TU research centers heading nowhere

Published On: February 1, 2017 02:23 AM NPT By: Bishnu Prasad Aryal

KATHMANDU, Jan 31: The research centers of Tribhuvan University (TU) established with the aim to promote academic and applied research works for the development of the nation are heading nowhere. The professors and researchers are more interested in working with donors and NGOs rather than contributing in making the research centers as think-tank of the country.

The four research centers under the TU -- Center for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA), Center for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Research Center for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID), and Research Center for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST) -- were established in the 1960s and 1970s to promote research activities.

However, the research centers have hardly any projects in hand, according to the centers. “We don't have any big project for years,” said Dr Mrigendra Bahadur Karki, researcher at the CNAS. 

Veteran researchers such as Prof Dr Prayag Raj Sharma and Prof Dr Dor Bahadur Bista were involved in the CNAS which was initially established as the Institute of Nepal Studies in 1968 and later renamed in 1977. It produced outstanding researches for the benefit of the country and society in the past. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, the downfall of the four research centers started gradually. After 2003, the research centers sank disappointedly without having any projects in hand, according to the research centers.

Now, more than four dozen professors and researchers affiliated to the four research centers are rarely involved in research projects, said the professors at the centers. “There are 36 central departments in TU with dozens of professors, teachers and hundreds of postgraduate and PhD students. But the silent rift between the research centers and the departments has worsened the research activities,” they expressed qualms over the situation.

The deteriorating situation of research activities does not end here. Neither the TU nor the government or the National Planning Commission (NPC) allocates budget for the research centers. On the other hand, the professors of the research centers have left the centers and joined I/NGOs or have established their own NGOs. 

For instance, renowned professors like Lok Raj Baral, Krishna Hachhethu, Devraj Dahal Krishna Khanal and many more are associated with donor-driven projects in lack of proper environment at the research centers.

“They were the intellectual properties of TU but now they are involved in projects. The reports prepared here do not help to cater the interests of the public and the nation as the reports are incomplete or partially done,” said the professors currently working at the centers.

“In such a situation, the TU and the government tell us to seek research projects ourselves,” said Dr Karki. “The donors and INGOs ask us to produce VAT (value added tax) bills of our research centers while we don't have to pay the VAT to the government as the state organs do not pay VAT,” he said. “How can we work if the situation goes in such a way?”

Dr Arun Kumar Thakur, executive director of CEDA, said that the government has failed to exploit the potentials of the experts. “We also enjoy getting monthly salaries without working hard,” he added. “The government needs to utilize the available experts by tapping their potentials.”

Dr Thakur expressed worries about the administration, planning, execution, implementation, control, training, evaluation and monitoring of the government projects. 

Moreover, TU does not allocate any budget for research centers to carry out extensive works though the University Grants Commission provides a total budget of about Rs 160 million annually to the universities of Nepal for research.

Prof Dr Tirtha Raj Khaniya, vice chancellor of TU, said that the research centers were not established with a purpose of TU providing them budget for research. “The world's leading universities also don't provide funds to their research centers. We also don't give them money. They have to create atmosphere to seek projects themselves. I am ready to cooperate with them for bidding in international arena of research projects,” he claimed.

VC Khaniya further said that they would take action against the researchers who are involved with NGOs and donor projects without taking permission from the university. “We are in the process to take action,” he added, failing to divulge details of action taken against any such researchers in the past.

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