Unstable Universities Policies: What They Mean For Students

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I agree that the government should undertake some monitoring activities, but it should not intervene in the internal decisions of universities. In Mongolia, the Ministry of Education has too much power to influence universities and it causes instability and lack of quality.

Around 51 to 60 percentages of the governing board of any university will be delegates of its founder. Delegates of the founder will be appointed by a resolution of the founder (Article 36.2, Education Law of Mongolia). What the term “founder” means with respect of public universities is the state and the government. In other words, it is the Ministry of Education or a related ministry.

This is the only reason why the boards of public universities in Mongolia change immediately after parliamentary elections in Mongolia, which bring about changes in government structure. Hence it seems that although we have a declaration in our Constitution guaranteeing a separate judiciary, executive and legislative power, public institutions’ authorities are still subject to the demands of Parliament.

For example, the boards of all public universities, including the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST) and the National University of Mongolia (NUM) and their administrations have changed twice in the last five years. This was once in 2012, when the majority of Parliament changed to the Democratic Party from the Mongolian People’s Party, and again in 2016, when it switched back. As is stipulated in Article 36.2 of the Education Law of Mongolia, people at the ministry change, hence the people on the boards of universities change as well.

The change in board members at public universities bring about many changes to the management and governance of the schools as a whole and has a direct impact on students and teachers.

According to the regulations governing public universities, the board is the highest decision-making body at the university. The changes in board members result in the universities changing its structure, such as faculties, schools, departments, and of course most of the directors and managerial staff. A big discussion that we had only few weeks ago was when NUM’s rectorate made a decision and passed it to the board to make change to the Department Chair of the School of International Relations. But as there were students and teachers who were against the decision, the board decided to take another look.

An interesting point that one teacher who was against the decision raised was that there are members of Parliament and other related people with power who have something to gain by abolishing the International Relations School at NUM, as they have their own school for international relations, which could benefit greatly by monopolizing the market.

These types of changes were made as little as five years ago when the dominant party’s government changed. A change of the deans followed this, as well as a shift in the structure of university and a reshuffling of key staff members.

Another issue is the subjects that students must study to complete a course. If you organize the classes into groups based on subject, there are three main study components that students study at university, which are basic general studies, basic professional studies, and professional studies.

In addition to the above, there are internships.

In total, it is mandatory to study 130-140 credits for most programs at universities. But the ratio of credits attributed to each component is approximately one-third. The internship only counts for two to three percent or lower of credits for most study programs at many universities.

Although the ratio of study components are somewhat connected to the quality of general education and university entrance requirement, this is not the main cause for lack of attention given to internships. Indeed, decision-makers at the ministry and the heads of universities often resort criticizing general education quality to address students complaining about the basic general studies component which takes up a third of credits in a given degree course. If what the decision-makers and the heads of universities say are true, they also neglect to acknowledge the problem of close to no university admission requirements.

So how is this connected to politicians and its power to intervene in university affairs? The Ministry of Education approves the curriculum for all degree courses. Therefore, the ministry wields significant power, which can easily be used by politicians of dominant parties for personal gain.

State monitoring is important, especially for public universities. But this kind of direct intervention is not an effective solution to manage universities, especially when politicians have an obvious conflict of interest. A reform of the nation’s higher education policy is urgently needed to make it more scientific and objective, rather than the subjective approach hindering the bright minds of the future.

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