Higher Education in Bhutan
Policy, Current Status, and Challenges
Kuenzang Gyeltshen and Rinchen Dorji
Introduction ....................................................................................... 2
History of Higher Education in Bhutan .. . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Overview and Current Status of Higher Education in Bhutan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Access, Participation, Retention, and Transition Practices in Higher Education . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Education Governance ............................................................................ 10
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs): Governance Structure and Modus Operandi ........... 11
Study Programs Offered by the Higher Education Institutions in Bhutan .. . . .................. 13
Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment Systems ............................................... 16
Use of Technology in Higher Education ......................................................... 18
Faculty Preparation, Professional Development, Social and Economic Status, and
Career Paths ....................................................................................... 19
Research in Higher Education .................................................................... 21
Internationalization of Higher Education in Bhutan . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 22
Quality Initiatives, Reforms, and Innovation .................................................... 23
Legal or Administrative Grievance Redressal System for Students, Teachers, and
Administrative and Service Staff, With or Without Social Security .. . ......................... 24
Challenges Facing Higher Education in Bhutan .. . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Conclusion .. . . . ................................................................................... 27
Cross-References .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
References .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . 27
Higher education in Bhutan is relatively a young system and was primarily driven
by the need to develop the human resource capacity of the country to drive the
economy and development efforts in the country. Higher education in Bhutan
formally started only in the early 1980s with the introduction of undergraduate
study programs in a few selected higher education institutions in the country.
K. Gyeltshen (*) · R. Dorji
Samtse College of Education, Royal University of Bhutan, Samtse, Bhutan
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020
P. M. Sarangapani, R. Pappu (eds.), Handbook of Education Systems in South Asia,
Global Education Systems, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-3309-5_58-1
Despite the late start, higher education in Bhutan has witnessed unprecedented
growth and progress within a short period of over three decades.
The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB), established in 2003, is the principal
higher education institution in Bhutan that offers various undergraduate and
postgraduate study programs in diverse areas including language and culture,
natural resources and sustainable development, business studies, science, and
technology, engineering, information technology, and arts and humanities across
the different colleges. The Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of
Bhutan (KGUMSB), established in 2015, offers study programs related to nurs-
ing, public health, and traditional medicine and postgraduate study programs with
specialization in different ﬁelds of medicine. The Royal Institute of Management
(RIM) established in 1986 and Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law
established in 2015 also offer higher education study programs related to
human resource capacity development, public policy and administration, and
While provision of high-standard and quality higher education study programs
that are contextually relevant and meaningful to prepare higher education stu-
dents with the twenty-ﬁrst century skills of creativity, innovation, and intellect is
being accorded a high priority both at the national and institutional level, the
challenges confronting the Bhutanese higher education system are equally daunt-
ing and herculean. Constraints include inadequate infrastructure facilities and
ﬁnancial resources to support high standards of teaching and learning, grounded
on empirical ﬁndings informed by a robust culture of research and scholarly
pursuits among the higher education academia.
Tertiary education · Gross National Happiness and Research
Bhutan is a small landlocked country located between 26.70to 28.30N latitude
and 88.80to 92.10E longitude. It is a mountainous country with China to its north
and India to its south. According to the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan
(PHCB) 2017, the total population of the country as of May 30, 2017, was 735,553
persons. Out of the total population, 681,720 persons were Bhutanese, and 53,833
persons were non-Bhutanese. It has a total area of 38,394 km
. The literacy rate of
Bhutan is 71.4% (NSB 2019).
Until the advent of modern education in Bhutan, monastic education served the
spiritual and human resource needs of the country. The foundation of education
based on western model of schooling using foreign language as the medium of
instruction began in 1914, when Gongzin Ugyen Dorji was asked by Gongsa Ugyen
Wangchuck, the ﬁrst King of Bhutan, to establish a school at Haa in the west. In
1915, the second school was opened in Wangdicholing in Bumthang. Many students
2 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
were also sent to Kalimpong in India for studies at that time. These students returned
to Bhutan in 1921 to join the core of administrators in his court (Tobgay n.d.).
The ﬁrst King also invited Buddhist monks and scholars from other countries and
sent Bhutanese monks to Tibet for higher studies. Besides, the monks also traveled to
Tibet on their own in search of learned masters. The second King, Jigme
Wangchuck, set up seven to ten Hindi medium schools in the country. This was
the beginning of the present Bhutanese education system.
After the ascension of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third hereditary
monarch to the Golden Throne in 1952, and the introduction of the First Five Year
Plan Development in 1961, the number of schools modeled along the western
education system began to grow considerably. The growth of the education system
was part of His Majesty’s vision to bring about economic development of the
country through the formulation of new government policies and the introduction
of the Five Year Plans. Ever since, education was provided free to all those enrolled
in school irrespective of social status, language, or ethnic background.
In 1961, Bhutan started providing primary education with 59 primary schools;
1500 students, mostly boys; and 150 teachers (Dorji 2005). Admission to schools
was not restricted to any individual or group. By 1968/1969, the cohort of students
admitted in 1960–1961 were ready for class ten examinations. Sherubtse (then high
school) had conducted this examination in 1969, but this was not recognized in
India, where students had to go for higher studies. So, this was dropped and started
following the Indian Certiﬁcate of Secondary Education (ICSE, which was then
called senior Cambridge examination).
In 1976, the ﬁrst National Education Policy was drafted on the command of His
Majesty the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. This policy was revised in 1984
to make the education system in the country more relevant (Rabgay 2012). The 1984
Education Policy reiterated the need to make the school curriculum more relevant to
the need of the learners, the society, and the country at large.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan states that the state should provide
education to improve and increase knowledge, values, and skills of the entire
population for full development of the human personality. It also mandates the
provision of free education to all children of school going age up to the tenth
standard and ensures that technical and professional education is made generally
available and that higher education is equally accessible to all based on merit.
Gross National Happiness (GNH) is the guiding development philosophy of
Bhutan, and Sustainable and Equitable Socio-Economic Development, one of the
four pillars of GNH, plays a critical role in contributing toward the happiness and
well-being of the people. Within this development context, tertiary education plays a
paramount role in the socio-economic development, and the population of people
aspiring for tertiary education is increasing rapidly. Within a period of less than four
decades, the tertiary education system in Bhutan has expanded from a few institutes
in 1983 to 19 tertiary institutes with over 12,000 students in 2019 (MoE 2019). At
the national level, the Royal Government of Bhutan has prioritized enhancing access
to tertiary education.
Higher Education in Bhutan 3
Further, given the current pace of development in the country, there is a need for
dynamic workforce steeped in knowledge and skill. So, the tertiary education system
is challenged to respond accordingly by creating an enabling environment that
facilitates the generation of new knowledge and competencies to support a knowl-
edge-based economy. Considering the signiﬁcant role higher education plays in
setting new directions for the overall human resource development of a country,
understanding the state of tertiary education is paramount.
According to the draft National Education Policy of Bhutan 2018, tertiary
education in Bhutan aspires to be a nationally rooted and globally competitive
system that aims to develop productive, socially responsible, culturally grounded,
ecologically sensitive, and spiritually aware citizens equipped to lead Bhutan into a
knowledge-based society that values lifelong learning. Tertiary education plays a
central role in building future leadership of the Kingdom of Bhutan and its profes-
sional requirements in the near and distant future. It develops citizens who can
resolve complex social and technical problems.
