Tribhuvan University has decided to launch a four-year bachelor’s course in humanities from the next academic session that begins in September-October. It has also decided to introduce Nepal Studies in the four-year course. In relation to the changes being effected in the course structure and other issues Sabitri Dhakal of The Himalayan Times caught up with the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Shiva Lal Bhusal to understand the implications of the ongoing changes. Excerpts:
Why has TU decided to run a four-year bachelor’s programme?
The decision to introduce the four-year bachelor’s course was taken by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Education Council on August 11. Other faculties of the university have already introduced four-year bachelor’s courses. The introduction of a four-year course in humanities has ended dissimilarity of course duration at the bachelor’s level.
Employers are also recruiting students who have completed the four-year degree. Students of humanities were at a disadvantage because of the shorter duration of the course. This will also make TU courses on par with international courses. Earlier, students had to study additional one year when going abroad for studies. The new course will end such problems. The courses of bachelor’s level were quite old and needed to be revised.
What’s there in the course?
The four-year course will be of 2,000 marks (500 marks each year) and students can choose two subjects of 700 marks each as their majors and two subjects of 100 marks each as elective subjects. Students will become familiar with at least eight subjects in the four-year programme. They will get specific knowledge of two subjects and general knowledge of six subjects. The course will be inter-disciplinary. Students can study sociology, psychology, economics and other subjects within the same stream. If a student has English as major subject s/he can choose economics as her/his minor. Students will have a wide range of knowledge of a variety of courses.
There will be three compulsory subjects — English, Nepali and Nepal Studies. English will be of 200 marks, Nepali 100 marks and Nepal Studies 100 marks. English has been made compulsory in the first and third year, while Nepali will be compulsory in the second year.
Students will be evaluated on the basis of written examinations of 70 marks, while 30 marks will be for internal assessment, including mini-project, classroom presentation and teamwork for each subject. Students will be evaluated for 20 marks for their team work and for 10 marks for their individual presentation.
Nepal Studies has been introduced for the first time at the bachelor’s level. Why?
The university introduced Nepal Studies for the first time at the bachelor’s level as a compulsory subject to help students learn about Nepal. The subject will be taught in the fourth year. After graduation, many students lack basic knowledge of Nepal. So, we decided to introduce the subject to give students basic knowledge about history, geography, administration and culture of Nepal.
Why was it difficult to introduce four-year bachelor’s in TU?
Four-year bachelor’s courses have already been implemented in TU’s science, management and education streams. The difficulty in introducing the four-year course had to do with the large number of subjects in the humanities stream. Thirty-five subjects are taught in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. There are 22 departments and 12 programmes. Besides, there are over 60,000 students in TU’s humanities programme.
Have all the courses and curricula been designed?
Courses for all the subjects have already been discussed. Curriculum of 13 subjects have been drafted and structures of 11 subjects designed.
The curriculum will be made available online after we are done with official procedures.
We have 35 subjects with us. All the courses are not run everywhere. Some major subjects such as Nepali, English, Hindi, Geography, Culture, History, Economics, Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology are run across the country. From among these courses we have made curriculum for these subjects for the first year.
Meanwhile structures — choice of topics and organisation and sequencing of course content of subjects such as Population Studies, Journalism, Home Science, Psychology and Buddhist Studies have been completed. The university is yet to come up with its curriculum.
However, course structure for Maithili is yet to be designed. The course is taught in Janakpur. Subject experts are working on it. It will be completed by the time of admission.
We have designed curriculum for subjects that are run nationwide. We are also working on the courses taught only in the central departments and in a few colleges of Kathmandu such as Maithili, Fine Arts, linguistics etc. It is easier for us to implement subjects in a single place. We will finish the work in the stipulated time within September-October. It will take some time for the books to come in the market.
Why was four years bachelor’s introduced late?
The university has its procedures. Last year, the faculty board decided to run bachelor’s programme for four years. We have been discussing the matter for the last two years. Earlier, deans, faculty department heads and subject experts, along with stakeholders, held a meeting on upgrading humanities and decided to go for the four years bachelor’s.
The university can’t introduce the semester system as it lacks infrastructure and human resources, so we opted for the four-year system. The question raised was, when all the faculties have gone for the four years programme why shouldn’t we? We then kept it in the faculty board which then recommended the four-year bachelor’s programme. We need to take the mandate from academic council. In March, we took the mandate to run the bachelor’s programme for four-years. After the academic council gave us permission, we directed all the concerned departments to design courses and make the curriculum. Nationwide discussions were necessary.
It’s changing the entire system. There should be more discussions on the subject. We also needed to discuss the impacts it would have on the master’s degree programmes.
We gave them the deadline of June 30, but it took time. As it is time to open
admissions for the new session we contacted them frequently and held a full faculty meeting. The 10+2 results came early it made us look as if the work had been delayed.
Why are there fewer females in leadership positions of TU?
There are only a few females in leadership positions in the university. From among the 22 department heads there are female department heads in Home Science, Psychology, and Economics. There were very few females in the university earlier. As the leadership positions are based on experience, we had very less women with the required work experience. There are very limited women professors. However, women are joining the profession now.
