Prof. Dr. Tirth Raj Khaniya is a Vice Chancellor of Tribhuvan University who formerly served as Vice Chairman at Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) and is a former member of National Planning Commission, Nepal. Colleges Nepal talks with him about the current scenario of higher education and future plans of TU.
What are you doing to improve the quality of higher education?
Tribhuvan University (TU) has about 4 hundred thousand students in its 60 constituent and 1084 affiliated colleges making it one of the world's biggest Universities in terms of number of students. But then considering the quality, our university is ranked very low in the world rank of universities. Thus, my current priority is to improve the quality of TU's education in particular and the system of Nepalese higher education system in general so that our graduates become skilled enough to compete in the global market.
When it comes to updating programs and providing market-oriented education, TU fall far behind. Why?
TU is Nepal's largest University carrying big significance. Thus, it has to consider various factors before taking any decision which naturally delays the work. Change in such a large university is naturally slow and difficult. Moreover, we have to look after TU affiliated colleges of 74 districts as well. Comparatively, yes, we lack behind in terms of investment in education, modernizing education, introducing new technology, our economy, social structure, qualification and training of teachers and technology from rest of the world but we have improved our higher education a lot. Our products are welcomed and have demonstrated good performances everywhere.
Students are going abroad to study programs like IT, Nursing, MBBS, etc. Is it because TU isn’t being able to provide adequate affiliation or is there any other reason?
If shown serious commitment, Nepal can be an educational hub which can be a major source of income. Temperate climate, peace environment, good infrastructure, convenient transportation, beautiful scenes all over the country, smiling people, Nepal has got everything that can attract international students and despite this, our own students are going abroad which is really sad. However, we are working on pulling our students back to our own country by introducing the credit transfer system. Students studying in abroad Universities are not being able to further their education after certain time due to several reasons. Those with incomplete study abroad can join the college in Nepal and complete the degree after earning rest of the credit here. However, before admission, their credit will be evaluated. In addition to this, we are planning to collaborate with foreign institutes to open medical institute in Nepal and increase the student quota in colleges. It is our proposal that our colleges should be prepared to enroll more students like Institute of Medicine, Maharajgunj Campus should be prepared to accommodate about 100 students in MBBS.
Why do you think the attraction of Arts stream is decreasing among students?
Few years ago, social science was very popular among students but in recent years, students are showing more interest in management. Management knowledge is quite useful for everyone so it’s natural for the students to be attracted towards it. However, we are also not being able to present social science in a new way and update the program as per student’s interest.
Annual system seems to be a strong reason behind the extreme politics in TU. Will that be lessened after semester system is adopted?
Previously, there was semester system but in 2036 we adopted annual system again as it was believed to be more effective. It’s strange! the annual system that has already been eradicated by almost all the countries in the world became popular in Nepal. It’s because in Nepal, higher education is just about getting admission and taking examination. Even pass-fail does not matter. The pass rate of annual system of TU is very low, probably around 20 to 25%. It affected the efficiency and effectiveness due to which semester system has been re-introduced at master level.
Youths play a major role in the development of a country. Thus, their involvement in politics is of great significance but then practicing it in a right way is equally important. Keeping this in mind, we have introduced a new rule. Student willing to be part of the free student union should be under twenty-eight or equivalent. It is believed that this provision will lessen hassles of the Campus Chief and make students realize that completing study on time and preparing for world of work is most important for them rather than hanging around.
When will TU students be free from the hassle of waiting too long for both form and results?
We generally publish result within five months if we don’t face any external hurdles so I don’t think students have to wait long. We work jointly with various departments to administer exams and publish results on time. Well, after the implementation of the semester system, publishing results will be even faster.
Technology has taken over the world, when will TU digitize?
We have already started the system of filling form online in five colleges as an experiment. Soon students will be able to check as well as print their marks by themselves using internet. ICT center has been opened and experts are being hired. In order to collect required equipments, we have already gone for bidding.
It is said that the students studying in TU never get better marks. What do you have to say about it?
There are two types of marking system: conservative and liberal marking. Generally in semester system, there is liberal marking and in annual system there is conservative marking. We ran annual program for long and conservative marking system was adopted. But now we have moved to semester system in which evaluation is done after monitoring closely. University does not suggest anything to teacher on the marking system but teachers themselves get liberal in the semester system.
What are the future plans of TU?
We are planning to digitize the classes. Thus, we have started recruiting competent teachers excelling in technical field. We have introduced semester based master program in Kathmandu Valley and soon we will expand this throughout Nepal. Within two years, we will introduce semester based bachelor programs too. We are planning to revisit the whole academic packages and make them go along with the international trends both in terms of content and delivery. We have started collaborating with international institutions of higher education for joint research and publications. Our efforts will certainly enhance TU to step up in the world ranking.