Foreign degrees, domestic collegesNepali students continue to leave the country in droves to pursue higher education abroad. Government records show that 60,000 such students left the country last fiscal year, nearly double the number from the previous 2015-16 fiscal year. As more and more students and their parents have come to realise the value of a quality education, one that might not be so readily available in Nepal, the number of young Nepalis leaving the country in pursuit of a university education has duly increased.
Nepali students continue to leave the country in droves to pursue higher education abroad. Government records show that 60,000 such students left the country last fiscal year, nearly double the number from the previous 2015-16 fiscal year. As more and more students and their parents have come to realise the value of a quality education, one that might not be so readily available in Nepal, the number of young Nepalis leaving the country in pursuit of a university education has duly increased.
However, this opportunity comes with a cost not all can afford. Leaving the country requires the kind of financial support that most families might not have, barring scholarships, which are few and far in between. Capitalising on the knowledge that there is a large number of students who wish to hold international degrees but cannot go abroad, many homegrown colleges have begun offering international degrees in partnership with foreign varsities.
Though the first college with foreign affiliation was established back in 1993 , it was only in the early 2000s that there was a surge in the numbers of students going abroad for the higher education and subsequently, a rapid increase in the number of Nepali colleges that began to offer foreign degrees. As per the Ministry of Education, there are around 95 institutions with international educational affiliations, including A Level courses. The number of colleges providing international Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees stands at 54. These colleges are providing university education in affiliation or partnership with varsities in the UK, the US, Switzerland, Austria, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and India.
These colleges aim to provide the same quality of education that a student might get at their respective affiliation universities, says Narottam Aryal, chief executive officer at King’s College and vice-chair of the Education Providers’ Association of Nepal (IEPAN), an umbrella organisation of colleges providing international education at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels.
The universities that provide affiliation keep a close watch on the performance of the colleges they are affiliated with, says college managers. Officials from these universities visit the colleges twice a year to check the quality of the education being provided. As the qualification of the faculty and the teaching-learning methodology plays a crucial role in determining the quality of the degrees awarded, these universities set the criteria for appointments and pedagogy. The teachers must be competent enough to teach as per the university’s curricula.Therefore, some universities themselves provide training to teachers. Many such universities also hold periodic refresher training for teachers to update them on the pedagogy, which is changing constantly. Additionally, colleges need the
appropriate infrastructure, including labs and libraries, as specified by the respective universities to get and maintain their affiliation.
“Our performance is directly linked with the reputation of the universities that grant is their affiliations.There is no room for compromise,” says SulavBudhathoki, chair of the Innovate Nepal Group.
Such colleges pay great attention to maintaining standards for fear of losing their affiliation. Some colleges, like The British College, have management from the UK itself to maintain their standards.
With such high standards and the attraction of a foreign degree, the number of students pursuing education at such colleges is only bound to increase, says Pankaj Jalan, chair of the Lord Buddha Education Foundation. Currently, around 14,000 students are enrolled with such colleges.
The only difference between the students directly enrolled at the universities and at their affiliated colleges is that the latter study in their own hometown, claim college operators. However, it is also possible to transfer credits for students who wish to complete their last year of study at the university itself and attend their graduation ceremony. This last one year is more affordable than spending all four Bachelor years or two Master years abroad. While the fees of these colleges are higher than most others, they are still cheaper than actually going abroad.
Other than the attraction of an international degree, the strict academic calendar where examinations are held and results released on time, unlike in Nepal, are significant pull factors. Furthermore, there are greater chances of job placement, as many of these colleges provide skill development training alongside their academic courses to enable students to compete in the international market. Some of these colleges even hold job fairs where prospective employers offer jobs to students through interviews even before their graduation.
“It’s not just sloganeering, we actually do provide education of an international standard,” claims Budhathoki. “Our graduates are excelling in multimedia animation, IT security and auditing not just in Nepal but in reputed companies abroad.” For education experts, it is a good thing that more international universities are partnering with Nepali colleges, since other Nepali academic institutions can learn from them. However, they are wary of foreign universities since not all of them are reputable simply by token of them being from foreign lands, contrary to what college managers might claim.
“A proper discussion on what kind of international degree providers we want to invite to Nepal hasn’t been held,” says education expert Rajendra Dhwoj Joshi. “A strong government mechanism must be put in place to monitor the quality of education the students are getting under the auspices of a foreign degree.” Only highly ranked and reputable universities should be allowed to partner with domestic colleges, according to Joshi.