13 Aug 2017
5 min read
For Nepali students, seeking quality education that meets international standards in Nepal is not a far-fetched dream anymore. “When I was a student myself, such an opportunity was rare,” says Rajen Kandel, CEO and founder of The British College. “And I believe, The British College has undoubtedly proven to be a great choice for many students who seek quality education and a foreign degree right here, in their home country.” Kandel has been working in the education sector for the past 15 years now and also manages colleges in the UK. Realising the huge gap in the level of national and international education provided in Nepal, The British College was established in 2012 as an embodiment of Kandel’s vision to contribute to the education sector here.
In this interview with VMAG’s Monica Puri, Kandel talks about what the British College stands for and what it aims to achieve.
Delivering global education
The British College today provides GCE A levels, professional accounting courses and undergraduate and graduate courses awarded by the University of the West of England and Leeds Beckett University in the UK. The curricula we have adopted here have been designed by the bodies we are affiliated with. But students are always welcome to base their case studies in the local context as well.
The course structures, designed to suit global preferences, help prepare students for the competition in the global market. From the infrastructure to other facilities, we’ve done our best to provide quality that is on par with European standards. Moreover, the standards, the organisational structure, the governance of the college, formulations of regulations and so on are all aligned to comply with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, UK.
Prior to the actual academic course, students need to go through a year of foundation course for a bachelor’s programme and a six-month course for their master’s degree. While this course adds to their academic load, it also helps students to focus on improving their study skills and academic English skills and introduces other aspects of British teaching and learning system to also get them familiarised with the sort of experience they might have encountered if they were in the UK. Also, because the learning experience in the UK is mostly about self-studying and independent learning—a study culture that contrasts with the rote-learning system of Nepal—this extra course helps students overcome that difference and adapt to a more practical way of learning.
Providing international exposure to students
What families really want is for their children to receive good education in a good college. If you were to compare the costs to the colleges in, say, India, Thailand or Singapore, the rate in Nepal is still very minimal (one-fifth of the amount as compared to that of the UK). As of now, I don’t see any need for students to travel abroad for their undergraduate studies, as the education of that standard is what we’re providing here in Nepal. Our students can even attend summer schools or other programmes at the universities we are affiliated to. Preparing children for the competitive global market, while also giving them the right international exposure at affordable costs, is what The British College strives for.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re encouraging students to shoot for the global arena only. We are trying to turn them into great students who are capable of going anywhere and performing at the same levels as or outperforming students abroad.
The environment and learning experience that students find here is unique to other institutions. We have students and staff from diverse backgrounds and nationalities, which I believe is crucial to give students the kind of exposure students look for in colleges. Furthermore, we hope that providing the education we do also goes some way towards making Nepal an international study hub. Nepal can be a preferred study destination—owing to our climate, the good neighbourly relations we have with other countries, the ease of travelling to and fro from Nepal to other countries and so on. We all need to understand what’s happening in Malaysia, for instance. Today, the country attracts some 300,000 international students there mostly pursuing British, American or Australian degrees. Malaysia’s opening up to foreign universities has created wonders for the country. The UAE provides another such example. What we’re working to achieve here is similar to what these countries have achieved.
Currently, we already have a college in London, and we are now looking to solidify our presence in the Middle East, and in India as well.
Challenges so far
I believe trying to work your way through the country’s bureaucratic system is a challenge in itself. Our aim, as an institution, is to grow, but the system is so convoluted that it doesn’t make for a very friendly environment. At times, the bureaucracy seems more like an impediment. The process of getting an approval every time we try to introduce a new course is such a tedious one that it delays the process of delivering quality education to the students. Also, if we are to attract international students, we have to have a variety of courses that they would want to study.
And while we do want to send the message to the international community that Nepal can be your perfect, safe study destination, the political instability, which is no news, is restricting our potential. We currently have 40 international students studying in the college, but owing to our political issues, it will be a challenge for us to bring in international students.
Having said that, the situation certainly hasn’t diminished our aspirations. Till date, around 1,400 students have graduated from our college. Our students have had the opportunity to intern and work with some of the big multinational and IT companies in Nepal. The college’s placement cell also helps them find the perfect job opportunity once they complete their courses.
A lesson for all
Whether they are part-time or full-time teachers, our faculty members are all trained under our management. We believe the teachers we have here have a better understanding of quality education, and this allows them to deliver knowledge better. We are also planning to conduct a teachers training campaign throughout the country, and are waiting for the funds to be approved from the UK government. This campaign will allow us to train teachers from remote and rural parts of the country; we hope that these teachers will then transfer that knowledge to their students in settings that we might not be able to reach otherwise.
(Photos by Srijana Bhatta)