TOPICS : KU needs change, more than ever

Kathmandu University (KU) was established some 17 years ago, at a time when absolute monarchy gave way to constitutional monarchy. The end of the Panchayati era meant the country was looking forward to new ideas and vision. Upholding the spirit for change, Valley Campus transformed into Kathmandu University. The unified strength of the teachers, administration and the students made KU a respected institution within a very short time. Since its establishment, KU has gone from having barely 10-15 employees to over 250 in recent years. This has brought about massive administrative and policy changes within the structure of this institution. Unfortunately, with success comes power, and with power, sometimes, autocracy. The leadership of Kathmandu University too fell into this trap, albeit in some ways innocently to start with, but enjoying it more with time. This has meant that the academic freedom within the boundaries of this institution has been curtailed on the pretext of academic excellence and efficiency.

There has been a steep decline in the number of students pursuing PhD. The KU medical school is focusing on quantity rather than quality. Very recently, a Master’s level programme run by KU at Manipal College was disqualified by the Indian Medical Council. In its management schools, KU has not been able to retain good faculty. In the School of Engineering, fresh graduates are employed as teachers. The School of Arts and School of Education are simply too small to have any significant impact, but have KU leadership’s relatives and cronies in decision making roles. To top this, the current Vice Chancellor of KU has not been able to call even one single general meeting, of all staff and teachers in the last three years.

The School of Science is the most successful, and ironically, is also the school which has voiced concern against the leadership’s highhandedness, non-transparency as well as deteriorating quality of education at KU.

Kathmandu University Professors Association (KUPA) was formed to ensure that academics at KU could play a constructive role in the development of KU. It was formed to support the administration, as is the case in most universities of Nepal. KUPA consists of senior academicians, teachers of long standing, young foreign-returned academics, and most importantly, those who want to create a proactive working environment at KU. KU now needs change, more than ever. Change in thinking, change in communication, change in activity and change in leadership. KU cannot go ahead basking in its past glory: it needs to look to the future. It cannot keep comparing itself to other less developed universities in Nepal: those universities either cater to the actual population of this developing country, or are relatively new themselves (and not necessarily worse as compared to KU). KUPA is vocal about its concerns, and it has earned the wrath of the university leadership. The present state of affairs does not augur well for Kathmandu University.