A political environment acclaimed courses and collaborative mindset can ensure academic success 

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Prof. Dr. Dipendra Bhandari has been rendering his services to the Pokhara University for fourteen years and currently in the capacity of the Registrar for two years. Dr. Bhandari opines for freedom with responsibilities in workplace. He has seen the political allotment, conflict of interests and the political intervention in the University which have really messed up the university from long hindering the expected pace.  After his advent as the Registrar, he focused on the infrastructure development and capacity building; as a result, huge projects to construct class room buildings, hospital and other administrative building are underway at Musetuda of Pokhara. They have planned to build a 400-bedded hospital and run medical programs in full fledge within 4 years. Registrar Dr. Bhandari along with the entire team, is all set to grant new programs and affiliation to the colleges meeting strict criteria they have framed. College Readers got an opportunity to interact about the current development and future plans about the university. Some excerpts:

You began your career in PoU as an assistant Professor 14 years ago and bore various responsibilities as the assistant Dean, Acting Registrar and now the Registrar. You have closely observed the ups and downs of the University. How would you assess the development of the university in a bird’s eye view?

In the 14 years’ time, the development, growth and prosperity has not been achieved as expected in the University. We lagged behind in both the capacity development and infrastructure development. I have seen many universities that developed their system, infrastructures and capacity in mere 10 years while studying and visiting abroad. However, after 25 years too we are running with limited capacity and infrastructures. There may be various reasons for it; and if I am to figure out them it could be the politicking and appointing the University officials not on the merit and performance bases rather than political favors and inclination. The political allotment, conflict of interests and the political intervention have really messed up the university from long hindering the expected pace. But we can bring the things into track and speed up the pace of the university. For this, a genuine cooperation from the government, the local community and all the concerned stakeholders is a must. The fewer the universities function autonomously and independently, the less healthy teaching and learning prevails. Ultimately, we cannot produce the human resources required for the national development and destabilize the country.

You have visited many universities abroad during the 14 years’ service and Pokhara University has been doing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some of them. What bases did you observe from your study and visit for the well-functioning of a university?

There must be a free and independent working atmosphere for the university responsibility bearers and the officials. There should not be any intervention for university officials to achieve the vision with the accepted strategic plan. The more university officials work hard, the higher growth university embraces. But we are accursed to work under the political and other types of pressures and turn defunct; however, capable and enthusiast we are. You know, VC and Registrar’s offices have been shut from long ago and we are now working form outside the official chambers. When your offices are padlocked, which morality and esteem allow you to function smoothly? How confident you become to instruct assignments to your fellow personnel? I have not observed any VC, Registrar or other officials working independently and freely in my fourteen years’ service to the university. Government should formulate a strict ACT to prohibit padlocking and various interventions to the university for healthy and smooth teaching learning environment, quality delivery and for overall growth.

It’s been two years you have been chaired as the Registrar, you may have short term and long term plans to uplift the total quality of the university. How should the entire University team help you to implement those plans and achieve the goals?

After I got appointed as the Registrar I had made a concrete plan to be achieved within the 4 years’ time. As I have witnessed the lack of infrastructure in the university i.e. insufficient classrooms, office cabins etc., we prioritized infrastructure development. We need the required infrastructures for running the Medical program, too. As a result, a huge project to construct class room buildings, hospital and other administrative building is underway at Musetuda of Pokhara. We have planned to build a 400-bedded hospital and run the medical programs in full fledge within 4 years. Then, there won’t be lack of physical infrastructures in Pokhara University.

Has the construction of a 100 bedded hospital accomplished and started the service?

Yes, it has.

What are your plans to strengthen the total 66 colleges— constituent and affiliated— of Pokhara University? 

We are here for monitoring, supervision and direction. To maintain these aspects, we are committed for timely examinations, timely course development and proper supervising of the colleges. We are increasing the number of constituent colleges to ease the monitoring and supervision activities as the university will have its contact offices in the constituent colleges to conveniently interact with the affiliated colleges of certain cluster. We are immediately establishing a constituent college in Kathmandu and through it we can coordinate, monitor, supervise and direct the 34 colleges of the vicinity. 

How committed are you for quality enhancement of the affiliated college through your existing mechanism of monitoring, supervision and direction?

