Prof. Prem Narayan Aryal
Vice Chancellor, Pokhara University
Professor Dr. Prem Narayan Aryal, the founder president of Public Campus Association Nepal who has served Tribhuvan University for more than four decades, has been serving Pokhara University as Vice Chancellor of Pokhara University since last one year.
Prof. Aryal, with a long experience of leading a massive institution, has crystallized the vision of taking the University to greater heights. As all the affiliated and constituent colleges are an inseparable part of the university, the progress and prosperity of one part depends on the existence of the other. Due to the joint efforts of these all entities, it is possible to herald positive transformation in the academic sphere of Nepal.
Prof. Aryal says the role of constituent and affiliated colleges is commendable in strengthening the acclamation of Pokhara University. He has treated the University colleges equally and provided enough assistance for their growth and development.
In his opinion, the development of education is not possible only with the single effort of the government. Hence, meaningful and active cooperation of the private and community sectors is considered to be pivotal in harnessing success in education and development sectors. He also had a long involvement in public campuses. So, he identified himself the existing problems, pain and suffering of private and public colleges. He expressed that private-public partnership in education is the best model for developing educational prospects in Nepal.
Right after taking the responsibility of VC, Prof. Aryal has shared his plan of making proper improvements in the university and extending its departments and programs. A teaching medical college is going to run under the university administration. The university has started the entrepreneurship program as a new subject and going to launch insurance course as an emerging subject.
Prof. Aryal is very grateful for the contribution of OPEN and its member colleges to the establishment of International Research Centre as their corporate responsibility. College Readers has caught up with Prof. Aryal, and he has shared his mission, vision and plan for the futuristic drastic change of the university. Excerpts:
How did your teaching career commence?
While talking about my teaching career, it goes back to before and after SLC exams timelines. No sooner had I completed my SLC than I was appointed to teach at a school in my village. I am happy that I passed a private BA while on the job and Teachers’ Service Commission from Chitwan and gradually moved ahead.
What inspired you to take up teaching as a sustainable career?
I had taken some exams of Public Service Commission and succeeded as well and worked as a senior clerk at Lalitpur municipality. However, I was deeply motivated to work at university from the early period of my teaching career which fired my enthusiasm further to appear for a competitive examination of TU, and subsequently, I got associated with it for a long time.
You served TU for a long time, and since your retirement from TU, you’ve been working as Vice Chancellor of Pokhara University for the past one year. How would be analyze teaching career?
I witnessed many changes in teaching and learning endeavors while working as a teacher at university. As I couldn’t implement the improvement measures at university, I established a community-based campus myself which was affiliated to TU and experimented those improvement measures and got remarkable results in teaching and learning activities and in teaching pedagogies.
You have witnessed the three phases of educational chronology as a student, as a teacher and now as a policy maker. What would be the result of juxtaposition of our theoretical teaching with practical orientation with regard to quality assurance?
Education must be associated with life and life-enhancing factors. We used to be taught that education is training for a better life, but what I’ve realized now is that real education is what it prepares learners for innovations, adjustment in a new situation and enabling them to get familiar with a new context. In my almost a five-decade long career, I have found that our education is somehow deviated from making one entrepreneur. So, now we should focus on skill-based, vocational and enterprise-oriented education. Similarly, education should prepare one for global competition. Recently, we have launched ‘Entrepreneurship Development’, which is a new curriculum of Pokhara University. It has been included in BA program. We are planning to introduce this subject in other disciplines as well. Some of the banks, and even Ministry of Industry has signed an MoU with us for the provision of seed money as a support to entrepreneurs and start-ups.
You entered and led the administration of Pokhara University while the institution was languishing at difficult times. It has been one year since your appointment, and you are worthy of accolades for redeeming the credibility of the university. How did you make it possible?
Thank you for an important question. The institution was in limbo because of leadership crisis for 13 months, and none of the existing officials could figure out where the university was heading. Not only this, until the next six months since my appointment, I couldn’t get Registrar for smooth functioning of the administrative work. However, I teamed up with the university officials and moved ahead for its reformation. Since the appointment of Registrar, we have been working jointly with high spirit and positive motives. We have been able to arrange the executive meetings and the recruitment of required personnel has been done along with the formation of necessary committees of the university. We focus on academic calendar, effective teaching, and infrastructure development of the university. Even after the outbreak of the pandemic, the online classes were conducted smoothly. Apart from this, PhD fellows were languishing for the past four-five years, which we solved, and now all the procedures are conducted according to the calendar. Three of those PhD fellows have already appeared for viva and completed their dissertation. Now, PhD council looks after MPhil and PhD programs.
‘If we are motivated from our inner self, any problems can be solved’. How far do you agree to this statement?
