Mutually beneficialCollaboration between academia and industry to produce employable manpower is win-win for all.
Of the many ills facing Nepal’s universities, the unemployability of their graduates perhaps tops the list. For the longest time, industry leaders have complained that fresh graduates seldom possess the skills required to start working immediately. Instead, say industry leaders, they often have to train the newbies for six months to a year before they start doing any substantial work. Among other things, this lapse results in the financial and temporal loss of the employers and the employees. Moreover, this additional burden of having to unlearn and relearn alienates the graduates, forcing them to leave the country to seek easier jobs and settle for less than they deserve.
A recent initiative by Pokhara University has tried to bridge this academia-industry gap by collaborating with industry leaders to revise its curricula. On Tuesday, university officials met with representatives of various business houses as well as the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, to seek their suggestions on the gaps in the curricula of undergraduate and postgraduate level courses. The interaction concluded with a commitment by both parties to make necessary adjustments to ensure a smooth transition of the graduates into the industry. Similar initiatives are in place at Kathmandu University, which has partnered with industry leaders to utilise academic learning and technology for innovation and entrepreneurship. The earn-while-you-learn scheme at Sudurpaschim University is another initiative that ensures the employability of its students right when they graduate.
While such initiatives by universities are few and far between, they undoubtedly help bring down the unemployability of their graduates and are something for others to emulate. Importantly, these initiatives are rare instances of universities coming down from the high pedestal of academic puritanism and actually working for the welfare of their graduates. In a country where university education has long been seen as a marker of social status rather than a vehicle for academic or vocational excellence, the acknowledgement by universities of the gap in their education system and a commitment to address those gaps is commendable. As Nepal’s universities face an existential crisis owing to a mass exodus of students abroad, such corrections are long overdue.
The universities, however, need to be mindful of not producing run-of-the-mill graduates suited only to do the job as dictated by industry leaders. The very idea of university education is to produce wholesome beings who can be critical thinkers even as they become problem solvers and innovators. A worrisome trend among universities in developed countries shows industries, including big pharma, funding research suited to their business interests and potentially doing more harm than good to society.
While Nepali universities have not invested much in R&D, they are not very compromised either. In their collaborations, therefore, the universities must remember that even as they strive to produce skillful graduates who become employable right after they exit the classrooms, they do not play to the tune of the industry completely. After all, the pursuit of scholarship cannot be replaced by the pursuit of employment, even in a ruthlessly competitive job market.