History of Higher Education in Bhutan
Education in Bhutan was mainly monastic until the 1950s. Formal literacy develop-
ment was conﬁned to the monasteries, and many eminent Bhutanese scholars
traveled to Tibet to study Buddhist scriptures. Although two schools were started
in 1914/1915, one each in Haa and Bumthang, modern education in a more orga-
nized fashion actually began only in the late 1950s. Various colleges were later
established throughout the country, and these eventually led to the establishment of
the Royal University of Bhutan in 2003. The establishment of a national university
was envisaged as early as the Fifth Five Year Plan (1981–1986), and it was to be
named as Ugyen Wangchuck National University (MoE 2010).
Education system in Bhutan currently has three main elements: general educa-
tion, monastic education, and nonformal education. The ﬁrst type of education is by
far the biggest and is now commonly seen as the formal educational structure. While
monastic bodies continue to provide traditional monastic education, the current
formal education system has expanded since the ﬁrst Five Year Plan (FYP) in
1961 to address basic educational needs and develop human resources required for
the socioeconomic development of the country. Within a period of about six decades,
modern education system has expanded from about 11 schools prior to 1961 to 880
schools and other educational institutes in 2018, spanning from early childhood care
education to tertiary and technical and vocational education (MoE 2018).
To cater to the increasing demand of teachers in the education system due to the
exponential growth in the number of schools in the country, a Teacher Training
Institute (TTI) was established in Samtse on May 29, 1968, by the Third Druk
Gyalpo (Dragon King), His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. This premier teacher
education institution was established with the vision to educate and train not only
teachers who are professionally competent but also who are immersed in their rich
culture and heritage and accordingly transmit these values to our younger generation
4 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
of Bhutanese children. In 1984, TTI Samtse was upgraded to the National Institute of
Education (NIE) and began offering general Bachelor of Education programs. NIE
Samtse was renamed as Samtse College of Education (SCE) in 2008, and as one of
the constituent member colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan, the College
now specializes in the preparation of secondary school teachers and offers a number
of postgraduate programs in the area of education including Master of Arts in
Contemplative Counselling Psychology and Master of Education in Science and
Mathematics. This College launched a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work in July 2019,
the ﬁrst of its kind ever to be offered in the country, and two other Master of
Education in Geography and English have been launched in February 2020.
Again in 1975, another teacher education training institute called as the Teacher
Training College (TTC), the present Paro College of Education (PCE) was
established. Paro College has a mandate to prepare teachers for the primary school
education in addition to the preparation of Zhungkha (Dzongkha –national language
of Bhutan) teachers and also offers Master of Education in Educational Leadership
and Management. PCE also have started offering a Master of Education in Inclusive
Education as an initiative to prepare teachers for inclusive classrooms, especially in
addressing the learning needs of children with disabilities.
In the same year the Teacher Training Institute in Samtse was established in 1968,
His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck also established a public school in the east in
Kanglung under Trashigang district. Later in 1976, this school was upgraded to a
junior college, and in 1983, it was further upgraded to Sherubtse College, afﬁliated
to the University of Delhi in India and became the ﬁrst higher education institution to
offer bachelor-level study programs in the country. Sherubtse College, as one of the
ﬁrst premier higher education institutions, specializes in the provision of arts and
humanities higher degree study programs.
Like the history of modern education modeled upon the western education system
is young compared to the education systems in many other countries, higher
education system in Bhutan is still in its nascent stage. In fact, the history of higher
education is slightly over three decades, and the three higher education institutions
brieﬂy presented were the pioneer institutions in offering higher education study
programs in the country.
Presently, there are two universities in Bhutan that serve as the umbrella organi-
zation in the provision of higher education in the Bhutanese education system. The
Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) was established in 2003 through a royal decree
with nine federated colleges. RUB has ten constituent and two afﬁliated colleges
offering diverse programs of study including language and culture, natural resources
and sustainable development, business studies, science, and technology, engineer-
ing, information technology, and arts and humanities across the different colleges
(see Fig. 1).
The Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) was
established in 2015 to cater for the increasing demand of medical personnel in the
country. With the establishment of KGUMSB, the erstwhile Royal Institute of
Health Sciences and National Institute of Traditional Medicine which were the
constituent colleges of RUB were delinked and became the faculty of this new
Higher Education in Bhutan 5
university. Currently, KGUMSB functions with three different faculty, namely, the
Faculty of Postgraduate Medicine, Faculty of Nursing and Public Health, and
Faculty of Traditional Medicine, under its preview. Three private institutions,
namely, Arura Academy of Health Sciences, Royal Thimphu College, and Apollo
Bhutan Institute of Nursing, also offer nursing study programs afﬁliated to
Two other higher education institutions, the Royal Institute of Management
established in 1986 and Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law established in
2015, also offer higher education study programs related to human resource capacity
development, public policy and administration, and legal studies.
Overview and Current Status of Higher Education in Bhutan
According to Tertiary Education Policy of Bhutan 2010, in order to fulﬁll the
objectives of tertiary education, there are three types of institutions of tertiary
education in Bhutan: universities, colleges, and specialized institutes.
These tertiary education institutions in Bhutan offer a wide variety of study
programs including, but not limited to, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences,
commerce, and professional education at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
These include courses offered in traditional academic disciplines, employment-
oriented speciﬁc areas, and cross-cutting competencies including the use of infor-
mation technologies. Such coherent programs of study are aimed to produce grad-
uates with desired personal attributes, balanced worldview, high levels of analytical
and creative skills, and a broad range of competencies (MoE 2010).
Fig. 1 Constituent and afﬁliated colleges of the Royal University of Bhutan
6 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
Table 1 Student enrolment in the Royal University of Bhutan
College Program Female Male Total
College of Language and
1. Undergraduate bachelor
581 403 984
2. Undergraduate diploma
29 23 52
3. Master’s programs 29 9 38
Subtotal 639 435 1074
College of Natural
1. Undergraduate bachelor
533 417 950
2. Master’s programs 10 12 22
Subtotal 543 429 972
College of Science and
1. Undergraduate bachelor
276 716 992
2. Master’s program 0 3 3
Subtotal 276 719 995
Gaedu College of Business
1. Undergraduate bachelor
717 906 1623
2. Master’s program 4 13 17
Subtotal 721 919 1640
Gyalpozhing College of
1. Undergraduate bachelor
122 145 267
Subtotal 122 145 267
Jigme Namgyel Engineering
1. Undergraduate bachelor
29 108 137
2. Undergraduate diploma
204 439 643
Subtotal 233 547 780
Paro College of Education 1. Undergraduate bachelor
677 534 1211
2. Undergraduate diploma
124 40 164
3. Postgraduate diploma programs 47 92 139
4. Master’s program 18 126 144
Subtotal 866 792 1658
Samtse College of Education 1.
Undergraduate bachelor programs
315 253 568
2. Undergraduate diploma
10 5 15
3. Postgraduate diploma programs 111 149 260
4. Master’s programs 13 62 75
Subtotal 449 469 918
Sherubtse College 1. Undergraduate bachelor
822 782 1604
2. Postgraduate diploma
21 29 50
Subtotal 843 811 1654
Higher Education in Bhutan 7
As of August 2019, there were a total enrolment of 12,689 students studying in
the tertiary education programs in the country (see Tables 1,2, and 3). Female
student enrolment was slightly lower than males, making up 48.5% of the total
enrolment at the tertiary level.
