Pokhara University’s phenomenal accomplishments predominate Nepal’s educational milieu

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Prof. Dr. Prem Narayan Aryal, Vice-Chancellor of Pokhara University, highlights achievements such as introducing the PhD program and updating the engineering curriculum. The university’s focus on infrastructure, including dedicated buildings for different disciplines and plans for a hospital, reflects its commitment to expansion. Prof. Aryal stresses the importance of community involvement in establishing colleges and prioritizes regions with fewer educational institutions during the affiliation process. To address student migration issues, the university emphasizes curriculum enhancements, internships, and programs that combine learning with earning opportunities. He raises concerns about political interference in university decisions and calls for a unified representation system to counter brain drain by promoting policies that support education and employment. Ongoing initiatives like internships, new programs, and faculty exchanges aim to retain talent. The admission process includes scholarships, with potential adjustments based on academic performance. Prof. Aryal advises students to complete their bachelor’s degrees in Nepal before considering studying abroad, highlighting continuous efforts to enhance the education system. During a brief interview with College Readers, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr. Prem Narayan Aryal discussed his university achievements. Excerpts:

What accomplishments has Pokhara University achieved under your leadership?

I initiated the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program at Pokhara University. Subsequently, we revamped our engineering curriculum, incorporating numerous structures for its enhancement. New courses such as BALLB and a postgraduate diploma in pedagogical science focusing on teacher education were introduced. Previously, due to limited infrastructure, classes were held in shifts. Presently, we have dedicated buildings for engineering and have secured a rental space for the health and science departments. Plans are underway for constructing a new building to eliminate the need for rented facilities. After years of effort, a hospital has been established, and a playground is also in development. Collaborating with various affiliated colleges, we are constructing a 5-story building for an international research center and guest house. Notably, our approach to conducting exams during the pandemic has been adopted by other universities. We have successfully conducted online exams and interviews to ensure fairness, and maintain timely publication of results. Staff members have received training in service skills.

In the case of affiliations with colleges, we often hear about numerous protests and shutdowns that negatively impact universities. Could you please explain the affiliation process of Pokhara University?

In 2073, funds were raised from multiple colleges to introduce new courses at the university. An attempt to affiliate approximately 380 colleges failed, leading to a refund of the funds. To prevent students from seeking education overseas, it is crucial to offer sought-after courses, eliminate outdated ones, and enhance the appeal of our colleges. Many students pursuing health science degrees currently study in India. To retain students, we must ensure top-notch education, well-equipped labs, and consistent classes. Our university operates on a model of community involvement, where colleges are established with contributions from students, and the university manages staffing needs. Since not all teachers receive government benefits, it’s essential to implement new initiatives to retain students in Nepal. Updating teaching methods and curricula, adding new courses, and assessing factors like student numbers and potential benefits are key considerations. Priority is given to establishing new colleges in areas with fewer existing institutions. This approach has streamlined the affiliation process.

Many colleges face the risk of closure as students migrate abroad, yet universities prioritize affiliation. Why?

Firstly, we must update our curriculum and courses. Secondly, our programs should emphasize both learning and earning, making internships valuable. We offer various courses to enhance teaching quality, collaborating with schools to send students as teachers for 3 months.

Students prefer foreign courses over those offered in Nepal due to feeling burdened by studying Nepali courses. Why can’t we make changes to this situation?

We have already initiated some changes. Initially, we introduced an internship program in engineering. Unlike foreign universities, we have a system of determining and fixing seats that students dislike. Additionally, students find it more comfortable to study in a location where they desire to reside. It would be beneficial to arrange different programs once or twice a week, allowing students the chance to learn and earn by working in institutes relevant to their fields of study. This would encourage the trend of learning while earning.

Despite being autonomous entities, universities cannot function independently, why?

Students have begun focusing on administrative discussions rather than on the labs and libraries. This political involvement in institutions leads to greater influence over crucial decisions. The government establishes a senate to maintain impartiality in educational establishments, with the university head responsible for its approval. However, progress is hindered due to political interference. Students and faculty should speak up and report any unlawful actions like corruption and moral misconduct, but instead, they are simply exerting pressure and attempting to manipulate the system. This benefits neither the public nor the universities.

There is political influence on universities, publicly. Is this hindering the progress of universities?

Indeed. Students are neglecting their studies, unaware of pass and fail rates, yet quick to grant affiliations. They fail to engage with stakeholders, disregard rules, and simply protest. Political associations in universities are unnecessary; a single unit with representatives from each group would suffice.

What steps should the government and universities take to prevent brain drain and incentivize students to pursue bachelor’s degrees in Nepal?

Students often struggle to see the value in their studies, yet opportunities abound post-education. A nation’s progress hinges on retaining talent, and inspiring individuals to remain and innovate locally. Many students leave due to a lack of perceived prospects in Nepal. To counter this trend, policies must instill confidence in students that they can thrive domestically. Unlike abroad, Nepal lacks the option for students to work part-time to cover tuition costs. Hence, fostering a culture that combines earning with learning is crucial. Students should access part-time roles aligned with their field of study—engineers in industries, and accountants in banks. Education ought to transcend classroom boundaries, integrating real-world applications. Government investment in student projects, interest-free loans to kickstart ventures, and the creation of conducive learning and earning environments are paramount.

Pokhara University’s funding primarily stems from student contributions. What initiatives are in place to boost student enrollment?

Mandatory internships and the introduction of new programs are key strategies. For instance, a Post Graduate Diploma in pedagogical science not only emphasizes teaching but also incorporates a 3-month job placement to enhance practical skills and employability. Initiatives such as faculty exchange programs and the proposal for joint degrees combining Nepalese and foreign qualifications are also underway.

Any guidance for students contemplating further academic pursuits?

Striving for educational enhancement is our priority. Access to quality education from home eliminates the need to seek education elsewhere. While students historically pursued bachelor’s degrees abroad, the trend now shifts to post-secondary education. This shift underscores the imperative to enhance schooling standards. Ideally, students should complete their bachelor’s studies within Nepal. Should seat availability or desired subject options pose challenges, the international study can be considered. Encouraging policies, job prospects, and collaborative efforts are essential to attract and retain students. Pokhara University extends a warm invitation to all aspiring scholars.

Thank you for sharing your insights and accomplishments with us, Prof. Aryal.

My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss Pokhara University’s progress and initiatives. We remain committed to providing excellence in education and contributing to the development of our students and society as a whole.

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