Recently, Fourth NRN Regional Conference was held on 28th-30th May 2010 at the City of Houston, USA. More than 300 representatives from more than 20 countries converged in this beautiful city, which is a major industrial and commercial centre of the USA.
On the first day of the conference, NRN Task force on Skill Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (SKI) organised a daylong workshop on Open and Distance Education in Nepal. The resolution of the workshop was then deliberated by the NRNA general assembly, which endorsed a resolution for establishing an Open University of Nepal (OUN) as NRNA flagship initiative. The Houston declaration released by NRNA on May 29, 2010 made this public.
In his inaugural address, NRNA President Devman Hirachan stated, “Knowledge transfer is critical to the overall success of NRN movement, as it is a long term NRN investment to Nepal and Nepali”. He added, “An Open University of Nepal is envisioned as the flagship initiative of NRNA – and we will make it possible through cooperation and collaboration.” From the Chair of NRN SKI task force, Dr Raju Adhikari welcomed the participants and highlighted the main purpose of the workshop; to deliver on the academic, management and business aspects in creating an Open University for Nepal.
In the session, Dr. Renu Khator, Chancellor and President of University of Houston System, Dr. Fritz Panekoek, Chairman of the International Council for Open and Distance Education, and the President of Canada’s Athabasca University, Dr. Shankar Prasad Sharma, Nepalese Ambassador to the USA, Dr. Mohamed Ally, Founding Director of the International Association of Mobile Learning, Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Nepalese Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Upendra Mahato, Chief-Patron, NRNA, Dr. Carl Stokton, Senior Vice President and Provost of University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL), Dr. Mirnal Mugdh, Vice President of Academic Affairs of UHCL, presented their opinions on various aspects of the Open University of Nepal.
In the workshop Dr Parmod Dhakal, Carleton University, Dr. Ambika Adhikari, Arizona State University, and Dr. Drona Rasali, University of Regina, and Dr. Jeetendra Joshee, Dean of Continuing Education at California State University – Long Beach, presented papers on overall framework, pre-business plan, academic plan, and governance respectively. These papers were commented by Dr. Alok Bohara, University of New Mexico, Dr. Shiva Gautam, Harvard University, Dr. Mahendra Lohani, Vice-President, Heifer International, Dr. Prahlad Pant, University of Cincinnati, Dr. Gokul Bhandari, University of Windsor, Dr. Kalyani Rai, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dr. Nalini Chhetri, Arizona State University, Dr. Nanda Raj Shrestha, Florida A&M University.
In the following session on Skills, Knowledge and Innovation (SKI) exchange, Dr Raju Adhikari presented and shared the overall vision and commitment of the SKI in the long term prosperity of Nepal. SKI is committed to flagship project like OU in the education theme and working on similar flagship projects in medical, and science and technology areas. In this sessions, Dr. Rajendra Shrestha, Dr. Krishna C Prasad Dr. Hari Dhakal and Dr. Alok Bohara presented their papers in energy, collaborative degree programs, medical knowledge, and exchange of scholars and scholarship respectively. In an immediate follow-up to the workshop, the conference thanked president Dr. Frits Pannekoek, International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), Athabasca University (AU), Dr. Mohamed Ally, International Association of Mobile Learning, Dr. Renu Khator, Dr. Carl Stockton, Dr. Mrinal Mugdh, University of Houston, Dr. Jeetendra Joshee, California State University Long Beach, and Dr. Krishna C Prasad, UNESCO-IHE for pledging their support for the establishment of the Open University of Nepal.
On behalf of the NRN and SKI task force, Dr. Dhakal, coordinator of the workshop thanked all the participants and guests for attending and making the workshop a success. He also thanked NRNA leadership and the dignitaries who addressed the workshop sessions, and those individuals and institutions who pledged their support to this initiative. The main points of the workshop resolutions adopted by NRN ICC are as follows:
1. Open University of Nepal Initiative
– The Open University of Nepal (OUN) is recognised as the Flagship project of NRN.
– An OUN Strategic Committee (OUSC) was established to take the recommendation of the workshop for further action. The committee has 11 members Dr Pramod Dhakal, Dr Ambika Adhikari, Dr Raju Adhikari, Dr Drona Rasali, Devman Hirachan, President of NRNA, Dr. Upendra Mahato, Chief-Patron of NRNA, Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador to UN, Dr Shanker Sharma, Ambassador, USA, Dr. Bhojraj Ghimire, and Ambassador to Canada, Representative of Ministry of Education, GON. Dr Pramod Dhakal was entrusted to be the coordinator.
– NRNA thanked and acknowledged the intellectual contributions of scholars, academics and institutional thinkers for their deliberation in the workshop.
– The OUSC will work closely with the GON to follow up and finalise already submitted MOU and develop collaborative and operational mechanism with GON and other potential strategic partners to help establish the OUN.
– The OUSC will mobilise resources to prepare a detailed proposal and business plan in the next 6 months with the help of NRN and international experts as deemed appropriate.
– All formal media communication and press release to be handled by OUSC spokesperson through SKI and president of NRNA.
2. Science Foundation (SF)
– NRN approved the establishment of SF and formation of a committee to undertake the feasibility of the registration process and prepare a strategic plan for the fundraising campaign. The Foundation to be registered as an autonomous public trust in Nepal and the fund will be used to support SKI flagship projects. Initially, the fund will be deposited into a separate NRN ICC account called SF account. Dr Raju Adhikari is identified as the coordinator.
– SKI is pleased to join the team of Earthquake Disaster Preparedness program led by American Society for Nepalese Engineers, America Nepal Medical Foundation and Computer Association
– All SKI workshop presentations to be complied into a proceeding publication and distributed to GON, NRNICC and other concerned parties.
3. Pledge of Financial Support
– SKI acknowledges gratefully the financial pledge of UD10, 000 from Aditya Jha for Open University of Nepal initiative and Dr Upendra Mahato (to be disclosed later) for SF.