Table 1 (continued)
College Program Female Male Total
Yonphula Centenary College 1. Master’s programs 11 33 44
Subtotal 11 33 44
Norbuling Rigter College 1. Undergraduate bachelor
174 161 335
Subtotal 174 161 335
Royal Thimphu College 1. Undergraduate bachelor
672 563 1235
Subtotal 672 563 1235
Grand total 5549 6023 11,572
Source: CLCS, CNR, CST, GCBS, GCIT, JNEC, PCE, SCE, SC, YCC, NRC and RTC, 2019
Table 2 Student enrolment in Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Science of Bhutan
College Program Female Male Total
Faculty of Postgraduate
1. Master’s programs 17 29 46
Subtotal 17 29 46
Faculty of Nursing and Public
1. Undergraduate diploma
212 236 458
2. Undergraduate bachelor
21 18 39
Subtotal 233 254 487
Faculty of Traditional Medicine 1. Undergraduate bachelor
11 26 37
2. Undergraduate diploma
22 17 39
Subtotal 33 43 76
Arura academy of health
1. Undergraduate diploma
56 18 74
Subtotal 56 18 74
Royal Thimphu College 1. Undergraduate bachelor
57 6 63
Subtotal 57 6 63
Apollo Bhutan institute of
1. Undergraduate diploma
11 0 11
Subtotal 11 00 11
Grand total 407 350 757
Source: FPGM, FNPH, FoTM, AAHS, RTC and ABIN, 2019
8 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
Large numbers of students also study abroad through private funding. According
to Annual Education Statistics 2019, there were 5686 students pursuing various
degree programs outside Bhutan. Majority of the students on government scholar-
ships and private funding are studying in India. There are more males receiving
scholarship as compared to female.
The gross enrolment ratio (GER) for tertiary education in the country (excluding
those tertiary students outside Bhutan) was estimated at 27.5% with Gender Parity
Index (GPI) of 0.85. The GER and GPI for both studying within and outside Bhutan
was estimated to be 41.6% and 0.82, respectively, in 2018 (MoE 2018). The GER at
tertiary level is derived by dividing the total enrolment in tertiary education by total
population in the age group of 19–23 years old based on the standard methodology
of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). However, since the tertiary education
system in Bhutan offers mostly undergraduate and diploma programs with course
duration ranging from 2 to 4 years, only the age group of 19–21 are used as
denominator while estimating the GER for 2018. This is adjusted mainly to derive
a realistic indicator to measure the participation rate of the population aged 19–
21 years at higher education in the context of Bhutan (MoE 2019).
The GER based on the UIS deﬁnition, i.e., proportion of 19–23 years old
participating in the higher education system (both within and outside Bhutan), is
estimated to be about 24.9% for 2019. The sharp decline in GER observed in 2019 is
compared to previous years is due to the change in the methodology (MoE 2019).
The structure of higher education in the country varies depending on the pro-
grams. The undergraduate diploma programs are for 2 years, while the undergrad-
uate degree programs range from 3 years in case of general bachelor programs to
4 years for bachelor with honors program and 5 years for speciﬁc programs like
Bachelor of Architecture. The Royal University of Bhutan also offers part-time
program both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Access, Participation, Retention, and Transition Practices in
Access to higher education is free to all provided the students meet the eligibility
criteria for each of the programs. The selection of students to each of the programs is
based on merit ranking which is calculated using the ability rating for each of the
Table 3 Student enrolment in two autonomous tertiary institutes
College Program Female Male Total
Jigme Singye Wangchuck school of law All students 40 22 62
Royal Institute of management All students 160 138 298
Grand total 200 160 360
Source: Annual Education Statistics, 2019
Higher Education in Bhutan 9
There is participation from all parts of the country, and disparity does not exist in
terms of education participation in Bhutan. As there are limited options of study
within the country, almost all the students complete the program once enrolled.
However, there are a few isolated cases of students leaving the college after
enrolment without completing the program when they receive scholarships to
study abroad in countries such as Thailand, Australia, the United States, Canada,
The enrolment of students in the tertiary education within the country has
increased from 5051 in 2009 to 12,689 in 2019 (MoE 2019). There were just 1775
female and 3926 male students enrolled in colleges and institute in 2009, while in
2019 there were 6156 (48.5%) female and 6533 (51.5%) male students enrolled in 19
tertiary institutes in the country (MoE 2019). This indicates very rapid increase in
access to tertiary education within a decade. The enrolment of male student is
slightly higher than the female. However, the data of individual colleges show that
in many of the colleges, the enrolment of female is more than the male, and in few
years’time, the overall female enrolment is going to be higher than the male.
The colleges, faculty, and institutes of two universities and two autonomous
tertiary institutes in the country do not have adequate facilities to cater to the need
of differently abled candidates. They have to follow the mainstream curriculum.
However, there are certain facilities to cater to visually impaired students. Other
disability considerations are not available in the colleges. This limitation of access to
tertiary education for children with disabilities is expected to change once the
National Disability Policy, which is in its ﬁnal stage of development, is formally
endorsed as a policy document.
Since education in Bhutan is free even at the tertiary level for 70% of the students
enrolled in the colleges for the undergraduate programs, there is no discrimination
based on the social, ethnic, and language minorities. Reservation of scholarship or
admission does not exist for anyone. The admission is open to everyone which is
purely based on academic merit ranking.
However, 30% of the students enrolled in the undergraduate programs are on self-
funding, based on the admission policy of RUB. The Department of Adult and
Higher Education provides interest-free education loan to these students to pursue
higher education within the country, which can be repaid later after the student
complete their studies.
The Ministry of Education has the overall responsibility to formulate tertiary edu-
cation policy and for ensuring that the necessary funding for tertiary education is
available from all possible sources. The MoE is also responsible for the development
of overall national education system of the country. The Department of Adult and
Higher Education (DAHE) established in 2003 is mandated with tertiary education
services. The tertiary education system is governed by the Tertiary Education Policy
2010 (TEP) which has mandated the establishment of the Tertiary Education Board
10 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
(TEB) and the Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC). TEB and BAC are empowered
bodies that take all major decisions pertaining to planning, establishment, funding,
quality assurance, registration, and licensing. They also provide oversight and
direction to the TEIs (MoE 2010).
The Tertiary Education Board is composed of members from relevant stake-
holders such as the Gross National Happiness Commission, Ministry of Education,
Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Ministry of Eco-
nomic Affairs, Royal Civil Service Commission, and other members drawn from
relevant professional bodies and eminent professionals.
Funding for tertiary education in Bhutan has been mainly provided by the Royal
Government of Bhutan and, through external aid, mostly provided by the Govern-
ment of India. However, tertiary education institutions (TEIs) are free to raise funds
from endowments, alumni contributions, research, collaboration and consultancy
activities, short programs, and rent from infrastructure. External donor grants to TEIs
need approval of the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC & MoE 2013).
The Royal Government of Bhutan supports in terms of meeting the capital
expenditure –a one-off infrastructure development, building of new colleges and
upgrading existing ones –and operating expenditure funding to cover all recurrent
costs such as staff costs, materials, and all other costs required to deliver programs
annually in the form of per student cost that the students bring to the college. In the
recent years, the colleges have also started enrolling 30% of the undergraduate
students on self-funding scheme where the students will have to bear their tertiary
According to the State of the Tertiary Education in Bhutan 2018 (MoE), the
tertiary education expenditure as a percentage of GDP in ﬁnancial year 2017–2018
was 0.75%. In absolute ﬁgures, a total expenditure of Nu. 1235.284 million was
spent on tertiary education against Nu. 164,627.92 million GDP in the 2017–2018
ﬁscal year. The expenditure in various universities and institutes for the ﬁnancial
year 2017–2018 is given in Table 4.
