The Prime Minister on 3rd December had written to the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) requesting it to relocate the Gedu College of Business Studies from its current location in Gedu.
The PM in the letter said that the national fertility rate had dropped to 1.7 percent and primary school enrollment rate has been declining since 2012 and the government is also undertaking major reforms in technical and vocational education sector to channel more students after class XII into skills based technical and vocational education.
The PM said that an autonomous national TVET council will be created to steer and manage technical and vocational education and a mega campus for technical education is being planned to be established.
The PM said the above changes will lead to corresponding reduction in tertiary enrollment rate and so given these developments the government would like to request the RUB to explore possibilities of consolidating college campuses, and, if feasible, free up GCBS to house the planned technical education institute and the headquarters of the National TVET Council.
The Prime Minister’s letter was sent to GCBS where a general staff meeting was conducted for two days from December 16 to 17 to discuss and propose their submissions.
GCBS in its letter said that GCBS was set up after His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo having felt the need of an independent business college in the country to meet the changing demands of globalization, envisioned the establishment of a business college. The then National Assembly members resolved to establish one at Gedu in its 85th session and fulfill the noble vision.
It says conversion of the technical setup developed by the Tala Hydropower Project Authority (THPA) into an educational institution did not come easy.
It says the founding director along with his team started from scratch to model the college to capture the Royal Vision and the continuity of hard work and sacrifices made by the succeeding president and staff has enlivened the college to what it is today.
The letter says currently, Gedu College of Business Studies as the only premier college under the Royal University of Bhutan offers full-time contemporary business, management, and entrepreneurship education in the country.
“This is very much in line with the Royal concerns on creating 21st century economic roadmap; pursuing small country-smart services; and empowering youth through engagement as addressed during 112th National Day Celebration,” says the letter.
The letter says the freeing up GCBS campus for National TVET Council would be a distant possibility for a host of reasons.
It says the the very purpose of separating the Commerce Faculty from Sherubtse College is to maintain an independent Business College in the country that is proximal to business and commercial hubs.
It days it is the only college under the RUB which has secured membership in the process of international accreditation which is in line with the government’s 12th Plans emphasizing quality education (NKRA7) and productive and gainful employment (NKRA11).
A GCBS Tracer Studies conducted over the years show that the college has been highly successful in grooming employment-ready graduates.
As enshrined in the college strategic plan, with the reduction in the domestic student enrollment, the plans and programmes are in place which will cater to the international demands. Thus, international student enrolment plans and programmes are developed.
As the only Business College under RUB, GCBS has started establishment of Incubation Centre and Programme diversification in the area of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in line with the CSI and Startup Flagship Programme.
GCBS said that it is also important to note that freeing up of GCBS campus will have the associated costs.
It says there will be an infrastructural loss of Nu 2.6 bn as the current infrastructure is modified to house business programmes and studies. Freeing up and looking for another campus may not guarantee the conduct and the success of the business programmes. In addition, the proposed transition would make GCBS and RUB forgo about 186 acres of land which has been earmarked for GCBS’ own expansion and development.
The current programmes and their accreditation will be at a stake should GCBS be shifted to another location. Moreover, blending and harmonization of its programmes with any other college would be difficult because of the differences in the curriculum modality and mandates.
The College says it has around 70 faculty members and 70 regular administrative and support staffs. Relocation of the college would cost in terms of family displacement and their emotional dispairment.
With the establishment of Business college at GCBS in 2008, all the Commerce Faculty members were “Locked, stocked, and barreled” and shifted to Gedu. Repeating it for the second time would impact the name of the college and professional credibility of the members of GCBS. This would lead to the loss of human resources.
The College said it presently has networks and understandings signed with over a dozen of corporations and NGOs in Thimphu and Phuentsholing. These relationships range from student internships to rendering of consulting and research services. The displacement would put continuity and sustainability of these networks at stake.
The GCBS made alternate proposals.
It said the letter by the Prime Minister lacks clarity and direction as it does not state which colleges are to be consolidated on what grounds. Therefore, GCBS submitted that the Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) must conduct or engage an independent consultant to conduct comprehensive feasibility study if RUB has to consolidate college campuses.
As GCBS contributes immensely in the nation building by promoting business and entrepreneurship and guaranteeing employability (as well as creating employments), OVC must conduct programme need and graduate employability study across the colleges under RUB to ascertain evidences for consolidation. For instance, there are around six thousand unemployed graduates and it would be significant to analyse which RUB programme or college add to unemployment issues.
It says likely decline in enrolment of domestic students will be addressed through programme diversification and attraction of international students. Thus, it is deemed necessary for OVC to involve all the RUB colleges to jointly conduct programme need analysis to determine student admission trends and future prospects.
GCBS said the decision of consolidating RUB campuses must be supported by a thorough cost-benefit analysis for the government as well as the RUB colleges.