Universities in Nepal, along with their numerous affiliated colleges in various domains of specialization, have gradually acknowledged and embraced the importance of research as an integral part of their academic practices. After all, research activities enable scholars in any domain of knowledge—sociology, economics, education, engineering, or management—to either examine or explore the relationship between their academic learning and practices, preferences, possibilities, and problems that are emerging in real-world settings. Through research activities, scholars can also acquire essential professional skills like the application of concepts, processes, steps, and theories learned in academia for the analysis of real-world problems, data management, inference, contextualization, and evidence-based interpretations. As a result, educational institutions associated with Nepali higher education regularly organize conferences, seminars, research workshops, and data analysis training sessions to support their scholars and faculty members with publications and participation in different conferences.
However, so much of the research-based knowledge and evidence generated in Nepali academia never gets implemented in practice that there is a huge research-professional practice gap in Nepali higher education. Therefore, it is no surprise that the libraries of universities find it worthless to keep archives of graduate projects, post-graduate theses, and dissertations; hence, after some time, most of them are simply sold off to scrap dealers.
Since university educators, research scholars, and professors observe and analyze professional and social realities from their academic norms and hypotheses, there is a common assumption that academics don’t produce anything useful for society, the economy, or business in practical or applied terms. This assumption is also justified by the fact that in Nepali academic circles, so much of the research activities are framed on the basis of reviews of existing theories, concepts, and published literature, or approaches to research that some professors and faculty members presume to be most reliable and valid. Hence, academic research lacks proper grounding in research problems, contextual knowledge gaps, practices, and selections of factors and issues that are observable and emerging in a real-world setting.
As we can observe in management studies, where thousands of dissertations are completed with reference to the Nepali financial sector, this sector is utterly aloof, disinterested, and indifferent to the knowledge and evidence generated by these research works. After all, just because there is a concept doesn't mean that the problems and practices of commercial banks can be grounded in that conceptual framework; relationships between concepts in theory may not have any relation to practice. For example, work-life balance may be an emerging concept in management, but to most professionals working in the banking sector, the issue of balancing work and life may never occur to their minds in spite of all the hectic schedules, stress, and workloads. Perhaps imbalances between work and life are integral part of the competitive working culture of commercial banks.
Hence, publication for the sake of publication can be a criteria for professor tenure and university ranking, but that is certainly not a concern for any dynamic, competitive, and vibrant organization like a commercial bank. That is why most of the students are not passionate about doing their theses and want to outsource the process or streamline it with every possible shortcut. Even if they publish research in a highly ranked journal, they know it has zero professional or financial value beyond the walls of the university.
More importantly, when academic research occurs within operative closures, where none of the research activities move out of the university system, various malpractices, misuses, and manipulations also begin to emerge, as we see when a senior professor or a dean publishes journal articles with scholars or young lecturers as co-authors, and we don't know who among them has contributed the most to the final research paper or if the names of others have simply been added due to hierarchy or power structure. That is why we can find in Nepal the names of some people hanging behind as co-authors in different research papers, although they don’t themselves have any specializations in that domain of knowledge. Hence, in most cases, academic research only remains a self-maximizing tool for professors, deans and senior lecturers, despite the agony and hard work of young faculty members and scholars.
Moreover, when we analyze this isolated and self-referential aspect of academic research happening in Nepali higher education, we also realize why universities are not developing their students into scientists, engineers, innovators, entrepreneurs, disruptive thinkers, system designers, theorists, and paradigm shifters capable of solving real-life problems and making contributions to the progress of overall society. Our professors and lecturers have only remained artists, admiring their own creations with utter arrogance and self-admiration, whereas most people outside their close system are not interested in their art. As a result of this self-admiring tendency, we observe that different departments of universities keep on producing research dissertations and articles on different events, experiences, and circumstances using the same research methodologies over and over again.
However, to remain competitive, relevant, and vibrant in an international market, universities in Nepal need to undertake research activities that have applied value for scientific, business, industrial, and technological development, where evidence, trends, tendencies and interpretations generated through research have analytical, practical, decision-making, and problem-solving potential for businesses and entrepreneurs. Likewise, universities, rather than operating as a closed system, need to collaborate with stakeholders in higher education through knowledge sharing platforms to ground their research activities in real-world issues and ground-based observations that are pertinent to professionals and decision-makers in public and private institutions so that research findings generated in institutions of higher learning are applicable for expanding and enhancing the quality, sustainability, optimization, efficacy, and effectiveness of professional practices.
More importantly, it is for universities in Nepal to realize that research with scientific, innovative, social, and professional potentials, utility, and relevance not only enhances the perceived value and reputation of Nepali universities and educational institutions of higher education in terms of grants, market outreach, funds, and investment collaborations but also indicates to potential students that universities in Nepal, like foreign academic institutions, are also involved in solving real-life scientific, social, economic, business, and industrial problems.