However, the Royal Government of Bhutan considers participation of the private
sector as important strategy to build high-quality tertiary education in speciﬁcﬁelds
and contribute toward developing Bhutan into a knowledge hub. This would also
create additional capacity wherever needed, through a cost-sharing operational
modality. As a result, two colleges under Royal University of Bhutan and three
nursing institutes under the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of
Bhutan were established by the private sector. The third private college in the
country is in the process of getting established.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs): Governance Structure and
The Tertiary Education Policy (TEP) 2010 provides overall guidance for the gover-
nance structure of higher education institutions in Bhutan (MoE 2010). This policy
has led to the establishment of the Tertiary Education Board (TEB), which is the
Higher Education in Bhutan 11
highest executive decision-making body in terms of managing the tertiary education
system in the country through planning and funding, quality assurance, and regis-
tration and licensing of both public and private tertiary education institutions. The
Board was established though an Executive Order issued by the cabinet based on the
Tertiary Education Policy of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2010. The Hon’ble Minister for
Education chairs the Board. The Department of Adult and Higher Education serves
as the Secretariat to the Board (MoE 2019).
Following the establishment of the Tertiary Education Board, the Bhutan Accred-
itation Council (BAC) was set up to ensure quality assurance and accreditation. TEB
and BAC are empowered and autonomous bodies that take major decisions
pertaining to planning, establishment, funding, quality assurance, registration, and
licensing. The Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division of the Department of
Adult and Higher Education (DAHE), MoE, serves as the Secretariat to BAC. To
effectively implement its role, the BAC has developed Accreditation Principles, the
Accreditation Manual, and the Bhutan Qualiﬁcations Framework (BQF). BAC has
so far accredited 12 tertiary education institutions in the country (Ra and
Jagannathan 2018). The TEB has also developed a Tertiary Education Roadmap
for Bhutan (2017–2027), with the aim of developing a forward-looking tertiary
education system in Bhutan (MoE 2017). The Tertiary Education Roadmap under-
scores the critical role of tertiary education in building long-term human capital and
innovative capacities to support socioeconomic development in the country.
The Royal University of Bhutan was established based on the Royal Charter
issued by the Great Fourth, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck on April 18,
2003. The Royal University of Bhutan functions based on the statutes of the Royal
University of Bhutan which was approved by the Lhengye Zhungtshog (Cabinet
Ministers) on December 25, 2012. The University has a formal Head of the Univer-
sity, a Chancellor. His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is the
Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan.
According to Article 3 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the
University Council is the supreme governing authority of the University (RUB
2017). The University Council members consist of four government representatives,
Table 4 Tertiary education expenditure
Institutions Capital (millions) Current (millions) Total (millions)
Royal University of Bhutan 500.248 32.144 532.392
Royal institute of management 27.500 47.374 74.874
Khesar Gyalpo university of
31.893 43.731 75.624
Department of Adult and Higher
298.798 19.392 318.190
Jigme Singye Wangchuck school
203.385 30.819 234.204
Total 1061.824 173.46 1,235.284
Source: Department of Public Accounts December 2018
12 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
seven representatives chosen by the council from public and private individuals, ﬁve
University representatives including one student, and two others chosen by the
council who are not from the University. The Vice Chancellor is the Executive
Head of the University and is appointed by the Royal Government on the nomination
of the Council. The Vice Chancellor is responsible for the organization, manage-
ment, and discipline of the University (RUB 2017b). In addition to the Vice
Chancellor, the University appoints Registrar who is responsible for day-to-day
administrative work of the University.
The University also has an Academic Board. The Academic Board is responsible
for academic affairs, including academic standards, research, and scholarship, teach-
ing, and courses at the University, subject to the overall responsibilities of the
Council and of the Vice Chancellor (RUB 2017a).
The Ofﬁce of the Vice Chancellor houses Registrar’sofﬁce and three departments
which cater to various functions in the University. The three departments are headed
by the Directors. The Department of Academic Affairs looks after the academic-
related matters in the University, while the Department of Planning and Resources
looks after the overall planning and resources of the University. The Department of
Research and External Linkages is responsible for promoting research and external
relations in the University.
Similarly at the college level, College Academic Committee, in principle, is the
Academic Board of the University acting in the College. It serves as the guarantor of
academic standards and quality in respect of the design, delivery, development, and
promotion of best practices in curricula, programs, general educational matters, and
research within the Colleges (RUB 2017b). The College is headed by the President
and is support by three Deans: Dean of Academic Affairs, Dean of Student Affairs,
and Dean of Research and External Linkages.
The Tertiary Education Policy highlights that in order to fulﬁll the function of
providing quality education, tertiary education institutions shall have autonomy in
terms of planning, stafﬁng, ﬁnance, and academic matters. As far as is consistent
with the effective fulﬁllment of their responsibilities, a tertiary education institution
shall develop the effective operation of these functions as deeply as possible within
its organization. Based on this policy, the Royal University of Bhutan was granted
autonomy in terms of ﬁnancial and human resource management in 2011 to improve
the efﬁciency and provide quality education.
Study Programs Offered by the Higher Education Institutions in
The Royal University of Bhutan is fully responsible for providing general under-
graduate education. The constituent and afﬁliated colleges of RUB provide general
undergraduate education in arts, humanities, business studies, science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (Table 5).
As of August 17, 2019, there were around 80 undergraduate diploma and
bachelor degree programs offered by constituent and afﬁliated colleges of the
Higher Education in Bhutan 13
Royal University of Bhutan. The total enrolment of students in the undergraduate
programs was 10,760 out of which 5273 were female and 5487 were male. At the
undergraduate level, female enrolment is slightly less than the male. However, the
enrolment pattern is changing in many of the colleges. Female student enrolment is
increasing every year, while male enrolment is decreasing (Table 6).
In the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, there are 7
undergraduate programs offered by 2 different faculties and 3 private nursing
institute with a total enrolment of 711 students. Out of the total students enrolled
in undergraduate programs, 390 are female and 321 are male. The enrolment for
female is slighter higher than the male in the KGUMSB. This is clear indication of
no gender discrimination for education in the country.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) began in 1965 at Don
Bosco Technical School, in Rinchending, Phuntsholing. Later it was renamed as
Royal Technical Institute. In 2001, it was upgraded to the College of Science and
Technology. The National Technical Training Authority (NTTA) was established in
the late 1990s and placed under Ministry of Labour and Human Resources
(MoLHR) in 2002. After that, three technical training institutes were established in
2003 (MoE 2019). According to Annual Education Statistics 2018, there were 6
technical training institutes and 2 Institutes of Zorig Chusum (13 traditional arts and
crafts) managed by MoLHR and 1 autonomous institute of tourism and hospitality
managed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. There were 1,793 trainees with 161
instructors as of 2019. Students generally enter the TVET program after completing
class X. Technical and vocational education and training as optional subjects from
classes IX to XII would start from the next academic session in seven pilot schools
(Rinzin 2019) (Table 7).