Lately, inclusion is being practised. I hope the number of females will increase in the future.
Are there any facilities for women such as child care centres in the workplace?
No demands have been made yet. The university has not shown any interest. Professors have been given only one or two classes in the university. It is not mandatory for professors to remain the whole day at the university. They can make preparations at home after taking classes. So the need has not been felt. But there could be problems in TU affiliated campuses as there are a large number of women taking classes.
Are there any programmes to curb sexual harassment inside the university?
Cases of sexual harassment have been reported in the university time and again. It is not only female students facing sexual harassment, male students too could be facing problems.
There was a one-day symposium on sexual harassment issues organised by the Department of Gender Studies. The symposium had concluded that a separate cell had to be created in the university so that grievances of students could be heard.
Conclusions drawn and the demands made by the symposium to create a separate cell have already been forwarded to the rector’s office. The process is on. The rector herself is a female and I hope she will take initiative to establish the cell.
Sexual harassment cases are often related with female students of the Master’s level. To help prevent sexual harassment of students, some of the departments have issued notices that students’ thesis should be supervised during office hours in the university.
Why are there no permanent teachers in Buddhist Studies?
There has not been a permanent vacancy in Buddhist studies for quite a long time. There is no crowd of students in the department. Teachers from culture department have been teaching in the Buddhist Studies Department. However, vacancies have been announced for teachers in the department.
It is not only the Buddhist Studies Department that lacks permanent teachers. There are various other departments where there are very less permanent teachers.
What are the roles of unions in the university?
There are trade unions, teachers’ unions and students’ union active in the university. But they are not as active as they were earlier.
We are an academic body and as we don’t take any financial decisions, so trade unions do not influence academic decisions. Trade unions do not come to us demanding rights and increment in salaries. We don’t have that right, though there are demands for scholarships and enrolment of higher number of students.
How is coordination between the faculties ensured?
We have issued letters for coordination of teachers in different faculties. If there are skilled teachers in the colleges who could teach subjects in different departments then they should be given work. There is a work load of 15 periods per week in the bachelor’s and nine periods per week in the master’s levels. If a new teacher is appointed without fulfilling the workload of teachers in the campus then the campus chief will be responsible. Employment of new teacher is not allowed until and unless the workload is fulfilled. The financial expenditure for the new appointments should be made by the campus chief him/herself.
How does information flow in the university, faculties and departments?
The information flow system within the university, faculties, departments and concerned bodies is smooth. Our supreme body is our academic council comprising the deans, representatives from the curriculum development board, vice-chancellor, registrar, all department heads of the faculties, two campus chiefs — one from a community campus and one from TU constituent campus. There is also a faculty board where there are representatives of teachers. We have subject committee comprising a committee of subject experts and representatives from various campuses. The network is bigger, but as there are more teachers in the university the information may not reach each of them.
Former deans, department heads and senior professors are consulted before changing the courses. After the faculty board discusses the changes proposed, the decision is sent to the academic council.
Subject committees are directed to work on the course content. It is difficult to include all the teachers from across the country as more cost is involved. So, a representative from each campus is included and the agendas are discussed. This is how information flows.
TU has not been able to maintain its academic calendar? Why?
TU’s academic calendar was not maintained for eight to ten years. We are trying to maintain it for the last two years. Students’ disturbances, local elections and Free Student Union election had disturbed our calendar. If we finish conducting the exams before Dashain, the calendar will be maintained. Failure to maintain the calendar has affected the international students’ exchange programme, led to untimely course completion and forced students to go abroad. We are now trying to maintain the calendar.
There is then the influence and impact of national politics on the university. It has also become a centre for showing dissatisfaction with the government. As disturbances have lessened, it will be possible now to follow the calendar
Some of the questions in examination are not set as per the curriculum. Why?
Office of the Controller of Examinations has a list of professors who set questions. They have a roster of subject teachers. They are older now and do not teach the bachelor’s level.
Though they look at the curriculum and set questions, they are unaware of the things being taught in the classroom. There is a mismatch between teachers who teach and those who make questions. If t questions are made by teachers who are currently teaching in the classrooms then the problem can be solved.
Why can’t the Dean’s Office appoint teachers?
The Dean’s Office does not have authority to appoint any teacher. If I am given the authority and I appoint a good candidate someone with the same authority as mine might not appoint a good candidate. There are chances that near and dear ones will be appointed. In the past, there were teachers entering the university with political connection. To end such practice, examination is conducted for vacant posts now.
How can students be retained in the country?
We are designing courses which will give students both skills and knowledge. We are trying to provide job-oriented and skill-oriented education.
Previously it was said that humanities gave critical knowledge and helped explain things better. Now, along with critical knowledge we are trying to offer skill-oriented programmes so that students are attracted. We should attract students to courses that give them skills and knowledge. The students are concerned about job skills, knowledge and placements after finishing studies.
A version of this article appears in print on August 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.