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The History Behind the Founding of Tribhuvan University

May 14, 2023
Last updated May 03, 2024
The History Behind the Founding of Tribhuvan University
KMC Lalitpur

Tribhuvan University, established in Kirtipur, Nepal, holds the distinction of being the country's oldest university. Following the passing of King Tribhuvan, the royal family announced the university's establishment a year later. Although plans were made in 2013, the university was officially recognized by law in 2016. Throughout its long and intriguing history, the university has witnessed many significant events that are worth exploring. This article aims to highlight some of the crucial moments in the university's establishment.

When democracy was established in Nepal in 2007, the literacy rate was a mere two percent, and there was only one college, Trichandra College, for higher education. To address this issue, the National Education Commission was formed, headed by Sardar Rudra Raj Pande, with the assistance of educational advisor Professor Hugh W. Odle from Oregon University. The commission recommended the establishment of Nepal National University, to be located in a suitable guesthouse in a cool climate. However, the idea remained only in the commission's report for a long time until a search for a building was initiated in Magh 2012. Minister Bal Chandra Sharma led a team to demolish the White Palace to construct the university building. On Chaitra 18, 2012, a symposium was organized in Tudikhel, during which Queen Kanti, Queen Ishwari, and Princess Lakshmi announced the establishment of Tribhuvan University, for which a commission was subsequently formed.

The commission's inaugural meeting took place on the 1st of Baisakh, 2013 at Narayanhiti Palace, with Jethi Maharani of the late King Tribhuvan serving as chair. The meeting introduced the commission's constitution. On the 13th of Baisakh, 2013, the commission held another meeting and decided to establish various committees such as finance, building construction, draft law, education system and construction, equipment, and library committees. Meanwhile, the establishment of colleges across the country was already in progress. Additionally, it was announced that the two queens of King Tribhuvan had donated 375 ropani of land in Lalitpur.

In order to determine the location for the university, various inspections were conducted at Lubhu, Swayambhu, Chhauni, Maharajgunj, Sundarijal, Sunakothi, among other places. Finally, the commission made the decision to establish the university in Kirtipur in Poush 2013. According to Narottam Sharma, a former Deputy Secretary, a committee was formed to coordinate the selection process for the university's location. He stated that the committee chose the site by conducting a thorough evaluation of the area.

A five-year plan was initiated by the government. It was stated that an engineering school would be established after the university had been set up, and the plan also included nursing and dentistry education once the school was established. The plan specified that NPR 12 million would be expended to launch the university program. In the month of Poush in 2013, Prime Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya was appointed to the commission. To improve Tribhuvan University, various education enthusiasts were requested to offer suggestions, and written suggestions were submitted to the commission. As a result, the commission members traveled to Varanasi, India, to study at the Banaras Hindu University, where they met with Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishna, the Vice President of India at the time, and Sidhi Deshmukh, the chairman of the Indian University Grants Commission.

The commission members traveled to various cities, including Patna, Banaras, Delhi, Baroda, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, and Madras, before returning home. On Asadh 11, 2015, at 10:30 am, on the 52nd birth anniversary of the late King Tribhuvan, the foundation stone for the building was laid in Tanglatar, Kirtipur. College and school students from the valley were also present at the event, although former Secretary Sharma couldn't provide an exact count of the number of students in attendance, stating that all the students in the valley had gone.

Former Secretary of the Government of Nepal, Dwarikanath Dhungel, says, "When I was studying in the 9th grade at Yuddhodaya Public High School, the day the foundation stone of the university was laid, our headmaster Ramjiprasad Sharma took a group of students from class 9 and 10 to Kirtipur to witness the establishment of the university."

After the musical bondage of the Upanishadic phrase "Lead me from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, and from death to immortality," the two queens placed cement on the ground. They worshiped the foundation stone based on the foundation stone that had been laid in Swayambhu earlier. The two queens also touched it. The land acquisition had been done for two thousand ropanis in the Kirtipur area. Currently, 3 Jhars and 42 ropanis of land have been surveyed. At that time, eight hundred thousand rupees were spent on the land acquisition. It was informed during the foundation stone laying ceremony that it would take 25 years to build the university building and cost 12.6 million rupees.

Senior sculptor Govindnarayan Jaipu revealed that they had cleared the hill and cut the mountain in Kirtipur. During the foundation laying ceremony, Himalaya Virabikram expressed his hope that with everyone's help, the day of the university's inauguration would come soon and he referred to the successful completion of the great task of laying the foundation stone of the university.

On the same day, the secretary of the university commission, Suwal, presented a report stating that the initial amount of 250,000 taken from the government of Nepal for the university fund inquiry had been exhausted, and an additional 200,000 had been borrowed.

During the process of building the buildings, the university and college students were mobilized as voluntary workers. In Jestha 2016, Tribhuvan University Act was passed. The law mentioned the establishment of Tribhuvan University as an uninterrupted, autonomous, and organized institution. The law made the King the royal patron of the university. The first chancellor of Tribhuvan University was Queen Jethi, while the consort Queen Kanchhi was made the pro-chancellor for life. The then Prince Mahendra and Basundhara were made lifelong members. The first meeting of the university council was held on Asar 30, 2016. Addressing the meeting, the then King Mahendra said that he was dedicating the university to the people of Nepal and their descendants. The first vice-chancellor was appointed as the then Deputy Prime Minister Subarna Shamsher Rana. Seventeen members were included in the university council, including the chancellor.

