Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) which became an autonomous body since July 1, 2011 seems to be achieving its mission in upgrading tertiary education in the country notwithstanding a few hiccups.
At the end of the University Council meeting held on January 30, 2012, the Director for Research and External Relations in RUB, Dorji Thinley, said, “All the council members were extremely happy with the results of the transformation”.
Dorji Thinley said that now RUB has to generate its own budget and that makes them more enterprising. With RUB turning into an autonomous body, students are now being given opportunities to study in RUB colleges as self-paid students.
Many students in the colleges are happy with the transformation, too. “Our stipends are increased and important facilities like wireless internet connections have improved; more importantly lecturers are being more responsible now”, said a student from Sherubtse College.
Yeshi Jamtsho, a self-funded student Economics and Sociology student in Sherubste College pays Nu 55,000 per semester as college fees but he is not grumbling. “I feel the fee is fine because we have to pay almost the same amount even in Indian colleges and the Royal Thimphu College; instead I feel lucky to study in our own country.”
Similarly, Kumbu Lham is a self-paid trainee at the National Institute of Education in Paro. “I pay Nu 69,000 excluding Nu 883 for food and lodging in a year and that amount is reasonable,” she said, “our money is used to pay for what we use like electricity, water and other resources”.
Even Sangay Passang, a trainee at Samtse College of Education who was not exactly jubilant with the system when his Nu 1,500 stipend was stopped by the college for food and lodging last December now appreciates the motives of the system.
“More students are absorbed in the colleges now, solving the unemployment problem to some extent and private candidates are given opportunities unlike in the past when students had to go out of the country to study,” he said.
However, double-degree students are worried about getting jobs relevant to their subjects with some cases occurring when such students have been rejected due to their double degree.
Dechen Wangmo, a BA graduate who studied Economics/ geography combination in Sherubtse College was shocked when her application for the post of regional manager in Tashi Info Com was not accepted.
“They needed a candidate who has honors in Economics and my application was rejected despite my majors in economics”, she said. “We get to study two subjects but we are not specialized in any of them until we qualify for honors.” Similarly, Ugyen Yonten, a BA (English/Environmental studies) graduate from Sherubtse College, did not qualify for the post of Environment officer in the National Environment Commission(NEC).
Ugyen Yonten had a BA title whereas NEC needed science (BSc ) students. “We could not apply just because of the title BA we have, but in actuality, the contents we studied in EVS are the same, be it Science or Arts”.
Students have to spend an extra year if they wish to acquire an honors certificate, which is also allowed only for those students who have scored an average of 70% at the end of the sixth semester.
A dzongkha honours student, Pema Longdhen, feels that the one year extra he has spent at the college will be in vain because having an honors certificate for Arts subject is treated equivalent to the BA degree holders, unlike technical students.
“For technical students, degree holders and those with Honors certificates sit for different exams and those with honors certificates have an advantage,” he said adding that Arts students pursuing honors are discouraged.
“Our juniors are discouraged as well and hardly any students are planning to stay back for another one year; that’s how quality education deteriorates.” New subject courses were introduced in various colleges with the increase in admission offered to students.
“New courses will be introduced whenever needed”, said Dorji Thinley although he doesn’t feel there is a need for it right now.
But RUB graduates feel a strong need for introduction of subject courses which are relevant in job markets.
Royal University of Bhutan unlike in the past recruits their employees based on the criteria set by the body. The RUB now deals directly with the authorities concerned without routing through the RCSC for the matters related to Colombo plan lecturers.
This has disgruntled a few lecturers. “Our grades will be upgraded like every other civil servant but our designation will remain the same; on the other hand we will be transferred within the colleges under RUB”, said Ugyen Tshering, assistant lecturer in Sherubtse college.
Ugyen Yonten said that “there is a huge mismatch between the jobs offered and qualifications of job seekers; that’s one of the reasons which create unempl oyment problems”.
“They promised us jobs in either of the two subjects we take, when the course was first introduced which does not turn out to be true when we face the real situation”, he added.