Kathmandu, June 15

As many as 12 former vice-chancellors of Nepal's universities have written to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and education minister asking them to maintain the dignity of Medical Education Commission's vice-chairman's post and autonomy of universities.

The former VCs' letter comes a few days after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister for Education, Science, and Technology Krishna Gopal Shrestha asked the Medical Education Commission to grant affiliation to the controversial Jhapa-based B&C Medical College without following the protocol. The commission's board is led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, while Shrestha is its co-chair.

The letter states that the MEC has been pressured to grant affiliation to B&C Medical College which doesn't meet MEC criteria.

On May 14, Kathmandu University had recommended the MEC to grant affiliation to the medical college.

Officials of the Medical Education Commission, on the other hand, say that B&C cannot be provided affiliation since it has not renewed its letter of intent approved five years ago.

Former vice-chancellors have expressed concern about threats issued to Shrikishna Giri, vice-chairperson of the MEC.

They added that they would hold the government responsible if any harm was done to Giri.

They have also accused the government of interfering in the functioning of autonomous universities.

Speaking at a meeting of the MEC on June 11, Oli had said that Nepal would soon become a medical education hub and it was not right to obstruct the process of granting affiliation to medical colleges, such as B&C, that have completed the regulatory process.

Health Minister Shrestha, meanwhile, has directed the MEC to submit a file to the PM regarding the decision to grant affiliation to B&C Medical College and Teaching Hospital.

Orthopaedic surgeon and medical reformist Govinda KC has been protesting against granting affiliation to more medical colleges like B&C.

He has been urging the government to open more universities and make the MEC more powerful to maintain the quality of medical education in the country.

Although the government formed the MEC, meeting one of KC's key demands, MEC has been under political pressure to carry out the government's agenda. The owner of B&C College, Durga Prasai, who is said to have close ties with Oli and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has been lobbying to secure university affiliation for the college.

Today's letter was signed by Maheshkumar Upadhaye, Kedar Bhakta Mathema, Suresh Raj Sharma, Kamal Krishna Joshi, Nabin Prakash Jung Shah, Toran Bahadur Karki, Kailash Nath Pyakurel, Khagendra Bhattarai, Maheshworman Shrestha, Hira Bahadur Maharjan, Jayraj Awasti and Naresh Man Bajracharya.

Oli and Shrestha's pressure tactics have drawn flak from members of civil society. A few days ago, more than 20 rights activists were arrested from outside the PM's residence at Baluwatar.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.