How Not to Make a New University: The Case of Mid-Western University Thus Far
The idea of creating new universities out of the constituting colleges of Tribhuvan University (TU) has a long history. When the then Mahendra Sanskrit University (MSU) was started as Nepal’s second university in 1986, this idea was first put into practice by transferring some of TU’s colleges to MSU. However it was only after the end of the Panchayat System in 1990 that discussions around this idea became thick as a way to reduce the size and management challenges of TU. After many false starts, it was only in 2010 that three new universities – Agriculture and Forestry University, Far-Western University and Mid-Western University – were established by separate Acts passed by Nepal’s parliament with the proposed transfer of specific constituting and affiliated campuses of TU to the new universities. However the transfer of TU’s campuses (and properties) to the new universities has run into bottlenecks that were not envisioned initially. Instead the ‘transfer from TU’ mode of starting these new universities has created many complexities in their institutionalization. In this paper, I take up the establishment of the Mid-Western University (MWU) in Surkhet as a case study of the ‘transfer from TU’ model. When the MWU Act was passed in 2010, it was stated that the Surkhet (Education) Campus, a constituting campus of TU, would be transferred to MWU and function as the founding constituting campus of the new university. This transfer has not happened until now. I describe the resistance put up by the faculty of Surkhet Campus and the central management of TU against the transfer idea. Based on interviews done in Surkhet with key management personnel of MWU and its faculty members and students, I then analyze the reasons behind this non-transfer. Details from this case study allow me to argue that the policy to start new universities through the transfer of TU’s constituent campuses to them not only prevents their early institutionalization but instead further complicates the initial challenges faced by a new university. I end by suggesting that the ‘transfer from TU’ model of starting new universities to reduce TU’s burden needs a thorough re-think.