Former Vice-Chancellor of Tribhuvan University, Kaderbhakta Mathema, suggests that the intermediate and graduate level courses at Patna University in India were exemplary. He believes that the course book used at Patna University should have been used as a reference for Tribhuvan University's curriculum development, possibly resulting in the adoption of Patna University's course by Tribhuvan University.

Tribhuvan University administered the MA exam itself. Starting from Asadh 17, 2017, Tribhuvan University took charge of conducting examinations for all levels, including I.Sc, I.Com, B.A, B.Sc, and B.Ed, dating back to 1960. The results of these exams were released in 2018, during which there were 35 Nepali and 20 Indian professors teaching at constituent colleges. "Among the professors who taught were Bishnu Malla Sir, Panth Sir, Tirtha Bahadur Mandhar, Nareshman Singh, and Ambika Prasad Adhikari," according to former Vice-Chancellor Mathima. Teaching occurred in Tripureshwor as there was no building constructed in Kirtipur. In Tripureshwor, a Bengali teacher's home was used for teaching in the morning and afternoon. TU held its inaugural convocation ceremony on Chaitra 10, 2017, where the Chairman of India's University Grants Commission, Siddhi Deshmukh, was invited as a foreign dignitary.

The title of Vice-Chancellor was awarded to Manikaratna Kanshakar in 1960 as he scored the highest marks at the graduation level, surpassing Wickham. In 2016, the first exam had 1,939 participants and only 919 passed. At that time, the university had affiliated 11 intermediate colleges and 11 degree colleges. Additionally, 10 departments had been established at TU.

A TU Council meeting took place on Poush 27, 2018, during which the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor announced their resignation. King Mahendra was appointed as the new Chancellor, while the Education Minister appointed a new Vice-Chancellor. The two queens delivered a joint address expressing their natural sadness at the separation of a university with such deep and long-standing connections. However, they emphasized that the university's only duty and goal is to strive for rapid development and long-term growth by abandoning personal attachments. Therefore, they believed it appropriate to take leave from the positions of Senate, Chancellor, and Vice-Chancellor.

The Mahendra Vidya Bhushan medal was founded by King Mahendra and has been presented annually since 2018. In the inaugural year, 13 Nepali students, including two from TU, Mukund Sharma Regmi from Kathmandu and Shivgopal Rishal from Lalitpur, were awarded the medal. The medal was conferred for exceptional achievement in Sanskrit and Nepali, and it was considered a significant honor to be bestowed with it. Shivgopal Rishal, the first recipient of the medal, shared, "I spent 18 hours a day studying for the medal. I did not have any books, so I read in Hindi and English and researched all the subjects. I put in a lot of hard work, and I was rewarded with the medal. The gold medal, which was about the size of my palm, was presented to me by the King at the Darbar with great honor."

During that period, transportation was inconvenient, and as a result, students had to suffer. There were only two buses available from Ratnapark to Kirtipur, and if they missed the 9:30 bus, they had to face the trouble of not having transportation. Some students even attempted to board the bus through the window from the driver's seat. However, they were unable to board the bus on their return trip. Some students like Manaprasad Wagle had to walk all the way to Hadi village. Wagle, an educationist, reminisces about the past and says, "We had to travel for a month with coupons."

In 2018, the second convocation ceremony took place and since then, it has been held annually. However, due to space constraints, the ceremony was also organized at Dasharath Stadium in Tripureswar, but this was not sustainable. Trivisang also has a joint convocation ceremony, which initially faced the same issue of limited space and had to be held at the stadium in Tripureshwar.

Following the movement of 2062-63, the provision of having the king as the chancellor was abolished and the prime minister was given the position instead.

The formation of the Tribhuvan University Students Union dates back to 2018 when Navraj Subedi was elected as its first president. The following year, Tirthnath Gogal took over the presidency. The union was inaugurated by Kirtinidhi Bista, who was the education minister at the time.

The professors' association has an interesting history of its establishment. Professors who were working in Tribhuvan University played an equal role in its establishment. The association, which began from scratch, is now present all over the country.

Shankarraj Pathak, the founder of Saraswati Multiple Campus, recalls, "Traloky Nath, Gopal Sharma, and I decided to draft the legislation. We sat in a hall of the Education Council and wrote the legislation. After the legislation was drafted, Traloky Nath, myself, and others contested the elections." Pathak also added, "We held the first meeting in my college."

Wagle reminisced that during that time, political parties used to seek votes by labeling their opponents as communists, and he and others would line up to cast their votes.

Presently, Tribhuvan University consists of 9 faculties and institutes, 4 research centers, 40 central departments, 62 constituent campuses, and 1062 affiliated campuses. The university caters to around 400,000 students, covering approximately 80% of the higher education students in Nepal.

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