International courses in Nepal prepare stalwart workforce to retain our legacy

Samir Thapa Photo
Samir Thapa

Samir Thapa
President, IEPAN

Samir Thapa, Chairman and Founder Principal of Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management, is an accomplished name in hospitality management field in Nepal. Upon the completion of his Master’s degree in hotel management from Switzerland and America, he returned to Nepal and joined Radisson Hotel and worked there for three years. During his working period in 1997 AD, the hotel announced a vacancy for 321 workers. However, a total of 300 candidates applied in which only 10 applicants possessed hotel management qualification. This phenomenon struck his mind to realize that there were immense prospects in hospitality management education in Nepal. And the awarding institutions of such qualification were scarce since only one institution had been established to train people for hospitality business, which later received accreditation from Tribhuvan University. But TU programs were restricted to NATHM only. So, he thought he would embark on accreditation of hospitality management syllabi from international universities.

Having considered preparing qualified human resources in the hospitality management field, Mr. Thapa established Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management in 2001 AD but received an approval from the Ministry of Education in 2003 AD after exhaustive documentation wrestling. By the time we got the approval, 3-4 more institutions had already been established with international accreditation but areas were different. Now Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management has been established as a top-notch hotel management college in Nepal. It aims at establishing a hotel management college in every province. It is going to start hotel management courses in Pokhara very soon.

Could you give a brief account of IEPAN?

International Education Provider Association of Nepal (IEPAN) is an umbrella organization of private educational institutions which are running international courses in Nepal that are awarded by international universities and approved by the Ministry of Education. The IEPAN started working as an ad hoc committee in 2007 under the chairmanship of Pankaj Jalan. It received the legal status from the Ministry of Education in 2012. He served the organization as the chairman for two terms till 2017.

We have 68 colleges excluding A- Level institutions in Nepal. Among them, a total of 62 are the IEPAN members since the rest colleges don’t have MoE renewal certificate.

Timely update of the curricula, research and international exposure are good impacts of foreign degree programs on Nepalese hopefuls.

Each year 60 thousand students go abroad, causing the annual loss of worth 80 billion Nepalese wealth. However, international courses in Nepal have managed to hold billions of rupees draining out in foreign lands. Domestic colleges and colleges with international accreditation are almost similar.

We have been governed by general higher education policy and many times we have not been inspected by the government. S, we feel to have been in shadow; we ourselves ask the government to inspect us. So, we need a separate foreign education governing policy— a separate Education Act.

Could you tell us about the criteria to get IEPAN membership?

Yes, there are certain criteria to attain the membership.

There are 12 to 15 thousand students pursuing bachelor and master courses excluding A Level students. We require certain criteria to tame rampant activities of Indian university accredited colleges and their franchises operating near the bordering cities of Terai. So, we made it mandatory for foreign program running colleges to get an approval from MoE to get membership of IEPAN.

What is the main objective of IEPAN?

The main objective of IEPAN is to bring international education system to Nepal and make our country a hub for foreign students pursuing quality education. It has some supporting facts. The cost of living in metropolitan cities of Nepal is quite cheaper than that of south Asian and other metropolitan cities. In addition, climate of Nepal is favorable for students to pursue their qualification. Therefore, we have managed to enroll a high number of students IT, Health, Hotel Management, Forestry, etc.

As President of IEPAN, would you tell us about the historic background of the colleges disseminating international courses in Nepal?

Silver Mountain is the first of its kind in Hotel Management. Similarly, Islington is the pioneer in IT sector. IT and BBA courses were commenced by Lord Buddha Education Foundation. Subsequently, King’s College started courses in Entrepreneurship. Later, KFA started the curricula of Finance. The list is long. And then come Softwarica, DAV, Galaxy, SAAN which were the colleges that started Diploma programs in various subjects. From the beginning, IEPAN interacted with 21 education ministries and only two of them listened to and understood us. As a result, we acquired recognition and are very much hopeful that the present government would show close cooperation with us in the days to come.

What are the major accomplishments after the establishment of IEPAN?

The main achievement can be elaborate as we’ve got a separate recognition since we used to be governed by superficial laws or four-line directives. We are bound by an effective law in the passage of time.