Two colleges of education, namely, Samtse College of Education and Paro
College of Education, under the Royal University of Bhutan are responsible for
providing professional education. Samtse College of Education provides Bachelor of
Secondary Education, Bachelor of Primary Education, and undergraduate Diploma
in Library and Information Management, while Paro College of Education provides
Table 5 Enrolment in undergraduate programs in RUB
Sl Program Female Male Total
1 Diploma programs 367 507 874
2 Bachelor programs 4906 4980 9886
Total 5273 5487 10,760
Source: Constituent and afﬁliated Colleges of RUB, 2019
Table 6 Enrolment in undergraduate programs in KGUMSB
Sl Program Female Male Total
1 Diploma programs 301 271 572
2 Bachelor programs 89 50 139
Total 390 321 711
Source: FPGM, FNPH, FoTM, AAHS, RTC and ABIN, 2019
14 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
Bachelor of Primary Education and undergraduate Diploma in Physical Education
and Sports Coach and Early Childhood Care and Development (Table 8).
As of August 2019, the two colleges of education together had a total student
enrolment of 2590 that includes both full-time and part-time students. Even in the
two colleges of education, female student (1309) enrolment is higher than the male
(1281). This may be because more females have started taking up the teaching
profession as maximum enrolment in the two colleges is for training teachers.
Not all the colleges offer postgraduate degrees. The colleges that offer postgrad-
uate programs are at the diploma and master’s level. Postgraduate diploma programs
for teachers are offered at three colleges: Paro College of Education, Samtse College
of Education, and Yonphula Centenary College under Sherubtse College. Similarly,
master’s degree programs are offered at the College of Language and Culture
Studies, College of Natural Resources, College of Science and Technology, Gedu
Table 7 List of TTI and student enrolment
Sl Institute Female Male Total
1 Chumey TTI 108 133 241
2 Khuruthang TTI 93 147 240
3 Jigme Wangchuk power training institute 99 202 301
4 Thimphu TTI 13 66 79
5 Institute of Zorig Chusum 63 232 295
6 Royal Institute of tourism and hospitality 52 51 103
7 Rangjung TTI 62 121 183
8 Institute of Zorig Chusum 78 119 197
9 Samthang TTI 30 124 154
Total 598 1195 1793
Source: Annual Education Statistics, 2019
Table 8 Enrolment in professional education programs in RUB
Sl Program Female Male Total
1 Bachelor of secondary education 277 264 541
2 Bachelor of primary education 597 386 983
3 Bachelor of education in Dzongkha 91 128 219
4 Postgraduate diploma in education 125 183 308
5 Postgraduate diploma in contemplative counseling psychology 31 36 67
9 Postgraduate certiﬁcate in higher education 20 43 63
10 Postgraduate diploma in higher education 3 8 11
11 Master in education 21 171 192
12 Master in contemplative counseling psychology 10 17 27
13 Diploma in library and information management 10 5 15
14 Diploma in early child care and development 114 5 119
15 Diploma in physical education and sports coach 10 35 45
Total 1309 1281 2590
Source: PCE and SCE, 2019
Higher Education in Bhutan 15
College of Business Studies, Paro College of Education, Samtse College of Educa-
tion, and Yonphula Centenary College. However, the master’s programs are very
speciﬁc to each of these colleges. There are no parallel programs offered at different
colleges at the master’s level (Table 9).
The total enrolment for postgraduate programs in RUB was 792 as of August 25,
2019. Out of this 264 were female and 528 were male. At the postgraduate level, the
enrolment for female (33%) is much less than the male (77%). The low enrolment of
female student could be due to the social and cultural factors (Table 10).
The enrolment pattern of postgraduate programs in KGUMSB is also similar to
the RUB. The enrolment of female (37%) is much less than the male (63%).
However, the pattern might change in the future as the enrolment for female at the
undergraduate level is increasing constantly.
PhD program is not offered in any of the colleges in the country. People go to
India, Europe, Australia, and Canada for pursuing PhD. However, there are plans to
start PhD programs in the RUB colleges within few years from now. Currently, a
large number of faculty members of the two universities are pursuing PhD in
Australia, India, Japan, and many other counties.
Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment Systems
The Tertiary Education Policy 2010 states that GNH-inspired tertiary education
programs and research shall be characterized by the constant interaction of theory
and practice with the objective of creating the most fruitful environment for change.
The point of departure in education, training, and research will always be the practice
necessary to achieve the goals of the society.
In designing, evaluating, and revising programs and planning future develop-
ment, tertiary education institutions shall take into account the emergence of new
disciplines and interdisciplinary studies, keeping in mind national priorities, global
trends, and the desirability to attract foreign students (MoE 2010).
The constituent and afﬁliated colleges of the Royal University of Bhutan develop
curricula for the programs that the colleges wish to offer based on the need
assessment and market study. The program is ﬁrst developed by the working
committee in the colleges and endorsed by the College Academic Committee
(CAC). Then, the program proposal is submitted to the Academic Planning and
Resource Committee (APRC) of the Royal University of Bhutan for planning and
Table 9 Enrolment in postgraduate programs in RUB, August 2019
Sl Program Female Male Total
1 Postgraduate certiﬁcate programs 20 43 63
2 Postgraduate diploma programs 159 227 386
3 Master’s programs 85 258 343
Total 264 528 792
Source: Constituent Colleges of RUB, 2019
16 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
resource approval. After the planning and resource approval, the program committee
in the colleges develops the full program. It is then submitted to the Programmes and
Quality Committee (PQC) of the Royal University of Bhutan for endorsement. The
PQC is responsible for the quality and relevancy of the program. After the PQC
accords the approval, it is then submitted to the Academic Affairs Department of the
Ofﬁce of the Vice Chancellor for validation. Validation of the program is carried out
with the help of external panel members who are experts in the subject. After the
validation, the ﬁnal approval to launch the program is given by the Academic Board
of the Royal University of Bhutan.
Furthermore, once a program has been developed, if the other colleges wish to
offer the same program, it must adopt the already existing curriculum (Schoﬁeld
2016). The resource check for the program must be carried out by the Academic
Affairs Department of the Ofﬁce of the Vice Chancellor. The approved programs are
reviewed based on the dates mentioned in the validation report, which is generally
after completing a cycle or 1 year after completing a cycle.
Pedagogy is considered very important for teaching and learning in the Royal
University of Bhutan. Engaging the student in learning is very important to make
them understand the contents that are taught in the class. The use of traditional
method of lecture in the class is highly discouraged in the colleges. Faulty members
are expected to use pedagogy that are student centered and engage the students in
learning. In order to make learning more active and meaningful for the student,
strategies like collaborative learning, inquiry learning, discovery learning, brain-
based learning, ﬁeld learning, and project method are used.
Further, considering the importance of pedagogy, RUB has made it mandatory for
the new faculty members to have at least a postgraduate certiﬁcate or postgraduate
diploma in education. In addition to that, the new faculty members who do not have
formal teaching qualiﬁcation must attend 10 days’induction program on University
Learning and Teaching organized by the Centre for University Learning and Teach-
ing (CULT) of the RUB.
However, there are challenges in using pedagogy which engage students in
learning because of the large number of students in the class and also due to more
workload for the faculty members. It is also challenging for many of the faculty
members to use those pedagogies as they do not have adequate training in the
Assessment reﬂects the achievement by the individual student in fulﬁlling the
program objectives, in relation to a consistent national standard of awards. Assess-
ment, both summative and formative, serves as useful feedback to students. It is a
matter of judgment, not simply of computation (RUB 2017a). Marks and
Table 10 Enrolment in postgraduate programs in KGUMSB August 2019
Sl Program Female Male Total
1 Postgraduate programs 17 29 46
Total 17 29 47
Source: FPGM 2019
Higher Education in Bhutan 17
percentages are not treated as absolute values but as symbols to be used by
examiners to communicate their judgment of different aspects of a student’s work,
to provide information on which the ﬁnal decision on a student’s fulﬁllment of
program objectives may be based.
