Creative destructionIn a February 2017 interview with ‘College Readers’, Pramila Thapa, Registrar of Purbanchal University (PU), asserted that PU was ‘en route to reach the apex of [their] academic attainments.’ For the past few months, she has left her university office vacant and has been enroute to various destinations in the United Kingdom.
In a February 2017 interview with ‘College Readers’, Pramila Thapa, Registrar of Purbanchal University (PU), asserted that PU was ‘en route to reach the apex of [their] academic attainments.’ For the past few months, she has left her university office vacant and has been enroute to various destinations in the United Kingdom. It’s not only her office; Chief Accountant Khagendra Dhakal, the Vice Chancellor, and deans of various other schools are also either abroad or not at their respective offices. And it’s not only Purbanchal University; many staff members in senior management posts from public universities across Nepal also misuse their authority by leaving their offices vacant for extended periods of time.
The All Nepal National independent Students’ Union (ANNISU) padlocked the office of the VC at Purbanchal University some three months ago. But sources at the university maintain that though it has been months since the office has remained inaccessible to students and faculty members alike, the VC has demonstrated no effort to break it open. He seems busy—either going on international trips at least once a month or doing the rounds of Kathmandu citing ‘administrative work’. Such irresponsible behaviour from the person mandated to steer the educational administrative affairs of the university is worrisome. When VCs go on international trips, they are paid in dollars. This greed to earn a little more money unfortunately comes at the cost of a mismanaged university and disgruntled students. It seems as if he is motivated by vested interests rather than the larger goal of uplifting a public university that is ideally supposed to be a repository of knowledge production.
The democratisation of education and improved access to it is one of the milestones of last few decades. We have come a long way since 1959 when the first university—Tribhuvan University was established. Consequently, over time the number of universities have increases, but their quality has continually remained sub-standard. While reforms in the social and economic spheres have been unleashed, education-a critical sector for national growth and development, remains bypassed.
Problems like inefficient education management systems marred by internal squabbling, political interference, lack of autonomy and resources, and poor implementation of policies and programmes have plagued our higher education system. Unless we overhaul and refresh our approach to higher education and liberate universities from politically motivated, incompetent office bearers, the poor performances of our universities will continue.
Managerial issues in our public universities have squarely impacted the students. Since nothing happens by the calendar, students rarely graduate on time. Moreover, the priority on internal politics has sidelined larger issues like improving teacher pedagogy or fostering a culture of critical thinking. Research and knowledge-production are at the heart of any educational institution. The percentage of money earmarked for research by the government is also very low.
Without a thriving culture of research publication and a demonstrated commitment to foster an intellectual climate in our universities, a broad pledge to excellence is unattainable. Our public universities are faced with a double whammy owing to partisan politics and a constant resource crunch. Party politics should not be a part of the daily operation of the universities and office bearers lacking competence and work ethic should not be allowed to exploit their positions anymore.