It indeed is true. The common goal and determination make it more possible for one to achieve a success. We don’t have personal and petty interests in all the officials of the university.
Most universities in Nepal except Pokhara University conducted the final exams in students’ physical presence at their exam centers; however, PU succeeded in conducing such exams online. How was it possible?
We first prepared frameworks and guidelines for conducting online classes. After various observation and revision on the practice of online classes, we prepared the code of conduct for online examinations during the pandemic. We held meetings and orientation programs with our college associates and stakeholders and handed over more responsibilities to the colleges themselves for conducting exams fairly. We took online viva-voce along with online written exams. We have been quite successful, satisfied and set an example for our contemporary institutions.
What are the short term and long-term vision of Pokhara University?
Pokhara University has four constituent colleges. We are intending to establish more constituent colleges in various sectors and geographical locations. We are exploring to transform some colleges into constituent ones in collaboration with the local government. Similarly, we have been working to extend community colleges or public colleges. Our previous practice of establishing collaborative joint constituent colleges succumbed badly, so we cannot go further with this collaboration.
Since you have been involved in teaching for a long time and proved yourself to be the forerunner of community colleges in association with Tribhuvan University, is it possible to run community colleges as the PU constituent?
Yes, we can. We have already received proposals from some of the colleges in this regard.
Maybe some criteria are to be fulfilled to give it a complete go. Have they been formulated yet?
Yes, we need to fulfill certain criteria. We are working on them although it’s not prepared yet. If any community college submits a letter of interest in this proposal and if we get full support from all the stakeholders, we can proceed further for the implementation.
Although Pokhara University offers a wealth of courses and disciplines and it’s been established in a tranquil place having sufficient space for university education, most students are found getting inclined to overseas universities for their higher studies even during the pandemic times. How would PU address this situation?
We need a detailed list of human resources required by Nepal Government or National Planning Commission for various sectors, and if we get the list we can become instrumental to support both the government and students to fit into the required demand and jobs. Next, there was an issue of D+ at the university and most of the colleges were in the shortage of students. After my advent, I addressed the problems; as a result, PU campuses are getting required number of students. Third, we are planning to conduct programs on Teachers’ Career Development and research activities which will certainly increase effectiveness in teaching and learning resulting in drawing attention of career hopefuls. Similarly, we are extending PU colleges to various regions and adding some more technical and new courses to attract students to be part of Pokhara University.
There are 58 affiliated, 4 constituent and 4 joint constituent campuses of Pokhara University now. In order to strengthen all these 66 colleges, you must have prepared the strategic plan. Could you please tell us more about it?
The first thing is that we are renewing the pre-existing affiliation. Second, we are doing collaborative work on research among the colleges. Third, the monitoring and inspection/evaluation of the affiliated colleges will be undertaken effectively. Next, we are revising and updating the university curricula to make them contextual to the world-class education system. We are running short-term training sessions to the teaching and non-teaching employees of the university.
It is said that Pokhara University is intending to establish a teaching hospital. How are you thinking of running a separate teaching hospital?
If we did not have a teaching hospital, the courses of medical sciences would come to halt. So, we have already embarked on building a hundred-bedded hospital, and within the next six months, we will be running a teaching hospital.
You are planning to introduce new courses too. What are those courses?
We are going to introduce sanitary engineering, entrepreneurship development and practical and market-oriented courses and many more. Similarly, we are introducing some new courses in education and law disciplines.
The more exposure students make, the more practical and broader minded they become. What should the university education be like?
The university education must focus on research and innovations, not merely on providing knowledge of living a life.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, our teaching and learning activities solely relied on virtual endeavors. Now almost all institutions resumed their education in the physical presence of students. There are certain positive aspects of online teaching although its adverse effects outweigh them. In the post pandemic circumstances, can we conduct both the models of teaching (online and physical) simultaneously?
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, some years ago, when I was part of Open Learning, we used to practice online system as distance learning. We ran the one-year B.Ed. very effectively. However, only few people were introduced to online system before. Later, during and after the pandemic, most of the students and teachers learnt it. So, we should not eschew it. We must blend both the modes of teaching and learning activities. The positive aspects of Covid-19 must be accommodated in our teaching and learning activities. We can mobilize the resources for online teaching.
Finally, what message would you impart to readers of College Readers magazine, PU affiliated colleges and well-wishers?
Pokhara University is committed to imparting practical based and entrepreneurship-oriented education. I would like to request the readers/viewers to support and promote our collaboration and trust the university. We must move ahead for quality enhancement and betterment of the university. At the same time, I would draw attention of the government to allocate sufficient budget to the universities and academic sector. Education sector has three responsibilities i.e., teaching and learning, research and innovation, and community service. We are committed to achieving all these goals and request all the stakeholders to help us crystallize the goal of the university.