Despite concerns, top officials in universities are set to be appointed on political sharingThe government is ignoring the recommendations made by a panel it had formed in May.
Despite voices being raised from different quarters that top executives in universities should be appointed only on the basis of merit, the government is preparing to bring new leadership in different varsities based on their political affiliations.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party is preparing to appoint a majority of officials in the universities including Tribhuvan University, the oldest and largest university of the country, under its quota. Four years ago, when Sushil Koirala was leading the government, the highest number of portfolios went to the Nepali Congress.
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Vice-chancellors of Tribhuvan University, Purbanchal University, Nepal Sanskrit University, Far Western University and Lumbini Buddhist University were appointed on the Congress quota.
The CPN-UML, which last year merged with the CPN (Maoist Centre), had its share in Pokhara University and Mid-Western University, while Agriculture and Forestry University was allotted to the CPN (Maoist Centre). The Maoists also got the Open University later on.
Sources familiar to recent developments say the KP Sharma Oli administration is preparing to allocate vice-chancellors to the Congress in maximum two universities along with registrars in a few other universities. Ever since the second people's movement in 2006, appointments in the varsities have been made in such a way that if one major party gets the post of the vice-chancellor, another gets the position of the rector and the third one gets the registrar’s position.
For instance, after getting the position of vice-chancellor at Tribhuvan University, the Congress allocated the rector and registrar positions in the universities to the UML and the Maoist Centre, respectively. “Consultation is underway. There are plans for the appointments to be made in all the universities in one go,” Bijay Poudel, deputy chief of Education Department of the ruling party, told the Post.
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Though around a dozen professors close to the two major parties are lobbying for the position of vice-chancellor at Tribhuvan University, Dr Dharma Kant Banskota, former chairman of National Medical Council, is the frontrunner for the position.
Dr Banskota, a staunch supporter of then UML, is a professor at the Institute of Medicine under the university.
Outgoing vice-chancellor Tirtha Khaniya, who was appointed under the Congress quota earlier, too is putting all efforts together for his reappointment. Similarly, incumbent Rector Sudha Tripathi and Registrar Dilli Upreti too are making every attempt for their reappointment.
Dr Arun Sayami, a colleague of Banskota; former vice-chairman of the Higher Secondary Education Board Upendra Koirala; former lawmaker Ganesh Man Gurung; and Rajendra Dhoj Joshi, former dean at the Institute of Engineering, too are said to be vying for the post.
“I have not received any concrete proposal,” Banskota told the Post. “However, congratulatory messages are already flooding in.”
An aide to Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel told the Post on condition of anonymity that Joshi could get the leadership of Madan Bhandari Technical University, a new university the government is preparing to set up soon. The bill on the university, to be established in Chitlang of Makwanpur, is under consideration in Parliament.
The government has also failed to follow the recommendations from the committee it had formed. In May, the panel, formed to recommend the criteria for the selection of vice-chancellors, rectors and registrars at the universities and health academies, had suggested that a search committee led by the chairperson of the University Grants Commission put forward three names. The chancellor, according to the panel, then should pick one of them as the vice-chancellor.
The panel also suggested that the search committee award the marks based on the qualifications set in different criteria and the top three scorers be recommended for the post of vice-chancellor.
The professors at the universities say it was unfortunate that the government was missing the opportunity to adopt meritocracy in the appointment process.
“Over-politicisation has ruined the universities. It is concerning that an all-powerful government is repeating the wrong traditions of the past, instead of setting an example,” Rameshwor Upadhyay, chairman of Nepal Professors Association, an association of university teachers across the country, told the Post. “There, however, is still an opportunity for the government to set things right.”