Interview | ‘Global collaboration is the future of education:’ Rajen Kandel, education entrepreneur

‘Our approach to running educational institutions in Nepal reflects adaptability, collaboration, and a dedication to providing high-quality education, with a continued commitment to advancing the educational landscape in Nepal.’

NL Today

  • Read Time 8 min.

Rajen Kandel, the Director of the Kandel Group UK and its subsidiaries, is a British-Nepali businessman and education entrepreneur. Kandel also has investment portfolios in the real estate in the UK. He Chaired the Britain Nepal Chamber of Commerce (BNCC) from 2015-2019 and he was an advisor for the Non-Resident Nepalese Association UK.  Nepal Live Today spoke to him about his investment in education field in Nepal and beyond and the prospects and challenges in the sector.

You started colleges in the UK and later moved to Nepal, UAE and are now planning to go to Canada. How would you like to recollect your journey as an edupreneur?

Education is a fundamental element of any development and progress of society. I think imparting education has been in our genes. Our great grandfather was a teacher and ran “Gurushala” in a remote village in Nepal. My father set up schools and ran community schools in Baglung district of Nepal. I am also following in his footsteps.

Reflecting on my journey as an edupreneur has been a remarkable adventure marked by diverse experiences and an unwavering pursuit of educational excellence. Originating in the UK provided a solid foundation, honing my skills in establishing and managing educational institutions. The subsequent transitions to Nepal and the UAE were transformative, offering unique challenges and opportunities that enriched my perspective on education within distinct cultural contexts. Witnessing the positive impact of our institutions on students and communities in these regions has been gratifying. As I embark on a new venture in Canada, the anticipation is high, and each transition has expanded our reach and allowed us to tailor our approach to local needs. Grateful for the collaborative efforts of dedicated teams and supportive communities, I look forward to embracing the Canadian educational landscape, building connections, and contributing to diverse learning experiences. The evolution of our institutions reflects a commitment to quality education and innovation in pedagogy, shaping futures through education. I express gratitude for prompting this reflection and eagerly anticipate the next chapter in Canada.

What has been your response to running The British College and other academic institutions in Nepal?

Operating The British College and other academic institutions in Nepal has been a fulfilling and enriching experience, marked by a commitment to excellence and adaptability in response to the dynamic educational landscape.

Running any business or educational institution in Nepal has very different challenges and at the same time very satisfying. Although I was born and raised in Nepal, most of my working and business career started in the UK. I had re-learn Nepali way of managing challenges in business in the country that is full of bureaucratic hassles and problems.  

Embracing cultural diversity and understanding local nuances, we integrated international educational standards with the Nepali context, tailoring programs to meet community needs. Engaging with the academic community and local stakeholders, we fostered partnerships with educational bodies, government agencies, and industry leaders. Prioritizing infrastructure and resource challenges, we invested in conducive learning environments with modern facilities. Additionally, our commitment to community engagement and social responsibility extended beyond the classroom through participation in local projects and support for educational outreach. In summary, our approach to running educational institutions in Nepal reflects adaptability, collaboration, and a dedication to providing high-quality education, with a continued commitment to advancing the educational landscape in Nepal.

There is huge demand for technical and IT-based courses in Nepal. What courses are you offering at The British College?

In response to the demand for technical and IT-based courses at The British College in Nepal, we recognise the growing significance of these fields and remain devoted to meeting the needs of students and the global job market. Currently, our institution offers a diverse array of technical and IT courses, including the BSc (Hons) in Computing, providing a foundational understanding of software development, database management, networking, and cybersecurity. The Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Data Science focuses on network design, implementation, and security, preparing students for roles in network administration. Additionally, our BSc (Hons) in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence caters to those passionate about software development, covering programming languages, software architecture, and project management. Addressing the escalating importance of cybersecurity, our programme, BSc (Hons) Cyber Security and Digital Forensic, tackles the challenges of safeguarding digital assets. These courses are meticulously designed to integrate theoretical knowledge with practical skills, ensuring graduates are well-equipped for the dynamic and competitive global IT industry. Furthermore, we offer the MSc Advanced Computer Science. We are committed to consistently reviewing and updating our course offerings to align with industry trends and technological advancements. Our dedication remains unwavering in providing educational pathways that empower students in the rapidly evolving world of technology.

We have made a huge investment in the college so that students can experience cutting edge technologies in Nepal. We were the first institute to run an AI Conference in 2019, we were the first institute to have an IT forensic lab and the first college to launch Virtual Reality in learning.

You are offering three-year Undergrad courses at The British College. Doesn’t squeezing time compromise the quality of teaching and learning?

Our undergraduate program spans four years, including a foundation year, and is meticulously designed to uphold high academic standards while delivering a comprehensive educational experience. Our focused curriculum covers essential theoretical concepts and prioritizes practical, industry-relevant skills to provide a well-rounded education within the designated time frame. Innovative teaching methodologies, intensive learning modules, and the expertise of our highly qualified faculty contribute to an accelerated yet effective learning environment. We leverage technology to enhance the learning experience, incorporating cutting-edge tools and online resources. Continuous assessment and regular feedback ensure that students stay on track with their academic progress. The four-year duration aligns with international standards, and our curriculum is benchmarked against recognized educational frameworks. Our commitment remains steadfast in delivering a high-quality education that prepares students for the challenges of the professional world.

Tens of thousands of Nepali students are leaving for the US, Australia and other countries for higher education every year. What do you think should be done to provide quality, affordable education at home?

The increasing trend of Nepali students pursuing higher education abroad prompts a crucial examination of how to improve the quality and affordability of education within the country. Also, how we need to create job opportunities in the country after graduation. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, several key measures could contribute to achieving this goal. Adequate investment in educational infrastructure, including modern facilities and well-equipped laboratories, can significantly enhance the learning experience.

