Ex-VCs urge govt to depoliticize universities

Published On: May 18, 2019 04:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, May 18: Former vice-chancellors (VCs) of different universities have urged the government to depoliticize the universities in the country and empower them with full autonomy in order to upgrade the quality of education.

Organizing a discussion on Friday, seven VCs of different universities demanded that the government amend the bill related to university education. The bill was tabled at the National Assembly on Thursday and was approved by a majority. The bill includes provisions to control the universities, appoint officials and sack them as per the will of the government.

Prof Mahesh Kumar Sharma, a former VC of Tribhuvan University (TU), said that autonomy is the spirit of any university. “The appointments meant for higher education should not be on the basis of political power-sharing,” said Prof Sharma. “Political interference in universities erodes the quality of education provided by them,” he added.

Prof Suresh Raj Sharma, a former VC of Kathmandu University, said that universities should be allowed to function as per the international standards. "Our approaches to schools and universities need to be different,” he said. “Universities should not be kept under the control of the government,” he added, “Appointments at universities should be made by the boards of trustees concerned, instead of the government.”

Prof Kamal Krishna Joshi, another former VC of TU, said that the government had failed to understand the global trend in higher education. “If the universities are controlled, they will not have autonomy,” he said.

Prof Kedar Bhakta Mathema, yet another former VC of TU, said they have felt that the government intends to politicize the universities and control them. "Instead of granting them autonomy and ownership, the government seems to control the universities through political appointments and power-sharing,” he said. “So, depoliticizing the universities is a must,” he added.

Prof Toran Bahadur Karki, a former VC of Purbanchal University, said that no political leader has understood the role of universities in a nation's progress. “The university leadership should be academically sound and competitive. However, the political parties quarrel among themselves while appointing the VCs, rectors and registrars at universities on the basis of power-sharing,” he lamented.

Prof Hira Bahadur Karki, who is supposed to be closer to the ruling Nepal Communist Party, said "the government decision on flimsy ground was wrong."

Prof Khagendra Prasad Bhattarai, a former VC of Pokhara University, said that the government is trying to control the academic freedom and autonomy of the universities in the country. “It's time to think about a futuristic vision rather than indulging in political intervention,” he said.

The former VCs insisted that the chancellors, pro-chancellors, VCs and other officials at the universities be appointed by the boards of trustees, not by the government. Presently, the prime minister is the chancellor and the education minister the pro-chancellor of all universities in the country.

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