Thousands of Bhutanese graduates from Sikkim Manipal University’s (SMU) have had an uncertain future ever since the university started mentioning ‘Directorate of Distance Education,’ on the graduation certificates as of 2016.
The problem is that correspondent or distant learning degrees are not recognized as a standard academic qualification to say join politics, sit for the civil service entrance examinations or apply for government jobs.
But the government is looking into it and the Prime Minister has said that the issue needs to be carefully studied since this will be hampering those who have invested a lot of money and effort in achieving their dreams.
The issue was discussed on Thursday between the Prime Minister and the concerned departments from the Ministry of Education, Royal Civil Service Commission and Vice Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan.
“This isn’t a simple case even if it’s affecting only a few students since it’s victimizing the students who have attended the regular classes as per the norms of a regular college,” Lyonchen said adding that even the government and responsible consultancies were not aware about such issue.
“For those who are already employed in government and corporate service and various other agencies, the individuals shall continue to work and will not be bothered by the current issue,” he said, adding that this will also include those students who already completed the degree since the distance education remark isn’t mentioned on their certificates.
However, Lyonchen said that the matter of the recent graduates and those who are currently pursuing courses will also be taken care of. “The government should look into it and it should not be left carelessly because this is not a simple issue,” he said.
However, Lyonchhen said that the approval of the SMU by the government needs to be reconsidered hereafter.
“The government has so far been approving this university till date, but there should also not be any issues in discontinuing the approval of the university.” He said it doesn’t justify to have attended the classes regularly and appeared exams in respective colleges and then be given a distance learning certificate.
He also said that it was suggested during the discussion that there shouldn’t be any denial from all the agencies including Election Commission of Bhutan for SMU students to be absorbed in job market and be able to contest for election.
In 2016 a Haa Thrompon candidate whose earlier degree did not mention ‘distance education’ was still disqualified by the ECB after it was found that all SMU courses outside Sikkim are distance education courses.
The matter however will be resolved once the responsible educational consultancies will rectify the issue and submit the report to the government, which will be further discussed with concerned agencies.
Bhutan is estimated to have around 5,000 to 6,000 graduates, who over the years have graduated from the Sikkim Manipal University’s various affiliated study centers outside Sikkim. The majority of them come from the B.B Pradhan Management College (BMC) in Kalimpong which has been in operation since 2003.
Over the years these many graduates have joined government jobs both through the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and directly through government agencies. They have also taken up government corporate jobs and also contested elections on the strength of their graduation certificate.
However, this very Graduation Certificate has come into question in Bhutan as Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) affiliated study centers as of 2016 have started mentioning ‘Directorate of Distance Education,’ on their graduation certificates.
This is an issue as the RCSC and other government agencies, as a rule, do not accept ‘Distance Education’ graduation certificates for employment. Moreover, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) also does not accept such degrees to contest in elections.
This could also have affected all past graduates as recently affected Bhutanese students have found that the Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) Degrees from these affiliated centers in the past too were ‘Distance Education’ degrees as per India’s University Grants Commission (UGC). The only difference being that in the past the University took care to not mention it on the Graduation Certificates of students to give an appearance of it being a full fledged formal degree.
It was in reaction to the High Court case of 2015 that the SMU did not want to take any risks and so it started mentioning ‘Directorate of Distance Education’ on its graduation certificates from then on.
The students themselves who attended these colleges classes regularly, did exams and even wore uniforms were also under the impression that they were getting formal graduate degrees.
The issue was brought to light by eight students who graduated in 2016 from a SMU affiliated study center in College with distance education mentioned on their certificates.