A month-long obstruction in the Agriculture and Forestry University over contested affiliation to the private colleges is set to end on Friday after the Supreme Court postponed the hearing in the case filed by the schools demanding order to admit students.
Teachers, student unions and staff at the university are against the move of officials to grant affiliation to eight private colleges to run agriculture and forestry programmes.
They argue that the university, which is struggling to run its constituent colleges, is making money through affiliation while ignoring the quality of education.
Amid reservations from different quarters, the executive council of the university on July 4 decided to grant affiliation, sparking protests.
The protest was withdrawn after three weeks following the government’s decision to cancel the affiliations granted by the executive council.
Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel as the pro-chancellor of the university tabled the proposal in the Cabinet on July 30 to scrap the affiliations.
The proposal was endorsed unanimously. Prime minister is the ex-officio chancellor of the university.
Challenging the Cabinet’s decision, private college owners filed a case in the Supreme Court demanding permission to run the academic programme. The SC ordered the authorities to put the affiliation process on hold, scheduling final hearing in the case for January 10 next year.
University officials on November 6, when teachers and students were at home celebrating Tihar, decided to call a joint entrance test for the university and the affiliated colleges.
The decision led to demonstrations from the teachers and students disrupting all the academic and administrative works.
The protest that started after Tihar had been going on. Meanwhile, private college owners filed another writ petition at the apex court demanding permission to admit students. The hearing scheduled for Wednesday was deferred by 10 days till December 25.
Udit Prakash Sigdel, assistant lecturer who is at the forefront of protests, said the apex court, which hasn’t prioritised the plea of the private colleges, would hopefully not take any decision that may ruin the university.
“With the postponement of the case, we’ll now allow teaching learning activities and exams from Friday,” he said. “A formal decision [to this end], however, will be taken on Thursday.”
The teachers say the university was opened under the Land Grant College model where students are expected to learn from the field. However, the criterion set for the affiliated colleges goes against the concept.
The university requires a college to have two bigha land in the Tarai or 20 ropanis in the Hills to qualify for affiliation. The requirement is four times to run a constituent college, which is funded by the government.
“The requisite for private colleges is too little for agricultural practice, which is the lab for students,” said IP Kadariya, director of the Centre for Biotechnology at the university. “The disparity in setting criteria for affiliated and constituent colleges shows the mala fide intention of the university authority.”