Assessment approach in the University consists of both formative and summa-
tive. But the percentage of formative and the summative assessment is based on the
nature of the modules. In some cases modules are fully assessed through formative
assessment. Generally the assessment in the higher education in the University is not
exam oriented. The move is toward the formative assessment, thereby involving the
student in doing various tasks like project, ﬁeld work, reﬂection, and literature
reviews which are more useful for them to develop knowledge, skills, and attitude
instead of mugging up the information and reproducing it in the exams.
Use of Technology in Higher Education
The use of technology in the higher education has been accorded a high priority by
the Royal Government of Bhutan and the University. It is inevitable for the institutes
to make use of the modern technology for teaching and learning process.
Though online courses are very rare, the use of online learning management
system is considered very important. Throughout the colleges of RUB, Virtual
Learning Environment (VLE) using Moodle as the platform is mandatory in all the
constituent colleges. Faculty members make use of the VLE while on campus and
also when they are out of station. Students and teacher use this VLE to interact,
involve in discussion, share teaching learning resources, and assess and grade
student work. Free internet facilities are provided in all the campuses of RUB
colleges for both faculty members and students.
Recently, RUB has started using the RUB Information Management System for
overall management of the information in the Royal University of Bhutan. The use
of online journal is an important component of teaching and learning in the RUB
both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Students have free access to online
journal articles from EBSCO, JSTOR, DOAJ, and Research4life.
Further, in order to improve the efﬁciency of online administrative systems, in-
house software for online university admission and selection of students has been
developed and is operational. This is, however, limited for programs that are meant
for class XII passout students (MoE 2014a).
A uniform student email address has also been initiated for the new batch of
students from 2013. Within the next few years, all students in the University will
each have a RUB email address. This emailing service is expected to build a strong
base for communication and information sharing and to bridge the gap between the
students and management including faculty for any support services (MoE 2014b).
A university-wide electronic mailing system through the use of Google Apps for
education has been created. Currently, a uniform RUB email address has been
created to all staff of the University (MoE 2014b). The University is now monitoring
the use of this email for communication and providing facilitation services. A
18 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
common mailing list has been created that can help the managers share information
and communicate effectively with all staff effectively.
Lately, the Ministry of Education has launched the iSherig-2: Education ICT
Master Plan 2019–2023, which will serve as the guiding document of creating a
technology enabled education system. In the implementation of this master plan, the
two colleges of education under the Royal University of Bhutan in particular will be
involved as key partners because enhancing the ICT competency of educators is one
of the core focuses of this guiding document.
Faculty Preparation, Professional Development, Social and
Economic Status, and Career Paths
Faculty development is considered very important by the Royal University of
Bhutan and the Royal Government of Bhutan in order to provide quality higher
education to its citizens. A large number of faculty members avail scholarship to go
to India, Australia, the United States, Thailand, and Japan for upgrading their
qualiﬁcation and for professional development.
To be eligible to become a teaching faculty in tertiary education institutions, an
aspiring applicant is required to have a minimum qualiﬁcation of a bachelor degree
with a condition that they acquire a master’s degree within 4 years after the
appointment. It is mandatory for the new faculty members to attend 10 days’
induction program on university learning and teaching within a semester of their
joining the college. It is also mandatory for the new faculty members of the Royal
University of Bhutan to have teaching qualiﬁcation. Therefore, Samtse College of
Education offers part-time programs for the faculty members of higher education
institutes in the country. The two part-time programs are Postgraduate Certiﬁcate and
Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education.
Since there are very limited master’s level study programs in the country, almost
all the faculty members go out for pursuing master’s degree. Further, no PhD
programs are offered in the country, and so, all faculty members with PhD qualiﬁ-
cation have completed their PhD studies from countries like India, Australia, Europe,
Thailand, Japan, and other countries.
There are continuous professional development programs organized at the college
and institutional level and at the national level for the faculty members. These
professional development programs at the national level for the faculty members
are organized by the Centre for University Learning and Teaching of the Department
of Academic Affairs, Ofﬁce of the Vice Chancellor, Royal University of Bhutan. A
large number of faculty members also constantly go out of Bhutan for the profes-
sional development programs (Table 11).
There are 462 faculty members in 10 constituent and 2 afﬁliated colleges. Out of
the total, only 28% are female, while 72% are male. In terms of qualiﬁcation, only
11% of the faculty members have PhD qualiﬁcation, while maximum faculty
members have master’s qualiﬁcation. There are also a large number of faculty
Higher Education in Bhutan 19
members with bachelor’s qualiﬁcation, and it accounts for 23% of the total faculty.
The situation of the faculty member of KGUMSB is also quite similar to RUB.
Comparatively, faculty members of the higher education institutes have higher
social status in the country, and they also enjoy relatively higher economic status.
Even the opportunities for the faculty member to attend professional development
programs are better. They get opportunities to attend conferences and seminars and
present papers at the national and international level (Table 12).
There is a clear career path for the faculty members of the Royal University of
Bhutan. The career ladder of faculty members starts from Assistant Lecturer which is
at position level 6. The highest career ladder is the Professor which is at position
level 1. Any faculty member can get promotion from one level to a higher level if the
requirement is fulﬁlled which is based on teaching and service for the lower levels.
Individuals can apply for promotion after a minimum of 2 years in the same level
provided they fulﬁll all the criteria. From level 4 onward, an individual faculty can
get promoted to the next level within 2 years if they have managed to get the required
number of research and scholarly publications in refereed journals and have brought
in research or any other forms of grants to support research and other academic
activities in the College.
The promotion criteria that deﬁne the career paths of academics in higher
education institutions especially under the Royal University of Bhutan has been
done to motivate academics to pursue research and scholarly activities with added
rigor and commitment; there are indications that such a requirement actually has
Table 11 Number of faculty by qualiﬁcation in RUB colleges, August 2019
Qualiﬁcation Gender Grand
totalPhD Master Bachelor Female Male
1 College of Language and
135 21 10 4757
2 College of Natural Resources 11 28 14 14 39 53
3 College of Science and
546 22 24 5373
4 Gaedu College of business
9 57 1 14 53 67
5 Gyalpozhing College of
1 7 14 11 11 22
6 Jigme Namgyel engineering
0 24 24 9 39 48
7 Paro College of education 11 49 8 20 48 68
8 Samtse College of education 10 34 5 16 33 49
9 Sherubtse College 12 66 24 30 72 102
10 Yonphula centenary College 5 0 0 2 3 5
11 Norbuling Rigter College 0 21 0 5 16 21
12 Royal Thimphu College 7 72 0 27 50 77
Total 72 439 133 182 464 642
Source: Constituent and afﬁliated Colleges of RUB, 2019
20 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
resulted in results that are contrary to what was expected. Considering the current
working conditions and the scope, academics have to actively engage in research and
other scholarly pursuits; many see this as very stringent and limiting the opportunity
of career advancement. Although there is no empirical research evidence to support
these claims, there are also evidence where such a stringent promotion criteria has
also discouraged experienced school teachers to join the university colleges as
Research in Higher Education
A strategic objective for Bhutan shall be to increase research, innovation, and the use
of new knowledge in all aspects of the country’s work, to improve the system for the
dissemination of information and the provision of relevant information to persons in
need of that information, and to develop a culture of enquiry and investigation in the
society (MoE 2010).
