Speaking at an event convened by the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal, Shishir Khanal suggested the landlocked country could increase the number of international students it attracts significantly.
“Let us make Nepal a country where we can bring in the same number of students as we send abroad,” he said, according to local media reports.
Khanal acknowledged that the quality of education from primary to basic school level can be improved but indicated that “but by taking advantage of the geographical location of Nepal”, the country can “become an international education hub”.
“With the vision of building that hub, it is necessary to create an environment that can bring in foreign students instead of sending students abroad,” he said.
It is not clear how many international students are currently in Nepal. UNESCO does not collect data for inbound mobility to the country.
Bigyan Shrestha, chairman at SoftEd Group, said the organisation is working on plans to promote Nepal as an education hub in Asia.
He pointed to UK TNE partnerships as being particularly attractive for prospective students, in addition to the “excellent weather, great tourism places and Himalayas students can explore while studying”.
“It is good time to look on this dimension and attract students from South Asian countries”
“Nepal has also become a centre for some world ranked UK universities who are working with private colleges on TNE partnership. Students from Asia can come to Nepal to study one or two years of bachelor programs and transfer to the UK or to some ASEAN countries offering UK university programs in the final year,” he added.
“It is good time for Nepal to look on this dimension and attract students from South Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc.”
However, others have questioned the aims of the country which is traditionally a source market for students rather than a destination.
Speaking to University World News earlier this year following the 2022 election, retired Tribhuvan University professor and former education specialist for UNESCO in the Asia Pacific region, called for a “complete restructuring” of the country’s higher education.
UWN noted that some 112,528 students – close to a fourth of the total number of university students in Nepal – had sought No Objection Certificates to study across 80 countries in 2021/22. According to the Education Consultancy Association of Nepal, around 40% of those receiving the NOC tend to go abroad.
Australia has become the top destination for Nepalese students, The Katmandu Post reported in September 2022. Between January and November 2022, the 56,847 Nepalese students in Australia made up some 9% of international students studying courses in the country. This is compared to the 4,920 Nepalese students enrolled in UK universities in 2021/22.
US numbers increased by 5.6% in 2021/22 to reach 11,779 students, making it the 11th source country for international students, while Canada approved over 2,200 Nepali students to study in the country in 2021.
But Shrestha continued to say that quality of life and safety and security for international students in Nepal has improved in recent years.
As secretary of International Education Providers Association of Nepal, Shrestha is working closely with the government to this vision, he concluded.