We have developed a system for it. We have monitored and studied the present status of all the affiliated colleges. Some of the colleges have not been renewed even after the 23 years of establishment. A procedure has been in action for renewal of all the affiliated colleges. After renewal, we instruct them for the needful improvement for quality enhancement.

To strengthen the status quo of existing colleges, the University was supposed to provide promising additional subjects within the gone year, but it has not been provided yet. When will the colleges get new market oriented subjects?

It’s obvious that timely updating and revision of the course curriculum strengthen the university itself. We are committed for what we have promised. For that we have been studying the need of the market regarding the human resources and designing the course curriculum accordingly. We are cancelling the subjects and programs phased out from the market and adding those which are highly demanded in the market. We are almost at the conclusive phase of it. 

What’s about granting new affiliations?

It’s also been decided since it has been more than 10 years that new affiliation has not been issued. The small settlements and towns have been expanded into big cities within a short period of time and demographic composition has also got changed. So, Pokhara University colleges/ courses are demanded in these new areas. For example: Baglung, Lamjung, Syangja are such areas that got drastic urban population and need the human capital. We studied those areas where the University should grant new affiliation and we are convinced.

Do you provide affiliation only to the Gandaki province colleges or others, too?

We should not stick to the Gandaki province only because we are not regional university. The criteria meeting colleges throughout the country are eligible for application and very soon we go for the execution.

The University is revising and introducing new programs and courses for Bachelor’s and Master’s; however, most of the 10+2 graduates are driven by study abroad motive whose number is increasing day by day. How can these students be halted in Nepal? Does the market oriented courses or quality education stop the flow? What can be the role of the university, colleges and the government to fix such an alarming situation?

You rightly pinned on the issue. The number of students flocking to foreign swathes is ever increasing day by day, and for it we, all the stakeholders, are equally responsible and should seek the solution. We should prepare such courses so that our students can easily sell their skills in the international market after graduation. If we ensure and deliver unquestioned and high quality education to flourish the future career of the youths, they will study in Nepal and later enter the global market as the skilled human capital. But university alone cannot stop this loss. Government has the pivotal role; governments supporting environment and adequate budgeting are must. The society must be convinced on the government and the University’s moves as the triangular cooperation takes us to achieve the result. If we do not stop the brain-drain in time, our development activities get paralyzed and we turn into a human capital bankrupt country.

As you mentioned universities should formulate adequate courses to produce the quality human resources competently fit in the international markets. How far has Pokhara University taken a move for that?

We are always effortful for designing an array of market oriented, highly sellable and quality courses. Recently, we have revised the courses and added new programs to our curriculum focusing on the youth’s interests and market trends. We are working for being a center for academic excellence. Our PhD program is unique in Nepal. In addition, we have developed new courses in Management, IT and Engineering programs and are working for providing students the cutting edge technical skills. We aim our students to finish their bachelor’s courses in Nepal and recommend that they go abroad only if they need further studies and expertise. We try to minimize the abroad going trends by granting affiliation to the colleges with state-of-the-art facilities and rich infrastructures.

A complaint is often heard about Pokhara University that due to lack of branding by the University some of its market oriented programs are in the shadow and the college owners show their distress as well.

We have prepared the strategic planning to brand our 

programs and courses. There are many aspects and courses that prove they are genuine and sellable but we might not brand them as expected and disseminate the information. For example, our MBA course graduates are hundred percent placed and other programs are equally qualitative. Health Sciences, Engineering are also competitive courses we have been offering. Yes, in some aspects we lack the proper branding and marketing, we improve it.

You claimed that PoU MBA graduates are hundred percent placed in global market. Overall, how is the achievement of the Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD scholars of Pokhara University?

Our pass outs have been leading the top-most financial, marketing, administrative, engineering and social organizations of Nepal and many MBAs have been successfully leading even in the international arena.

Finally, what would you say to the constituent and affiliated colleges of Pokhara University?

Affiliate colleges, constituent colleges and University – we are a single family. Same courses are taught in both types of colleges; the difference is the financial status only. We don’t bear the financial burden of affiliate colleges, that’s the difference. University plays the role of guardianship to the both. We equally strengthen both affiliate and constituent colleges. We figure out strengths of the colleges and encourage them for their flourishing. We have the strategy to move hand in hand.

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