Cabinet decision to resume issuing abroad study permits leaves students confusedWhy did the government not resume issuing No Objection Certificates immediately after the nationwide lockdown was lifted? They ask.
The Cabinet’s decision to restart issuing study permits starting this week may not benefit Ram Prasad Pokharel, who received an offer to study at a UK-based university this year.
Pokharel, who was selected to study MSc in Mechatronics and Intelligent Machines at the University of Central Lancashire, is confused.
“I need to transfer my fees to the university by September 14. But I am still not sure if I can manage to obtain the No Objection Certificate (study abroad permits also known as “NOC”) and send the money to the university within the deadline,” Pokharel told the Post.
VFS Global, the company that manages visa applications to the UK in Nepal, resumed its services two weeks ago targeting students such as Pokharel. However, it halted the services again after the district administration offices in the Valley announced severe restrictions on the movement of people.
“Had the government started issuing NOCs after the nationwide lockdown ended last month, I would have been admitted to the university and received by a visa by now. I could have gone to the UK the day international flights resume. My chances of getting there on time are slim now,” he said.
Many other students such as Pokharel are facing confusion after the government decided to resume issuing NOCs, required to apply for student visas and transfer fees to foreign universities through the banking channel. Despite getting their offer letters, thousands of students have been barred from getting enrolled in universities abroad because the NOC is a must to transfer money to foreign countries.
For Ankit Dahal, the government's decision came just a day before the University of West London’s deadline to transfer fees. Dahal, who was selected to study Master’s in Cyber Technology, has requested the university to extend the deadline by a few weeks. “If the university accepts the request, I can start my studies from next month, otherwise I will have to wait till February,” Dahal told the Post.
Students have to transfer their full tuition fees even if they take online classes from home. This is tough for Nepali students as most of them bank on getting a job while working to cover a portion of their fees. “I have to pay over Rs 700,000 each semester as in tuition fees. I could have managed to cover the cost partially through work if I were in the UK,” said Dahal.
“The Cabinet on Tuesday decided to resume issuing NOCs. There was a huge pressure from students aspiring to study abroad to restart the service,” Puran KC, a personal aide to Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel, told the Post. He said the decision would come into effect once the government spokesperson makes the decision public. Students can apply for the certificates online.
Minister for Finance and government Spokesperson Yubaraj Khatiwada makes Cabinet decisions public every Mondays and Thursdays. The Cabinet on March 2 decided to halt issuing the permits for a few countries in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Abroad Study Permission Section of the Ministry stopped providing students permits to study in China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Singapore in the first phase. The measure was expanded to the other countries as well with the pandemic spreading across the world.
Education consultancy operators say that the government decision came late. They also say the government should have resumed issuing NOCs immediately after the lockdown was lifted. “Students definitely have to suffer due to the delay,” Santosh Pyakurel, chair of the National Education Consultancies’ Association one of five education associations of the education consultancies in Nepal, told the Post.
He said the students can at least secure their seats even if they don’t get to study immediately. He said the students can start their study online and travel to their destination countries once the situation normalises.
Pyakurel said universities from different countries such as Canada have announced that students can complete up to half of their course from their home.
Owing to the pandemic, most colleges and universities have agreed to defer admissions until the next intake if students wish to do so, according to Pyakurel.
Education ministry records show that it issued 85,758 NOCs between July 17, 2o18 and the end of 2019. The highest numbers of the permits were issued for the June/July intake. However, issuance of the permits were stopped during the same period this year due to Covid-19.
According to Nepal Rastra Bank, students spending on abroad study decreased by 44 percent to Rs 25.2 billion in the last fiscal year from Rs 41 billion in fiscal year 2018/19.
Meanwhile, students aspiring to go abroad have sought justification from the government for the delay. “I would expect our government to explain to us the reason why it decided to resume the service only in August, a month after the lockdown was lifted,” he told the Post.