Science and technology course equips graduates with innovative, reflective and creative ideas for success

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Associate Professor Rajesh Kumar Thagurathi is the Dean of Faculty of Science and Technology of Pokhara University. The University has been offering engineering programs since its establishment. A total of 13 master’s and 11 bachelor’s programs are running under this faculty. The University is at the forefront in terms of curriculum syllabuses and evaluation system which has been successful in preparing versatile and innovative college graduates. Excerpts:

Could you give a brief account of the Faculty of Science and Technology of Pokhara University?

The Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) has been offering undergraduate and graduate level programs in engineering and non-engineering disciplines since its inception in 1999. Currently, it offers 11 undergraduate programs and 14 graduate programs through one constituent, one joint constituent and 18 affiliated colleges. The FST has launched MSc Sanitary Engineering program from this year. Moreover, the FST is in the process of revising the curriculum of undergraduate level engineering programs. The FST is planning to launch PhD in engineering in near future. 

In your estimation, how many students are enrolling in this faculty in total including both constituent and affiliated colleges? What is the social audit from those students received?

Nearly 15,000 students are studying under the Faculty of Science and Technology. Students seem to be highly motivated in engineering education. Engineering students are sensible, too. They aspire to be leaders or managers in their workplace, which depends on their performance. There are few concerns raised by the students regarding crash courses related to engineering. Students ask for ‘soft skills’ development and our continuous effort is to provide these facilities to our students with an international perspective. The graduates from Pokhara University are becoming the harbingers of innovation and transformations. 

Could you give a brief account of the Faculty of Science and Technology of Pokhara University?

The Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) has been offering undergraduate and graduate level programs in engineering and non-engineering disciplines since its inception in 1999. Currently, it offers 11 undergraduate programs and 14 graduate programs through one constituent, one joint constituent and 18 affiliated colleges. The FST has launched MSc Sanitary Engineering program from this year. Moreover, the FST is in the process of revising the curriculum of undergraduate level engineering programs. The FST is planning to launch PhD in engineering in near future. 

In your estimation, how many students are enrolling in this faculty in total including both constituent and affiliated colleges? What is the social audit from those students received?

Nearly 15,000 students are studying under the Faculty of Science and Technology. Students seem to be highly motivated in engineering education. Engineering students are sensible, too. They aspire to be leaders or managers in their workplace, which depends on their performance. There are few concerns raised by the students regarding crash courses related to engineering. Students ask for ‘soft skills’ development and our continuous effort is to provide these facilities to our students with an international perspective. The graduates from Pokhara University are becoming the harbingers of innovation and transformations. 

Research in engineering is the crux, but it has not been given so much priority in our context. What research activities have you planned to make the subjects more applicable?

We practice research because we believe in its effective outcomes. The research helps students to internalize thinking process, innovate, design and implement their endeavors systematically. In the context of Pokhara University, we admit that the bachelor level engineering programs are not sufficiently research-oriented; however, the curriculum, practicum and teaching methods prescribed in the programs are research-driven. The research actions are being focused in master’s level programs. We support a vibrant culture of inquiry and initiative, building leadership and research capacity in scholarship and professional practice in different fields of engineering ranging from environment management, computer, electronics, and hydropower to disaster management and many more in a collaborative practice.  

We have conducted some of the crash courses on sustainable construction management, green economy, operational performance management etc. The students pursuing engineering at Pokhara University are found very much concerned about the market and industry linkages, knowledge of contemporary issues and effective communication skills.

Engineering is a global profession. The research activities should support students to be capable of producing high quality and cost-effective products in multi-national market. In this juncture, our focus will be on the research on technology, communication, infrastructure, culture, and market economy. We are attempting to change the conventional teaching & learning practices into research-based system. Currently, faculty of Science and Technology is undergoing revision in the curriculum of engineering programs of some disciplines with a focus on adopting innovative research-oriented teaching & learning process.    

Unlike IOE and Purbanchal University, why has Pokhara University not been found conducting the central entrance examination system?

Pokhara University believes in transparency and quality in selection of engineering schools for its program. To maintain the uniformity in selection and to make it transparent, we are working on quality control, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. However, Pokhara University is planning to launch the concept of central entrance examination. We are working on it, and I hope the central entrance examination system will start soon. It may take some time but it will be done.

Most of the MBA colleges could not get sufficient numbers of students from the centralized entrance examination. The engineering colleges too have fear of similar fate. What have you planned to earn the credibility of Pokhara University so that colleges will get sufficient students?

It is true that some of the colleges are not getting sufficient students for certain programs. There are reasons behind it, some of which could be from our side. We have realized our weaknesses and are working to reform our existing mindset. As a result, there are indicators of improvement in our engineering programs. However, there are some national problems too, such as political upheavals, disturbance in academic year cycle, and so on. I hope these problems will be resolved within a few years making Pokhara University an academic hub for engineering courses. 

In addition, we are intending to launch mechanical engineering program in the upcoming academic year. The process of central entrance is undergoing and obvious changes will be seen within a couple of years. We are planning to conduct the graduate tracing so as to develop the student’s ownership and credibility to the institution and programs. 

Why hasn’t Pokhara University got sufficient students to apply for a scholarship test and recommend them to colleges?

The scholarship program in Pokhara University acknowledges the students from government schools. Here, we need to know that the University welcomes the deserving students. Again, we ought to admit that our scholarship scheme is not able to reach out to all the deserving students which seems that the University is not able to pledge the total allocated seats to the targeted groups. Meritorious students are applying for scholarships and we recommend that they choose a college based on their priority. Besides, as per the requirement of the government, our university needs to focus the provision of scholarships on needy segments rather than merit or competitive bases. This has led to decreasing attraction towards our scholarship. 

As the Dean you have already completed one academic session, what remarkable achievement do you want to count?

Though a year cycle is not a long time in the academic institution, in the former academic session, our office under my leadership carried out some significant tasks which are as follows: 

a)     Quality enhancement of engineering education 

b)     MoU signed with PU and National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) in which joint research is going on involving both faculty and students in a knowledge sharing platform  

c)     Introduced new programs: Master of Science in Bioinformatics and Master of Science Sanitary Engineering 

d)     Crash-course and training on green economy accomplished 

e)     Course development for undergraduate and graduate programs 

Which programs of engineering are highly demanded and employable in the global economy?

Engineering is a major profession as it plays a vital role in the development and growth of a country’s economy. Every program and discipline has its equal importance in the society. The demanded and employable engineering courses differ from country to country. For example, developed countries focus more on interdisciplinary engineering courses and programs whereas countries like Nepal demands more on programs like civil, electrical and ICTs. The scope of the programs related to AI, Machine Learning, Robotics; and Hybrid Mechanical Engineering is growing significantly. 

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