BY Prof dr. Kamal Raj Dhungel
Nepal boasts several universities. Among them, Tribhuvan University (TU) is the oldest and the biggest. Universities are vital institutions where students pursue higher education across various faculties. Within these faculties, both students and teachers play essential roles. Students enter as raw materials and exit as finished products, armed with academic certificates that pave their way into the job market.
In the 1970s, I too was a student of economics in the central department of economics at TU. After completing my studies, I was fortunate to secure a position as an assistant lecturer in the same department. This appointment was both an opportunity and a challenge. Whether I was a successful teacher is a matter subject to students' evaluations. Nevertheless, my tenure at TU spanned 37 years, during which I have pondered upon my contributions to the institution, both good and bad, which remain open to evaluation.
The core responsibilities of a teacher encompass delivering lectures, evaluating student performance, and engaging in research and publications. These tasks go hand in hand, and teachers must commit to continuous learning and expanding their knowledge. They also need to be involved in research and publication. These are the prerequisites for achieving the esteemed rank of professor.
I hold a deep connection to TU, given my many years of service with the institution. However, recent developments within the university have caused me distress. TU has become entangled in the web of political party affiliations, with both teachers and students deeply embroiled in politics. Nepotism and favouritism now run rampant within TU, undermining the environment for effective teaching and learning. The university's management is largely controlled by those with political affiliations, leaving teachers who prioritise teaching, research, and publication in the shadows. This unfortunate trend not only encourages students and teachers to prioritise politics over knowledge enhancement but has also led to intellectual frustration, driving many to seek opportunities abroad.
As previously mentioned, a teacher's duty encompasses teaching, research, and publication. These activities are the building blocks for achieving the prestigious rank of professor. Unfortunately, in Nepali universities over recent years, this academic qualification has lost its significance. Political connections and nepotism have replaced academic merit as the prerequisites for obtaining the rank of professor. It has become customary to seek rewards from leaders of various political parties in Nepal, where deserving candidates may even face punishment rather than recognition.
My personal experience serves as a poignant example of this bitter reality. Throughout my academic career, I dedicated myself to teaching, learning, research, and publication, earning recognition in national and international journals. My work elevated me on the global academic stage and introduced TU to the international community. Students, researchers, and academicians from around the world have cited my work. My research works are read by 12-15 researchers every week on platforms like ResearchGate and Academia.edu. I take pride in the thousands of students I have influenced, some of whom now hold high positions within the government of Nepal or work in various universities. However, all these were not helpful for me to get the rank of professor as I was not affiliated with any political parties. I was disqualified once, and the same fate befell me a second time.
TU must break free from the clutches of politics and external interference to refocus on research and teaching. Political activities on campus disrupt the delivery of quality education, making it impossible to produce capable and well-educated graduates. Since the restoration of democracy in the 1990s, TU has gradually transformed into a training ground for political activists, with both students and teachers increasingly involved in political activities. This shift is causing the academic environment to deteriorate. The pressure to engage in politics discourages both students and teachers from focusing on their studies, leading them astray from their academic pursuits.
In TU and other Nepali universities, teaching, research, and publication have taken a back seat to political affiliations in the race to become a professor and a noted scholar. This practice has largely degraded the prestigious post of professor. To secure a brighter future for the upcoming generation, all should stop making TU a political training centre.
(Prof Dr.Dhungel is an Economicist)