Vice-chancellors retire in different universities next monthExperts suggest selection on merit ending the practice of handpicking officials based on their political affiliation.
Vice-chancellors of around a dozen universities appointed by the Sushil Koirala government are retiring next month. The heads of these varsities, appointed because of their political connections rather than qualifications, have received more criticism than applaud during their tenure.
Tribhuvan University, the largest and oldest university of the country, made headlines for wrong reasons ranging from increasing the marks of students for money to manipulating the results of different administrative positions.
Failure to maintain academic calendar, poor academic performance and ineffective teaching-learning environment, which have been perennial problems, continued. Despite serious reservations from students and teaching staff, officials at the Agriculture and Forestry University granted affiliation to eight private colleges to run courses on agriculture and forestry.
The students and teachers blamed the university authorities for providing the affiliations under monetary influence. They have appealed against the decision at the Supreme Court.
Nepal Sanskrit University is synonymous to controversy.
Though the university is based in Dang, its officials prefer to spend more time in Kathmandu. Padlocking of the university’s offices is common for alleged anomalies from officials in appointments or other administrative works.
The Lumbini Buddhist University has been found to be breaking existing legal provisions and academic norms while affiliating colleges.
An investigation showed that though the university was authorised to impart education on Buddhist Philosophy, Literature and Culture, it was found to have granted affiliations in engineering and basic science without having any expertise on it.
Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University, says it is wrong to expect positive changes when the entire appointment system in varsities is faulty.
“The situation is not going to change until politicisation in university is stopped,” Mathema told the Post.
Four years ago, vice-chancellors of Tribhuvan University, Purbanchal University, Nepal Sanskrit University, Far Western University and Lumbini Buddhist University were appointed on the Nepali Congress quota as it was in the government then.
Then-CPN-UML had its people in Pokhara University and Mid-Western University while Agriculture and Forestry University was allotted for the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Centre). The Maoists also got the Open University later on.
Ever since the second people's movement in 2006, appointments to the varsities are made in such a way that if one major party gets the post of vice-chancellor, another gets the position of rector and the third one gets registrar’s position.
For instance, after getting the position of vice-chancellor at Tribhuvan University, the Nepali Congress allocated rector and registrar in the university to the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) respectively.
Professors at the universities say that the only way to stop degrading universities from further ruin is to select competent leadership on merit—not on the basis of political affiliation.
“The present leadership is retiring next month. The government should set an example by adopting a fair process to appoint their replacements,” Rameshwor Upadhyay, chairman of the National Professors Association, an umbrella body of university teachers in the country, told the Post.
He said a search committee should be formed to recommend the candidates after evaluating their academic and administrative qualifications.
In May, a panel formed to recommend the criteria for the selection of vice-chancellors, rectors and registrars at the universities and health academies suggested the formation of a search committee led by chairperson of the University Grants Commission, which recommends the names of three persons while the university chancellor selects one among them.
The panel led by a joint-secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology had also set seven criteria for one to qualify to lead a university. The search committee will award the marks based on the qualifications set in each criterion and the top three scorers are recommended for the post of vice-chancellor, which is the highest executive position in universities, according to the suggestion.
The practice so far is that a search committee led by the education minister, who is the pro-chancellor, recommends the names.
“The reputation of the universities is at stake. We cannot afford to let the mess continue,” said Upadhyay. “Only fair and competent leadership can bring about changes.”