Granting affiliation to medical colleges has remained a matter of contention in Nepal’s medical education system. Often the university officials, including the vice-chancellors and registrars themselves, are accused of grating affiliations to colleges to run medical education courses on the basis of political affiliation and other influences including monetary inducements. This has remained one of the major agendas of Dr Govinda KC’s campaign for medical education reform as well. In this background, the National Education Policy recently unveiled by the government has proposed to strip universities from the power to grant affiliations to medical colleges. The Policy, instead, transfers that power to Ministry of Education and allows it to coordinate medical education system. According to the Policy, affiliation for new medical colleges will be provided only with the prior consent of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Educationalists have described such an arrangement as faulty. They argue that new arrangements made by the government will make the matters worse. They say that the new policy has created further confusion regarding whether medical education should be under the jurisdiction of the Education Ministry or that of the Health Ministry. Besides, the Policy does not incorporate the recommendations of the High-Level National Education Commission, on which the government invested huge money, formed with the view to bring greater discipline in medical education system. The Commission had also recommended to the government to set up a separate medical university to better manage medical education system. The new policy does not consider these recommendations and allows for a University and Higher Education Council under the chair of the prime minister to play a role. This has raised the possibility of further politicizing the medical education system. When the authority is granted to the Education Ministry to allow or not to allow affiliations to medical colleges, there is a risk of the political leader heading the ministry to misuse the power to grant affiliations to the colleges of his/her choice.
The government should consider the possible consequences before implementing this policy. Managing issue of higher education should not be taken lightly and options should be explored regarding which approach works best. There should be clarity over how Ministry of Education will handle the job better than the universities themselves or vice versa. So far, the universities have been the authorities to grant affiliations but they have been questioned for providing affiliations to colleges that do not even meet the required standards in terms of infrastructure and human resources. How will Ministry of Education do the same job in a better way? What is the guarantee that politicization that we see in medical education sector will be minimized when the Education Ministry takes up that responsibility after the enforcement of education policy? Educationists have raised the concerns over some provisions of the policy. Their concerns should be taken in a good faith, and if necessary the government should not hesitate to revise the policy. When we are enforcing a policy to manage the medical education system, we need to consider how it will contribute to reforming it, in a true sense.