Whither research?

Published On: November 29, 2016 12:15 AM NPT By: Angel Sharma

Angel Sharma

Angel Sharma

The contributor for Republica.

Unlike in India and China the universities in Nepal don’t publish any quality journals 
The term ‘brain drain’ has become a cliché. Thousands of youths leave the country for higher studies as the quality of education in our academic institutions is no where compared to global standards, with our top universities placed dismally low in world ranking. The reason is lack of quality research. Good universities receive funds from global donors based on their ability to conduct quality research. This is not the case in Nepal.

Our universities hardly produce any good research. Every field of study has its own journals, which are peer reviewed by scholars all over the world. A good quality paper takes over three years to be published after many rounds of revision. Lecturers are evaluated based on the number of research articles they have published in good journals.

And they have separate bodies to assess the quality of journals and journal articles.  

Australia has the Australian Dean’s Business Council (ADBC) list and the UK Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) list for this. These lists are specific to the field of management but there are such lists in other areas as well. These lists are created based on impact factor of journal articles. The impact factor is determined based on how often an article in a journal is cited in a particular year. Top journals are cited by scholars all over the world.  

But in Nepal even leading universities don’t have quality journals. We lag far behind China and India where there has been a push towards publishing quality research in recent times. 

Lecturers in Nepal are promoted to professors based on the years they have served at university rather than their scholarly contribution through quality research. In the UK, the US, New Zealand and Australia, even a person of 35 can become a professor based on his publications in high-impact journals. Our universities need to emulate this meritocratic system if they are to be competitive in the world market and if we are to stop the brain drain. 

Brain drain has already badly affected our socio-economic situation. We are left with an ageing population, with the majority of youngsters opting for foreign education and eventually settling abroad due to lack of opportunities in Nepal. Recent influx of foreign universities in Nepal and growing number of students joining their courses show how people believe our institutions of higher learning are no good. 

Indeed, our universities are not equipped for quality research. Students have no easy access to global scholarly journals, which makes it harder for our lecturers, professors and students to produce scholarly papers. 

Nepal should learn from China, which has its own version of Google known as Baidu whereby Chinese students can access research papers. Many quality research papers are emerging from China. Hong Kong City University now ranks as one of the best universities in the world, while National University of Singapore (NUS) is known for its world-class research. 

On the other hand, universities in Nepal have not developed the culture of research yet.

The Ministry of Education has failed to ensure quality control mechanisms so that our lecturers are reviewed yearly based on their scholarly contribution. Instead of encouraging rote learning and preparing students for one end-term exam, the universities should encourage and help students conduct their own research. 

Encouraging students to publish research articles in international publications will, among other things, enhance their creativity, boost the supervisor’s ability to oversee quality research and enhance the overall quality of the university. Our universities have miles to go to reach that stage. So what can be done? 

To start, we need to organise research conferences and encourage students to write and present research papers. Quality research papers should then be rewarded. The Ministry of Education should also be involved in ensuring that our curriculum is revised to include research as compulsory for graduate studies. In fact, the research component should be allocated more than half the marks of the entire program. 

Second, our universities should collaborate with researchers from other universities around the world to ensure that our lecturers also experience about good research. This calls for long-term vision. 

It is essential for educational institutions to conduct and engage in quality research. Embracing research will enable our universities to compete on a global scale, while also establishing Nepal as a research destination for foreign students.  

The author is a research student at the University of Otago, New Zealand

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