Pokhara University’s Strategic Vision: Prioritizing National Expansion and Education Accessibility

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Over the last 12 years, Pokhara University has intentionally refrained from adding new colleges, concentrating instead on national expansion. With a strong focus on enhancing accessibility to education, particularly in the eastern region, the university is dedicated to continual enhancement. It consistently updates its courses, incorporates practical training, and maintains a well-rounded approach to address concerns regarding affiliation fees. While acknowledging the allure of foreign education, the university underscores the significance of obtaining a quality education locally. It takes pride in its effective scheduling and prompt course completion, actively combating disinterest by revising and introducing new courses. The administration, under the guidance of the current registrar, is improving infrastructure, providing scholarships, and working towards established objectives. Encouraging student visits, the university emphasizes the importance of attaining a bachelor's degree locally before pursuing international exposure, highlighting the cultivation of maturity and practical skills through local education. Registrar Prof. Dr. Dipak Bahadur Bhandari has discussed Pokhara University's recent endeavors in a brief interview with College Readers. Excerpts:

Could you kindly elaborate on the affiliation programs being conducted by Pokhara University?

Over the past 12 years, Pokhara University has refrained from affiliating with any colleges. Universities must evolve and expand over time, necessitating an increase in size and student enrollment. Our goal is to elevate the popularity of Pokhara University across Nepal, enabling students to access its curriculum nationwide. To achieve this, we are actively seeking new affiliations in regions where we currently lack affiliated colleges. While we have established affiliations in the western part of Nepal, our focus now lies on establishing colleges in the eastern region. Additionally, we aim to establish colleges throughout Nepal, particularly in areas with limited educational institutions, allowing students to pursue Pokhara University’s courses across the country. We are also diversifying the programs offered at existing affiliated colleges to adapt to market demands and student interests.

There have been assertions that the substantial non-refundable fees charged during the affiliation process primarily benefit the university. How do you respond to this claim?

Our intention is to receive applications only from colleges genuinely committed to partnering with Pokhara University. Lower fees tend to attract a large number of colleges seeking affiliation, which can be challenging to manage. To streamline this process and cover our expenses, we have set the fees slightly higher. We incur significant costs and require stringent monitoring of affiliated colleges.

These days, students are increasingly opting to study in foreign universities or colleges affiliated with foreign universities, leading to a decline in the enrollment at other universities. However, Pokhara University continues its affiliation process. What is the reason behind this?

We have established these affiliations to dissuade students from seeking education abroad. Our university lacks affiliations in areas such as Morang, Jhapa, and Hetauda, depriving students from these regions of the opportunity to pursue their desired subjects locally. Consequently, when these students have to choose between traveling within the country or going abroad, they often opt for the latter to ensure timely completion of their degrees without disruptions like protests and lockdowns. Our aim is to offer education to all students in their own communities, eliminating the need for extensive travel to pursue higher education. Pokhara University is known for its punctuality; we adhere to strict timelines for course completion, examinations, and result announcements. We are a semester ahead of Tribhuvan University, providing bachelor’s degrees in 4 years and master’s degrees in 2 years, including research components.

Despite our endeavors, students show limited interest in studying at Nepali universities. One possible reason could be the burden of outdated and overloaded courses; how is it crucial to reassess the relevance of these traditional curricula?

In the present scenario, many students opt to migrate to foreign countries for education due to various factors. One significant issue is the lack of a conducive academic environment resulting from inadequate government policies. While our primary focus is on imparting quality education, we are committed to upholding the standards of our institutions comparable to those in foreign nations. To align with market demands, we continuously introduce new courses such as IT and BSc.CSIT, collaborating with academic and industry experts to update our curriculum offerings.

What are the roles of universities in Nepal to reduce student migration?

Universities must communicate that they offer quality education in desired fields, eliminating the need for students to go abroad. This way, they can earn their degrees while staying at home. Many students end up in fake foreign colleges due to financial constraints preventing them from accessing top-tier universities. Juggling work and tuition fees abroad leaves students with little time for actual studies. Lack of awareness about the challenges in foreign countries leads students to blindly follow others. Attending a reputable university cultivates skilled individuals, but success isn’t guaranteed by residing in expensive cities. Scholarships at top Nepali universities should be the first choice before considering studying abroad. Institutions like Pokhara University in Nepal can rival top foreign universities, as Nepali certificates hold value globally. Pursuing international exposure should come after completing a bachelor’s degree. Without adequate skills, +2 graduates struggle abroad, often relegated to menial labor. I urge parents and students to reconsider migration plans, as it may only bring hardship and dim prospects.

The primary reason for this trend is unemployment. Can we engage with industries, factories, and companies to offer students opportunities for both learning and earning?

Indeed, today is the era of combining learning with earning. Universities must introduce flexibility in terms of timing and courses. Devoting six full days to physical classes is no longer productive. We should prioritize students’ interests and enable them to earn.

Since taking on the role of registrar here, have you accomplished the goals you set out to achieve?

My initial interview with you also took place here. At that time, I highlighted the inadequate infrastructure at Pokhara University as a significant drawback. Presently, we boast excellent infrastructure facilities. Previously, we relied on external hospitals for medical and paramedical studies, but now we have our own hospital. In the two and a half years since I joined, we have established our own hospital. The tasks I envisioned are in progress, albeit not without challenges. Decision-making requires a collective effort. However, the commitments I made will come to fruition.

How efficient are the current scholarship programs?

While the quantity of scholarships remains constant, the application process has significantly improved since my tenure began. Previously, students from remote areas like Kalikot had to physically visit the university multiple times, but now all procedures can be completed online. Students only need to visit once to sit for exams. Pokhara University offers the highest scholarship amounts to students compared to other universities. Our constituent colleges provide a 20% scholarship, while affiliated colleges offer a 10% scholarship. The scholarship process is finalized before admission.

There are more colleges and students in the Kathmandu valley, especially in the field of engineering. Therefore, there is a need for at least one scholarship center in Kathmandu. How do you view this point?

I have attempted to establish various centers and policies, but due to certain circumstances, it has not been feasible. Our teachers and management members also believe that students studying on scholarships should visit Pokhara University’s premises at least once. This way, students can gain a better understanding of the university where they intend to study. While we have not made it compulsory for students to visit, they should at least sit for one exam at the university.

What suggestions would you offer to students for higher education after plus-two graduation?

Today, you do not need to travel elsewhere to receive quality education. Your desired subjects and educational opportunities are now available in Nepal. Travelling to new places with limited resources at the age of 18 or 20 may not be beneficial. It is advisable to complete a bachelor’s degree in Nepal first; this way, you will gain a better understanding of the world, mature, and then consider seeking international exposure. I urge students not to go abroad, and parents not to allow it, before completing their undergraduate studies. In Nepal, our children are not taught basic life skills, nor are they accustomed to hard work. They may lack skills like cooking and doing laundry, which are essential in a foreign environment. Therefore, I encourage all students to study in Nepal and earn a degree for a brighter future.

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