In this paper, I look at the trajectories of higher education expansion in Nepal through “affiliation” mode, which in essence allows a university to award degrees to students from campuses in return for the payment of affiliation fees.

Nepal has a relatively short history of higher education. Discussions for the establishment of a Nepali university were first initiated in 1948, which focused, inter alia, on the nature of the university to be established—teaching or affiliating, or both. In the mid-1950s, when Nepal embarked on a systematic development of a national education system following the political change of 1951, the option laid out for the establishment of a university was a combination of “teaching” and “affiliation” functions. According to the report of the Nepal National Education Planning Commission (1955: 129), this third type of university that “… consists of a centrally located group of colleges plus outlying colleges, all responsible to the same university …. holds the most promise for Nepal.” Subsequently, Tribhuvan University (TU) was established by bringing all existing colleges (affiliated to initially Calcutta University and later Patna University; both of India) under TU, which itself was structured around Patna University. Over time, affiliation became the hallmark of higher education expansion in Nepal, with all subsequently established universities adopting the model for nationwide expansion. Whilst it has contributed to enhancing higher education opportunities, it has also led to the eventual deterioration of Nepali universities in both academic and governance spheres. So why have newer universities failed to break from such tradition? I will locate the answers to this question in a number of arenas, including state (dis)engagement with higher education after the 1990s, state espousal of education privatization, and the political economy of affiliation.