Madan Bhandari—a new university just like the old ones

2019-07-31

The Kathmandu Post


KATHMANDU : The government on Monday registered a bill in the Parliament Secretariat to add a new university near the Capital that will offer a wide range of streams, from science and technology to humanities—similar to those already being offered by two leading universities in Kathmandu.

Though the new varsity has been named as Madan Bhandari University of Science and Technology, its objectives are no different than those set by Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University, which primarily cater to students within the Capital and from the surrounding region. 

The proposed university will be located in Chitlang of Makwanpur district, less than an hour’s drive from Kathmandu. 

The bill—drafted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in consent with the University Grants Commission—still has to be endorsed by Parliament to clear the legal hurdles to set up the new university. 

The government last month, through its annual budget, had announced that it would establish a technical university that focuses on technical education. But by the time the bill was finalised, the proposal shows the new institution to be a general university.

Officials at the commission have defended the bill, arguing that because technology fits with, and is needed in, any stream, the inclusion of humanities, management or law in the proposed technical university shouldn’t be controversial. 

“No matter what streams it offers, it will be different from the existing universities,” said Deb Raj Adhikari, member-secretary at the commission. 

“The new university, unlike the ones already in operation, will focus on providing world-class education.”

Education experts, however, say the country does not need to add another general university while existing higher institutions themselves are struggling to attract students. Lumbini Buddhist University, established in 2004, had about 196 students enrolled last year, down from 226 in 2011, and enrolments continue to decrease every year. 

Nepal Sanskrit University, the country’s second oldest university, had 1,925 students in 2011, which dropped to 1,471 this year. The Mid Western and Far Western Universities, formed eight years ago, have 2,211 and 3,035 students respectively. Similarly, anomalies at Tribhuvan University have become a common phenomenon in recent years. 

Man Prasad Wagle, former dean at Kathmandu University who has carried out a number of studies on national education, says Nepal needs institutions that have a focus, like the Indian Institute of Technology or the Indian Institute of Management. 

“Just adding new universities that don’t differ from the existing ones will only increase the financial burden on the government,” he told the Post. 

“The government should focus either on specialised or interdisciplinary universities if it actually wants to improve higher education.”
Wagle said he is also sceptical about the provision in the bill that allows the chairperson of the Madan Bhandari Foundation to nominate two members in the 17-member Board of Trustees, the supreme body tasked with governing the university. Usha Kiran, daughter of President Bidya Devi Bhandari and late Madan Bhandari, is the current chairperson of the foundation.

“This will lead to a conflict of interest,” Wagle said. “Only independent individuals who have made some contribution to society should serve on the board.”