Open University of Nepal Initiative
Open University of Nepal Initiative (OUN) brings together people from around the world to break the barriers to quality education in Nepal, especially for the rural, remote, and marginalized populations. The idea advanced by some educationists and the Ministry of Education in Nepal developed a momentum in recent times after CFFN teamed up with NRNA to mobilize non-resident Nepali (NRN) talents for the cause. This initiative is inspired by a dream of bringing quality education to the margenalized people of Nepal at an affordable cost through the knowledge contributions of NRNs and friends of Nepal living around the world. We hope to bring the light of knowledge to the margins of society through the efforts and contributions of people like you.
In Nepal, the need for specialized skills and knowledge for employment is pushing the demand for higher education. However, the efforts made through the existing approaches and institutional mechanisms have not been sufficient in meeting this demand. The gap is especially pronounced in college- and university-level education. UNESCO data indicate a mere 9% tertiary education attendance among age adjusted groups, while for women this number is reported to be a dismal 3%. A real void is felt in rural areas where about 80% of the people live, as the majority cannot afford to go to urban institutions.
Meanwhile, emigration is constantly draining highly educated urban workforce. Rural youths are seeking employment overseas where they are unable to continue their education. The educational needs of a mother, a farmer, a teacher, or a working person remaining in the villages continue to be unmet. Even urban people are sending their children to foreign countries for studies under the impression that the quality of education in Nepal is not up to the international standards. Employed and homebound people are seeking a continuing education option outside regular classrooms. Others are seeking a type of education that can stimulate local economy and knowledge capacity to bring prosperity in Nepal. Building a knowledge-based human capital, therefore, remains a dream unless some novel approaches are taken to break the barriers for education, more specifically for the rural, remote, women, Dalit, and disadvantaged population groups.
Open University of Nepal
Many countries are successfully using open and distance learning to make higher education affordable and accessible for all people at a time and place that is convenient for the students. The distance education tools, technologies, and practices are now more user friendly, accessible, economical, and are being increasingly adopted by reputed universities around the world. Open University of Nepal (OUN) is proposed with a vision for an institutional solution to closing the existing knowledge and education gaps and in providing internationally-accredited quality education in Nepal. The aim is to bring higher education directly to the homes and communities so that people need not travel to the cities and other countries to access higher education. Another aim is to offer programs that can catalyze local economies by bringing appropriate knowledge and skills to communities. Its services would be universally accessible to urban and rural populations, international students, and NRNs engaged in foreign employment.
NRNA, CFFN, and Athabasca University of Canada have teamed up with the Government of Nepal to establish the OUN. Other national and international agencies and philanthropic contributors will be its partners.
Resource Mobilization and Management
The proposed university will be an autonomous, public, and a non-profit institution for which the funding will be sought from Nepal, international donor agencies, and philanthropic organizations and individuals. Nepal Government will also make basic financial and in-kind contributions. The preliminary business plan developed at present will be expanded into a comprehensive document.
The academic programs will be implemented in a phase-wise manner, expanding from a pilot area to the whole country. Currently, we are seeking initial funding for a pilot program to be implemented in selected areas. Subsequently, the OUN will need additional resources for the development of the institution. Then we will run the institution with funding from an international consortium for a fixed number of years. The institution will be made sustainable within a reasonable time-frame through Nepal’s internal as well as Diaspora resources supplemented by tuition fees, endowments, and the income generated from various program offerings made in the national and international markets.
Academic program development
The academic program of the OUN will be geared towards meeting the contemporary needs of the target groups including rural, remote and traditionally marginalized populations of Nepal. The programs will respond to knowledge and skill needs of populations through proven delivery models. There will be ongoing interactive evaluation of learner performances. The pilot program will help develop a workable academic model for the university. Building from the initial experiences, the programs will be expanded to a full-fledged university system in a phase-wise manner. The major program offerings envisaged for the initial phases of the OUN include Information Management, Education, Natural Resources and Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Engineering and Technology, Health Studies, and Human Studies.
The OUN will be run by an autonomous governing body established through the appropriate legislative instruments. The body will include representatives from the Government of Nepal, NRNs, and other national and international contributing partners. We may seek advisory roles from the international community.
We will invite strategically selected personalities from international community into advisory roles.
“Education is the largest single contributor to break poverty, income gap, gender inequality and ethnic inequality, and also to improve nutrition, health and longevity of people” –2005 OECD Report on Education
Educating one generation of citizens amounts to giving education to many generations. This is because those who are educated put a high premium on the education of their children, and this tendency transfers from one generation to the next. Among all that one earns in life, only education has the power to improve the overall quality of life of individuals as well as to improve the value systems of the society.
Knowledge, information and technology also have a vital effect on livelihood. The effect becomes ever more substantive if education reaches to entire citizenry, preserves traditional know-how, respects local traditions and cultures, and promotes sustainable development.
Expected Activites and Outputs
- Establish the Open University of Nepal by 2015
- Offer at least five academic degrees by 2015
- Mobilize Nepali diaspora for educational content development and delivery
- Establish best practices and technological solutions through technical collaboration and assistance from the world-class international institutions
- Establish infrastructure for producing high quality school teachers
- Secure communication infrastructure in 12 districts in Muktinath-Lumbini Corridor for first pilot operation of the university by 2015
- Provide quality education to prospective students throughout Nepal by 2020
NRNs and International Opportunities
Among millions of NRNs that have migrated to locations around the world, a considerable number has pursued higher studies, become successful educators, entrepreneurs, professionals, and have accumulated valuable experiences and skills. Those NRNs can not only contribute with their knowledge, expertise, and resources to the OUN but also help mobilize non-Nepalese development experts, educationists, educators, naturalists, and other professionals who have interest to support Nepal. Educational institutions are increasingly sharing ever larger body of knowledge with the world. Opportunities to benefit from that knowledge and collaborating for production of new knowledge are also ever stronger. Nepal is now at a historically opportune time to make use of these opportunities.
Appeal for Support
The Ministry of Education, Government of Nepal, Non Resident Nepali Association, Canada Foundation for Nepal, and Athabasca University appeal to all interested individuals and institutions to help establish Open University od Nepal and make it an enduring success.