Continuous professional development for faculty members ensures their proficiency in the latest pedagogical methods and industry trends, directly impacting the quality of education. Establishing strong ties with industries, introducing scholarship programs, leveraging online learning platforms, and implementing government policies that prioritize education and provide regulatory support are crucial steps. A collaborative approach, involving a long-term vision and concerted efforts from all stakeholders, is essential to provide quality, affordable education in Nepal, addressing the multifaceted challenges and nurturing intellectual capital within the country.

There is a very important role for the government and policy makers in the country. Currently, 125,000 students are leaving every year and there are another 200,000 Nepali students studying in India. The Nepali ministry of education must allow high quality foreign degree teaching in the sector of engineering, healthcare and medicine. There is currently a syndicate and unofficial ban on colleges like The British College to offer these qualifications. Nepal should allow multiple medical colleges to open and the cap on student numbers (quota) must be removed. It will at least stop students travelling to India, Bangladesh to some extent. If we allow major high quality international degrees in Nepal it will not only discourage Nepali students to study in the country but also attract international students from the region to come and study in Nepal.      

What do you think the government and private sector should do to give students an opportunity to work while they are studying?

Empowering students to work while pursuing their studies is a commendable approach that necessitates collaborative efforts from both the government and the private sector. To provide students with opportunities to work while studying, several measures can be undertaken. These include encouraging the private sector to facilitating internship programs, providing government incentives for private companies to hire students, fostering industry-academia partnerships, collaborating on skill development programs, establishing job placement services, enacting supportive legislation for students’ workplace rights, expanding financial aid programs, conducting awareness campaigns about work opportunities, and encouraging entrepreneurship among students. Implementing these measures collectively can create an environment that enables students to balance work and study, promoting a holistic and practical approach to education. Currently, foreign educated Nepalis who return to Nepal need to apply for equivalence from Tribhuvan University. This process is not easy and frustrating. Many Nepalis have left the country again due to this hassle. Government must immediately change policy to remove this hassle for foreign educated Nepali students.

‘A collaborative approach, involving a long-term vision and concerted efforts from all stakeholders, is essential to provide quality, affordable education in Nepal, addressing the multifaceted challenges and nurturing intellectual capital within the country.’

Government needs to introduce various seed funds and discounted interest rate loans for start-up businesses. It will encourage young graduates to stay back in the country and start businesses and create jobs.      

We at the British College are doing various such activities already. We organize international internships for students and we organize start-up fest with seed money for students. However, this needs to be done at a bigger scale by the government.    

How do you see the prospect of foreign investment in the education sector in Nepal? What are major obstacles, if any?

The potential for foreign investment in Nepal’s education sector offers significant opportunities but requires careful navigation of various challenges for long-term success. The opportunities lie in Nepal’s growing population and increased focus on education, making it an attractive market with substantial demand for quality education. Foreign investment can bring diverse educational offerings, international collaborations, and advanced teaching methodologies, contributing to enhanced educational quality. Additionally, investments can aid in infrastructure development, global partnerships, and skill development programs, aligning education with workforce demands. However, obstacles such as regulatory complexities, cultural sensitivity, affordability concerns, infrastructure challenges, political stability, the necessity of local collaboration, and the crucial aspect of quality assurance need to be addressed. Successful foreign investment hinges on overcoming these challenges through collaborative efforts between the government, local stakeholders, and foreign investors to ensure sustainable success in Nepal’s education landscape.

There are still many challenges in bringing foreign investments to Nepal. One problem we face at the moment is bringing talents to Nepal. The current work permit system is so outdated and takes several months. The Ministry of Education takes years to approve new courses at these colleges. If you want to open branches around the counties, you have to apply for separate approval for each site.  The current process does not support growth at all.

Until all the other major indicators are positive in Nepal regarding FDI, I still see big challenges in Nepal to attract FDI. However, in the meantime Nepali diaspora can play an important role in bringing investments, technologies to Nepal. 

What is the future plan of your company?

Looking ahead, we are enthusiastic about our strategic initiatives focused on continued growth and success. Our plans include expanding educational offerings with new courses and specialisations to meet evolving student needs and global job market demands. Technological integration is a priority, aiming to enhance the learning experience through innovative educational technologies and online platforms. We aspire to strengthen global collaborations with international educational institutions, fostering diversity and cultural exchange. Research and innovation are integral, with investments planned for faculty and student engagement in ground-breaking projects. We maintain a student-centric approach, enhancing support services, mentorship programs, and extracurricular activities. Infrastructure development is prioritised to create modern learning spaces equipped with the latest technology. Community engagement and social impact initiatives are central to our future plans, along with continuous adaptation to industry trends. These plans underscore our commitment to providing high-quality education, fostering innovation, and preparing students for success in a rapidly changing world. We are working hard to create an affordable education network globally. It will also create global mobility and cultural exchange for our students and staff.

‘Until all the other major indicators are positive in Nepal, I still see big challenges in Nepal to attract FDI. However, Nepali diaspora can play an important role in bringing investments, technologies to Nepal.’ 

We are also working to make Nepal an education HUB of South Asia. Similarly, we are expanding into creating jobs in IT services sectors in Nepal. Nepal is becoming very popular for many American and European companies to house their back-office or business processing outsourcing (BPO) centres. This will hopefully reduce the number of Nepali youths leaving the country.

We are also expanding outside Nepal. We are at the final stage of opening a campus in Canada. We are expanding our provisions in the UK by offering degree courses. We are exploring opportunities to expand in Germany, the EU, Middle East and India. We would love to create a global university/college for our students and staff. Global collaboration is the future of education.