical College have started running MBBS programmes as part of an extension of the KU School of Medical Sciences. The model is the first of its kind in medical education in the country. A senate meeting led by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on June 20 had endorsed the new regulation, paving the way for the new modality.
The two colleges will operate entirely under the KU’s jurisdiction, which means the fees, number of students, curriculum, faculty members and principal will be approved by the university.
The KU had long been facing pressure from politicians and government officials to grant affiliations to the two colleges. According to KU sources, former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai had pushed the affiliation proposal in senate meetings in the past. For this session, Birat Medical College and Devdaha Medical College have allocated 75 and 40 seats respectively. The fee for the five-and-a-half-year MBBS course is Rs 3.628 million, almost a million rupees less than what private medical colleges charge. However, the fee is 10 percent more than the KUSMS’s fee of Rs3.39 million--which is for granting 10 percent free student quota as prescribed by the government.
Medical education in the country has been marred by steep fees ranging from Rs4 million to Rs5 million.
“We were not in a position to grant affiliation as the KU cannot handle and regulate new medical colleges. At the same time, we had to sort the issue of new medical colleges that had been awaiting recognition for around five years. Therefore, we came up with a new modality,” said KU Vice-chancellor Dr Ram Kantha Makaju.
In the extended programme, students for Birat Medical College and Devdaha Medical College are selected by the KU which, officials believe, will end the tradition of enrolling students based on their financial strength and not just the merit.
Students will deposit their fees at the university which will later transfer it to the concerned colleges. This, officials believe, will end anomalies in the fee structure set by several medical colleges in the country.
Experts from the medical sector, however, interpret the use of the term “extension” by the KU differently. Dr Arjun Karki, former vice-chancellor of the Patan Academy of Health Sciences, said the KU is playing foul in the name of the extended programme.
“Programme extension means all the infrastructure should belong to the university and it should have ownership over the programme,” said Dr Karki. “However, in the regulation, KU states that the concerned colleges have to pay annual fees to the university. This is contradictory, as only affiliated colleges pay annual charges to the university.” Dr Ramesh Kanta Adhikari, former dean of the TU Institute of Medicine, said they do not know of any extended programme where there is no ownership of the property of the colleges where the programme is extended.
“For instance, we run extended nursing programme in many colleges across the country. All the property is owned by the TU,” said Dr Adhikari. “This does not apply in the case of KU. It’s more of an affiliation than extension.” But Dr Makaju has a different view. He claimed that the model was a trial by the university in the School of Medicine.
Note: This article was originally published in The Kathmandu Post, on 27 December, 2014