There are some negative rumors about international education in Nepal. What has IEPAN done to mitigate it?

Some years earlier, some programs were run in Nepal even from the black-listed universities of foreign countries, but after the government recognized IEPAN and made it mandatory for the colleges to get IEPAN membership and approval from the MoE, such problem has automatically been solved. Our directive/ law explicitly indicates that we are not allowed to bring international programs from the universities which are ranked below 1000 top institutions across the globe. If you see the internationally ranked universities in Nepal, they are below 5000, which is appalling.

Moreover, we cannot bring any programs if the Nepal Government, which has access to the specific country’s university, does not permit us to get such an accreditation. The MoE checks and verifies it through Ministry of Foreign affairs and the Embassy of the respective countries.

In addition, the accreditation from an international body is mandatory, which is an independent body. After fulfilling the above-mentioned procedures, there are a total of 62 colleges functioning in Nepal.

What are the major challenges of IEPAN now?

There are 12000 students studying under 62 colleges with seven billion rupees investment. We (the college owners) and the government should be responsible for students’ investment. However, whimsical policies of the government have staggered our firm stance time and gain. But we should not feel insecure. So, the government would better make a separate Act for our inspection. In addition, streamlining the money that has been drained in foreign countries, making strict criteria for education seekers in foreign lands are some of the major steps that has to be taken by the government. We have found many colleges abroad run in some rooms only.

What should IEPAN do next?

We are expecting a favorable environment from the government to flourish so that more than 80 billion rupees, as per the data of the Central Bank, drains every year along with brilliant students, which can be minimized. We’ve requested the government to allow international education pursuers to get enrollment if the university ranking is not below 1000 globally. We are also planning to organize an education fair from next year.

Have you envisaged the future of IEPAN? How is it?

Now, domestic universities and colleges are fearful about us; so, they complain about us in the ministry as well. If you see the last year data, as many as 56,000 students went to 53 different countries worldwide, which does not include students admitted in Indian universities/ colleges. In such a situation, if the government facilitates us with a favorable environment, we can seize sterling prospects in the days to come. 

Why should students choose the curricula offered by the IEPAN member colleges?

There are just two reasons. The first reason is that students get an international degree while living with family members and under their guidance and care. S/he gets an accessibility and network of international market. Second, the cost of study is relatively cheaper in Nepal.

Since you are from hospitality industry, how is the industry in Nepal and how capable are you to prepare skilled graduates who can retain this industry in the long-run?

While we established Silver Mountain, we were the first private college after NATHM. Now there are 73 hotel management colleges in Nepal. There are about 5000 students and under IEPAN there are about 3000 students in nine colleges. But our turn over is just 15% students in Nepal and the remaining 85% are going abroad. After five years, we can expect nearly 35 to 40% students’ turnover since there are new hotels emerging in the course of time.

How has Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management established itself as one of the best colleges in hospitality management?

The most important factor is our honesty. If you speak truth to parents and don’t exaggerate, you gain their trust. For example, we do not charge our parents more than NPR 874000.00 for the entire course. And there are no hidden charges at all. We provide internship for 34 graduates in various national international hotels but do not charge extra amount of service.

In addition, we do not compromise on quality that emasculates our academic excellence and discipline. And we provide extra 5% of scholarship of merit besides the criteria of MoE. In each semester, a total of 5% students get 100% scholarship on the merit basis. Next, our strength is the placement of our graduates in top ranking hotels of the world. Similarly, we have good infrastructures.

What is your future plan?

We are planning to establish our branch throughout Nepal within 10 years. In this way, we will have branches in all seven provinces. In the initial phase of college expansion, we have constructed a building in Pokhara. Perhaps there will be the first batch of students in Pokhara next year.

Could you share your concluding message with the readers of this magazine?

I would like to request the parents to judge the standard of international education in Nepal and be judicious enough before sending their children abroad so that they don’t have to lament in the hindsight. It’s arduous to convince parents, but students are smart enough to decide between the veracious and the mendacious. Lastly, we ensure student satisfaction which is the key to our success.


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