The Research and Innovation Committee (RIC) particularly in RUB promotes
research and innovation within the University and its associated professions. This
committee is responsible to formulate, for approval by the Academic Board, policies
to promote research and innovation in the University; taking account of external
research policy developments by the Royal Government of Bhutan and other funders
and also ensure implementation in accordance with the policy. This committee is
supported by the Research Ethics Sub-Committee which is responsible to ensure that
research conducted in the University complies with appropriate ethical standards
Table 12 Number of faculty by qualiﬁcation in KGUMSB, August 2019
Qualiﬁcation Gender Grand
totalPhD Master Bachelor Diploma Certiﬁcate Female Male
1 Faculty of
0 74 0 0 0 28 46 74
2 Faculty of Nursing
and Public Health
1 24 7 2 1 20 15 35
3 Faculty of
084 0 0 3 912
4 Arura academy of
5 Royal Thimphu
142 0 0 4 37
6 Apollo Bhutan
institute of nursing
012 0 0 3 03
Total 2 112 22 2 1 64 75 139
Source: FPGT, FNPH, FoTM, AAHS, PTC, ABIN, 2019
Higher Education in Bhutan 21
RUB Research Policies is the primary reference regarding research for members
of the University (administrators, faculty, staff, and students) as well as afﬁliates and
anyone involved in research with the University or using University resources. The
Research Policies (ZHIB TSHOL) of the RUB was endorsed by the 14th Research
and Innovation Committee in October 2013 and approved by the 29th Academic
Board, which is the primary academic authority of the University responsible for
academic affairs, including academic standards, research, scholarship, teaching, and
programs at the University (RUB 2016). The policies deﬁne the ofﬁcial policies,
procedures, and structures of the University governing all aspects of research.
In the past research was not given much importance; that is why it has not
developed well. However, today it is considered very important in order to make
decision because it provides empirical evidence. Research is also considered very
important to fulﬁll the goal of knowledge-based society. It is only through research
that knowledge can be created, and this can help Bhutan to become a knowledge-
Most research related to Gross National Happiness and history of the country are
carried out by the Centre for Bhutan Studies which is an organization of the Royal
Government of Bhutan. Other research related to each speciﬁc area are carried out by
individual organization. The Ministry of Agriculture has various research centers
located in different parts of the country to carry out research related to agriculture in
Further, the Ministry of Education established the Education Endowment Fund
on June 1, 2014. The Education Endowment Fund was ofﬁcially launched on August
23, 2016 (MoE 2018). The Fund is managed by the Board under the chairmanship of
Hon’ble Education Minister supported by the Technical Committee. The Teacher
Professional Support Division, Department of School Education, is the Secretariat of
the Fund. The main purpose of the fund is to enhance the quality of teaching and
learning through promotion of action research among schools.
The Royal University of Bhutan has instituted the Annual University Research
Grant (AURG), which is provided to the faculty members of the constituent colleges
of RUB to carry out research. There are various categories based on which the grant
is provided after the proposal is evaluated by the research committee of the RUB.
At the college level, there is the College Research Stimulus Fund which is aimed
at promoting research among the faculty members. This fund is given to those people
whose proposal are accepted by the College Research Committee after the evalua-
tion, and it is mainly aimed at improving teaching and learning through research
activities in the college.
Internationalization of Higher Education in Bhutan
There are a few international students from Australia, Europe, and Japan who come
to Bhutan for higher education. These international students are on exchange pro-
grams, or they have come to Bhutan to complete their studies. As of August
2019, there were 36 students from various countries for the exchange programs
22 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
in the various colleges of the Royal University of Bhutan. Few students from various
colleges of RUB also go for exchange programs in Europe, the United States,
A large number of Bhutanese students go out of Bhutan for higher education. Of
all the countries, the majority of students go to India for both undergraduate and
postgraduate studies. There are also a large number of students who go to Australia
for higher education. Besides these two countries, a few students also go to Europe,
the United States, Canada, Thailand, etc. Most of the students who go to these
countries are on various scholarships provided by these countries, and there are a few
students who go on private funding.
According to the State of the Tertiary Education in Bhutan 2018, there were 1465
student pursuing higher education in various countries on scholarship, and maxi-
mum of them are studying in India. A signiﬁcant number of students also study
abroad through private funding. As of 2018, there were 4,251 students pursuing
various degree courses through private funding outside Bhutan. The limited intake
capacity of the tertiary education institutions in the country to accommodate high
school graduates is the reason for many students studying outside the country.
There are a few countries which have played an important role in the establish-
ment of higher education. India has played a signiﬁcant role in the establishment of
higher education institutions in the country. Further, countries such as Japan have
also played an important role in the establishment of vocational training institutes.
Many universities abroad who have collaborations with the RUB and KGUMSB
have also played an important role in further strengthening tertiary education in
the country. The University of Delhi, India, has played a major role in the
higher education in Bhutan. Other universities include the University of New
England, Australia, London School of Education, and University of New Brunswick
Quality Initiatives, Reforms, and Innovation
The quality of higher education is one of the important concerns of His Majesty the
King and the Royal Government of Bhutan. Therefore, all the colleges under the two
universities in Bhutan are required to create and maintain an effective quality
assurance system that covers all programs offered in the colleges. To ensure high
standards and quality of academic programs and teaching and learning in higher
education, a periodic, critical evaluation of each program by those staff involved in
the program’s operation and an evaluation of the operation of the program by a group
of peers, including external members, are already instituted in place. This evaluation
includes direct discussions with the staff, students, and other relevant persons.
Further, each of the college under the university must be accredited by the Bhutan
The ﬁrst ever education policy of Bhutan was developed in 1976 on the
command of His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, and then this policy was
Higher Education in Bhutan 23
revised in 1986 (Rabgay 2012). Further in 2016, Education Blueprint for 2016–2020
was developed by the Ministry of Education. The education policy of Bhutan was
drafted in 2018 and it is still in the draft form.
The Tertiary Education Policy 2010 is the only policy document related to higher
education in Bhutan. Besides, there are no other policies related to the higher
education in the country. A legislation such as an Education Act may provide a
timely direction to maintain a high standard of tertiary education comparable to any
Within the Royal University of Bhutan, especially for academic-related task, the
Wheel of Academic Law (WAL) is the guiding document for any kind of program
development and other related issues. The Wheel of Academic Law is the deﬁnitive
compilation of policies, regulations, and guidelines governing academic matters of
the Royal University of Bhutan. It provides the framework for the conduct of the
Royal University of Bhutan’s academic activities and is intended to be a guide for the
member colleges and institutes of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB 2017a).
Within the RUB, for check and balance to ensure that the University is contin-
uously growing and the study programs that the University offers are dynamic,
vibrant, and of high quality, the University has also developed the Royal University
of Bhutan Human Resource Rules and Regulation in 2017 and also put in place the
RUB Governance Manual and RUB Financial Manual after RUB was granted the
autonomy in 2011.
Legal or Administrative Grievance Redressal System for Students,
Teachers, and Administrative and Service Staff, With or Without
The Royal University of Bhutan has a University Grievance Redressal System. The
Ofﬁce of the Vice Chancellor also has a Legal Ofﬁcer. A staff may appeal to the Vice
Chancellor or Legal Ofﬁcer on administrative decision taken by the College/OVC
and within the prescribed period (RUB 2017b). All administrative and disciplinary
issues concerning a staff are acted upon by University when an individual
approaches as per the provision of rule except criminal proceedings, which are
under the jurisdiction of Courts.
