Granted, some private higher education establishments might indeed be providing quality education. Granted, they might be well-furnished and have adequate vital infrastructure like laboratories and libraries. They might even have helped prevent the mass exodus of Nepali youth for better education opportunities and foreign degrees. This way, these establishments are a boon for students from middleclass backgrounds who would otherwise have had no option but to attend government colleges better known for their never-ending student politics and absent teachers than the quality of education on offer. Yet, most private education institutions have been far from accountable to the people: Their fees are unjustifiable, and their blatant disregard of government regulations to ensure quality education hints that all they care about is minting money.
Attempts at regulation so far have proven woefully inadequate. For instance, the Nepal Engineering Council (NEC) had to scrap the license of Janakpur Engineering College (JEC) and Kathford International College of Engineering and Management (KICEM) for taking in more students than their carrying capacity. This would not have happened if government regulations had more teeth. Pretty much the same applies in the case of fees of these private colleges. Absence of effective regulation has meant that fees for the same course from the same university vary enormously: for instance, Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) degree at Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM) comes at Rs 450,000, while the same degree costs Rs 700,000 at Kathmandu College of Management (KCM), both of which are KU affiliated. Likewise, the British College and Islington College have been found to charge up to Rs 1.2 million for four-year undergraduate courses. College owners claim they are delivering quality education in return. But in the absence of a reliable mechanism to determine if courses are really up to the mark, there is no valid way to test their claim.
The truth is that most private education institutions have been trying to extract as much as they possibly can from gullible parents. This has not only added to parents’ burden, but also helped create two distinct classes of graduates: Those educated in private colleges and with access to lucrative job opportunities, and those with the same degrees from state-run colleges but with very poor job prospects. But even when irregularities in private colleges run amuck, there seems to be no meaningful government initiative to rein them in. As it is, a complaint against a college can be addressed only if it is filed with the Ministry of Education. The University Grant Commission (UGC), the government body responsible for monitoring college fees, meanwhile, has been a cavalier bystander in the whole affair. Yes, ideally, it would be wonderful if the private colleges realized their responsibility and adopted self-regulatory measures. But that is clearly not happening. It is thus even more important that the government steps in to halt this blatant commercialization of education and creation of further troubling divisions in Nepali society. It is very important to make it loud and clear to businessmen that if they are interested purely in profit making, they are in the wrong business