The Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Programme was jointly launched yesterday by the University Grants Commission, Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, and the World Bank.

The five-year programme aims to improve the quality and labour market relevance of Nepal's higher education, scale up collaborative research and online learning, and expand access to academic institutions for underprivileged and vulnerable students from disadvantaged areas.

"Investing in human capital from early childhood to higher education is the key to helping young people in Nepal realise their development potential," stated Education Secretary Ram Prasad Thapaliya. "This programme will help strengthen the higher education sector in collaboration with industries and ensure that students across Nepal, including those from disadvantaged groups have access to quality higher education."

The Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Programme builds on the success of earlier higher education projects in Nepal to align its higher education sector with labour market needs, boost collaborative research and entrepreneurship, improve governance, and enhance access to quality higher education in general, especially for disadvantaged students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created strong incentives to expand online platforms and blended learning. The programme will help scale up such incentives across all the universities in Nepal.

Chairperson of the University Grants Commission Prof Bhim Prasad Subedi stated, "Building on the successful partnership with the World Bank in earlier projects that improved research and innovation, quality assurance and accreditation, and COVID response, the programme will further foster regional collaboration of higher education institutions across South Asia and beyond. This will help exploit the benefits of the knowledge economy and information era in a bid to increase participation, quality, and relevance of higher education programmes."

The programme will also expand targeted scholarships to the disadvantaged students to pursue labour market-driven academic programmes and support equity grants to higher education institutions in needy and disaster-affected areas of Nepal.

"By improving the access of students, especially those from disadvantaged communities, to quality higher education and skills that are in demand in the labour market, this programme will support Nepal's COVID-19 recovery," said Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

"This is critical as the country forges efforts towards green, resilient, and inclusive development, which the World Bank is committed to support."

A version of this article appears in the print on October 28, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.