Fee Hike Dispute Casts Uncertainty Over IOE Entrance Exams

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KATHMANDU — Aspiring engineers preparing for the entrance examinations for undergraduate engineering courses offered by various universities in Nepal face mounting uncertainty as a fee hike dispute takes center stage. The dispute has thrown the schedules for the entrance exams into disarray, leaving hundreds of students in limbo.

Numerous Facebook groups and pages, both by individuals and institutions, have been instrumental in providing information and guidance to students preparing for the entrance exams. However, these platforms are now abuzz with questions and concerns regarding the fate of the entrance examinations for the Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) and Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch) programs under Tribhuvan University (TU).

Tribhuvan University's Institute of Engineering (IOE) published a notice on August 26, suspending all entrance examination processes for B.E. and B. Arch programs until further notice, except for the application process, which was previously set to commence on September 11.

The notice, signed by IOE Dean Shashidhar Ram Joshi, cited concerns related to an increase in the fee structure for the upcoming academic session as the reason for the postponement. This decision came in response to IOE's fee revision committee's recommendation to increase the fee, a move that was met with strong opposition from students and their associations.

Under the revised fee structure, the total cost for eight semesters (four years) of B.E. and B. Arch programs soared to Rs. 775,720 for full-paying students, a significant increase from the previous fee of Rs. 318,880.

The fee hike prompted a series of protests, including hunger strikes, by more than half a dozen student organizations over a span of three weeks. On August 30, an agreement was reached between student association leaders and TU officials, including TU Vice Chancellor Dr. Dharma Kanta Baskota.

According to the agreement, TU would instruct IOE not to implement the new fee structure, resume the entrance examination processes for B.E. and B. Arch, and bring an end to the hunger strikes. However, IOE has yet to revoke the fee hike or restart the halted entrance examination procedures, causing frustration among students.

While IOE has argued its budget constraints as a center of excellence, an anonymous IOE official disputed the politicization of the issue.

The dispute has also revealed political discord among student leaders. Multiple student wings, including All Nepal National Independent Students' Union, Revolutionary (ANNISU-R), All Nepal National Free Students Union (Unified Socialist), Nepal Students' Union (NSU), ANNISU-R of Chand-led CPN, and Socialist Students Union, signed the agreement on August 30 with TU officials. However, the NSU was not involved in the agreement, and some members within NSU criticized the decision to force a hunger strike to end.

Following the agreement, ANNFSU, the student wing of CPN-UML, prevented TU officials from entering their offices, alleging that the agreement was a mere political stunt.

Meanwhile, TU officials have been unable to attend their offices due to the disruption. Yogendra Prasad Dahal, information officer for TU, assured that IOE would be directed to adhere to the agreement.

Students have expressed their disappointment with the lack of unity among student leaders and associations, emphasizing that the disputes have hindered their interests.

The resolution to this ongoing conflict remains unclear. TU plans to direct IOE to reconsider the new fee structure and work with all stakeholders to establish a new fee ceiling. However, IOE has not provided any information regarding the fee structure or the status of the entrance exams. IOE officials argue that the institution's survival depends on increased fees or adequate government funding.

Despite the evolving situation, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology has stated its readiness to provide support if requested by TU and IOE, emphasizing that TU is an autonomous organization.

As the fee hike dispute continues to unfold, aspiring engineering students are left grappling with uncertainty, unsure when they will be able to pursue their academic aspirations.