The Human Resource Committee (HRC) and College Management Committee
(CMC)/Senior Management Committee (SMT) of the Colleges/OVC function as the
Disciplinary Committee and initiate disciplinary action against an erring staff. The
powers to impose penalty on a staff lie with the HRC. The HRC may designate, from
within the University, a responsible and competent staff as an investigator or
constitute an Investigation Committee to conduct formal investigation of an admin-
istrative case against a staff under the Committee’s jurisdiction and submit investi-
The grievances for academic-related matters for the student are dealt with by the
Academic Appeals Committee. A student may appeal to the Academic Appeals
Committee of the University against the ﬁnding or penalty imposed by the Board of
24 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
Examiners. An appeal must be lodged in writing with the Secretary to the Academic
Appeals Committee within 14 days of the date of the decision appealed against and
must be based on the one or both of the grounds speciﬁed under paragraph 3 “Right
of Appeal”(RUB 2017b). Students lodging an appeal are required to submit a
nominal fee of Nu 1000 (subject to periodic review) with their appeal documenta-
tion. The appeal fee is non-refundable.
Challenges Facing Higher Education in Bhutan
From just a single ﬂedgling undergraduate college that was afﬁliated to the Univer-
sity of Delhi, India, in 1983, now the country has 2 universities with 12 colleges, 3
faculty, 3 private nursing institutes, and 2 autonomous tertiary institutes. The total
number of students enrolled in higher education within the country has increased
from few hundreds to more than 12,000 students in 2019. In a short period of time,
just as how it has witnessed extraordinary growth and development in the education
sector as a whole, Bhutan has succeeded in making quantum leaps when it comes to
the development of tertiary or higher education. The growth and developments in the
higher education especially in the last decade or so have been spectacular in terms of
infrastructure facilities, quality, and diversity of the academic programs offered and
the enhancement of the educational qualiﬁcations of higher education academics,
which has a direct positive impact in the quality of classroom teaching and learning.
Despite this phenomenal growth, like education systems in many other develop-
ing nations, the challenges confronting the Bhutanese higher education system are
many and innumerous. Some of the key challenges are:
Increasing Access. Increasing the access to higher education institution to
accommodate the increasing number of students completing higher secondary
school is one of the challenges. The expansion of higher education facilities and
infrastructure in the country had not been able to accommodate all the students who
qualify for tertiary education in the country. As a result, a large number of students
go outside Bhutan to pursue higher education.
Quality of Education. Education in Bhutan has always received a high priority
from the Royal Government of Bhutan, but it also has been a sector where people’s
concerns regarding the perceived decline in the quality of education have received an
increasing scrutiny and debate in the last decade or so (MoE 2014). In the recent
years, the quality and standards of the university graduates have been heavily
criticized, and as a consequence, the quality of higher education has become a
national concern. Although there is no empirical evidence to prove that the quality
of higher education and education in general has declined besides the records of
students’performance in year-end examinations and the recent PISA-D test admin-
istered to students in Bhutan, the concerns the Bhutanese populace has regarding the
quality of education including that of higher education are genuine and have
managed to capture the attention of the Royal Government of Bhutan, which is a
Higher Education in Bhutan 25
Research. Research is just beginning to pick up in the higher education system. It
was introduced very recently, and the amount of fund available is very negligible.
Therefore, it is not able to support many researchers to carry out research activities.
Each college is mandated to allocate only 1% of its annual budget for research which
is a very small amount. Besides the research fund available in the respective
colleges, the central university ofﬁce also provides some research fund through the
Annual University Research Grant (AURG), which is also meager when viewed
from the number of academics in the colleges of RUB. Thus, the lack of funding to
support a robust culture of research that facilitates higher education academics to
pursue research with greater rigor for research-informed teaching and learning off-
sets the goal of promoting research among the higher education academics. In the
absence of adequate ﬁnancial resources to support research and scholarly pursuits,
the goal of building a sound higher education system will remain a distant dream
because evidences show that research is one of the key determinants of successful
higher education institutions.
Mismatch Between the Education and the Job Market. There is no in-depth
analysis of the unemployment situation in the country. But it is believed that there is
mismatch of skills to jobs in the market which has resulted in unemployment
(Kuensel 2017). This is believed to be due to mismatch between the higher education
that is provided in the country and the jobs that is available in the market. The
education that is provided does not seem to be preparing people for the world of
work. Knowledge and skills gained are not really applicable in the real-world
situation which led to a high unemployment rate in the country and is one of the
major concerns for the government and His Majesty the King.
Resources. Lack of ﬁnancial and human resources is one of the greatest chal-
lenges of higher education in Bhutan. Due to ﬁnancial constraints, the infrastructure
and other facilities cannot be expanded or improved to increase the access. Further, it
has impact on the human resource development as human resources cannot be
trained. This ﬁnally impact the quality of higher education provided in the country.
Bhutan’s Tertiary Education Policy 2010 states that:
A Tertiary Education Act shall set out criteria for the establishment of universities, colleges,
and institutes. It shall provide for the protection of the titles (“university,”“college,”and
“institute”) and awards. It shall set out the powers of the Tertiary Education Board, the
Bhutan Accreditation Council, and the Registrar for the Tertiary Education and their roles
and responsibilities and such other professional bodies and positions in the governance,
interpretation and operational processes of the tertiary education system in Bhutan (p. 29).
Except for the Tertiary Education Policy and draft Education Policy, there is
neither Education Act nor Tertiary Education Act in the country. Therefore, there is
an urgent need to have Education and Tertiary Education Act to improve and provide
quality education to its citizens.
The current Tertiary Education Policy that was developed in 2010 is not really
serving the purpose. Though many things are spelled out in the policy, in reality
implementation is not happening according to the policy. So there is also an urgent
26 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji
need to review the Tertiary Education Policy of the country if the higher education
system is to improve and provide quality education to its citizens.
Bhutan has made commendable progress in education. However, more needs to be
done to improve quality. In response to this challenge, numerous measures have been
initiated such as school reform programs, teacher development programs, and
curriculum and assessment reforms.
In the light of ongoing reforms within the sector and to make education more
relevant for changing needs and expectations, the National Education Policy 2018
was drafted with an aim to provide overarching directions for building and nurturing
an education system that prepares citizens who are nationally rooted and globally
Further, Bhutan’s tertiary education system has made remarkable progress within
a short period of time. With just one college offering undergraduate degree program
in 1983 with a handful of students, it now has two universities offering diverse
undergraduate and postgraduate programs of study including language and culture,
natural resources and sustainable development, business studies, science, and tech-
nology, engineering, information technology, and arts and humanities.
In spite of the unprecedented growth and development, tertiary education in
Bhutan is still grappling with challenges such as inadequate intake capacity to absorb
the increasing population of high school graduates from the school system; quality of
education and alignment of the student knowledge, skills, and competencies with the
world of work; promotion of research and scholarly pursuits; and ﬁnally inadequate
ﬁnancial resources to support the overall development initiatives of higher education
system in the country.
Nevertheless, with the current political ruling government’s commitment and
priority to invest in the health and education sector in the next 5 years of develop-
ment, higher education in Bhutan is expected to improve considerably in terms of
both quality and quantity in the years to come.
▶Higher Education Systems and Policy
▶School Education in Bhutan: Policy, Current Status, and Challenges
▶Schools Education System and Policies
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28 K. Gyeltshen and R. Dorji