The government has stopped issuing no objection certificates (NOC) to students planning to study diplomas or language courses abroad.

Issuing a directive to guide the distribution of the NOC, the Ministry of Education has said only those who want to study bachelor’s or higher level will be granted permission to study abroad. “The directive was issued as per our legal provisions which say the NOC would be issued to study higher education abroad,” Krishna Kapri, a joint secretary at the ministry of education, told the Post. “Bachelor’s and courses beyond that level are considered higher education.”

Clause 3(b) of the Scholarships Act of 1964, and its regulation issued in 2003, make it mandatory for students to acquire a ‘No Objection Letter’ before going abroad for studies. The Act says, “No citizen of Nepal shall go abroad for higher studies without receiving an NOC letter to be issued by the Ministry of Education.”

Diploma courses are generally non-university courses for students who have completed the tenth grade. And as grades 11 and 12 were incorporated into school-level education through the eighth amendment to the Education Act in 2016, only university-level education will now be considered higher education, the officials at the ministry claim.

Although the amended Act came into force in June 2016, students had been receiving no objection letters for diploma and language courses until two weeks back. The government, however, had in 2019 briefly stopped issuing NOCs for such courses. It then said the decision was taken after increasing cases of Nepali diploma students facing problems abroad came to light.

The decision, however, had been withdrawn under pressure from education consultancies and students. Now with the government reimposing the provision, education consultancies have already started lobbying for revocation of the decision. “Not all students can afford to join colleges and universities. Only those with deep pockets will get to study abroad with the new rules. This is discriminatory,” Santosh Pyakurel, chairperson of National Educational Consultancies Association, told the Post.

According to education consultancies, thousands of students who travel to Australia are enrolled in vocational and training courses. Over 60 percent of the 121,000 students who acquired NOCs in 2022 were Australia-bound.

The new rules also affect the students willing to pursue higher study in Japan where studying language for six months or a year is mandatory before joining academic programmes in most of the universities. Japan is the second most preferred academic destination for Nepali students after Australia.

Education consultancies claim that the government reimposed the new rule under pressure from Nepali universities and colleges that are running short of students. All universities in the country are losing students gradually to the extent that they are mulling over stopping some of their programmes.

Another reason for the reimposition of the restrictions is to lessen the pressure of capital flight under the pretext of studying abroad. Nepali students sent Rs67.7 billion to over 70 countries in the previous fiscal year for higher education. A total of Rs54.7 billion has already been sent to the different countries in the eight months of the current fiscal year. Around 80,000 students have so far acquired NOCs in the current fiscal year.

Those involved in educational consultancy services say the government needs to know that the diploma courses are popular in developed countries like Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom among others. “Even world’s top universities offer diploma courses which are very popular,” Jagadish Khadka, director at Wallabies Educational Services, told the Post over phone from Australia. “The government shouldn’t prevent students from studying their preferred courses.”

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