In a shocking revelation it was found that a dozen Nepali medical colleges collected close to NPR 3 billion from students as ‘additional fees’ over the past three academic years.
The finding was revealed by the National Vigilance Center’s probe and comes at a time when Nepal is witnessing a major protest by medical students from various colleges.
The additional fees payed by the students over the three years was between NPR 200,000 – 254,000 million per student each year.
“The figure is based on the extra fees charged by the colleges exceeding the ceiling set by the government,” said Dalnath Aryal, assistant spokesperson, National Vigilance Center – an anti-graft body that works directly under the PMO.
The findings of the report list additional fees paid under different headings such as admission, affiliation, caution money, clinical training, institutional, laboratory, lab and information, registration, year promotion, and extracurricular activities.
According to the Medication Education laws in Nepal (introduced between 2017-19), no extra amount should be charged since the tuition fees covers all components of fees students have to pay.
It was found that the Gandaki Medical College Teaching Hospital in Pokhara collected hefty additional fees – NPR 519.82 million from students between 2015-18.
The government had set the annual fee for the year 2016-17 at NPR 3.5 million for colleges inside Kathmandu Valley and NPR 3.85 million for colleges outside. The fee was further increased to NPR 3.85 million inside the valley and NPR 4.24 million for colleges outside the Valley for academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The probe also took into consideration the woes of agitating students when their college was extracting high additional fees from them.
“The government has determined the fee structure by maintaining specific fee for each heading. But the colleges continue to charge us additional fees, disregarding the government,” said Anit Sinha, General Secretary, Medical Education Struggle Committee – a forum started by protesting medical students.
Sinha also added that some colleges have charged extra fees even on the amount that needs to be payed to Tribhuvan University and Nepal Medical College for exam fee and registration fee.
The students have also filed complaints with evidence to Chief District Officers.
Speaking about the issue, Nepalgunj Medical College Managing Director SK Kanodia said that the medical education fee decided by the government has no scientific basis.
“The college cannot be run with the fee structure fixed by the government as the cost is so high, particularly on human resources. I challenge the government to appoint a chief executive officer here and run the institute well. The government’s fee structure is so low, we cannot even afford to pay back our bank loans,” said Kanodia.
The report also enlists irregularities on behalf of medical college owners and universities.
It has also found that some medical colleges have not produced receipts to students for the fees received from them.
Students have also said that colleges threatened to fail them in internal exams or not give them ID and library access cards, if they don’t pay the additional fees.
The center has suggested that the Department of Money Laundering Investigation carry out an investigation on medical college owners properties and their relatives’ properties.
“The extra fees we have reported is based on documents. The total sum might be higher as they have also charged the students without providing bills. So we have suggested an investigation into their property as per the anti-money laundering law,” said Aryal.
The country-wide crisis has drawn attention from all concerned and it’s time that the government steps into action to solve the issues faced by the agitating students and medical colleges alike. For this, it will have to work in collaboration with the medical colleges and bring in reforms accordingly.
Responding to the crisis faced by medical college students, the Nepal Government has asked private medical colleges to refund the excess fee collected from students.
Addressing a conference at the Education Ministry on November 11, 2019, Education Minister Pokharel has directed private medical colleges to refund the excess amount. He added that if the colleges did not initiate refund, then they would have to face charges of fraud and be prosecuted accordingly.
“If they do not take our final warning seriously, we are going to take action,” he said.
The Ministry will be writing to the Home Ministry to take action against medical colleges that failed to provide a refund to the students within 15 days.