All the students selected for undergraduate scholarships will have to undergo mandatory drug testing from 2018.

If the selected candidates are tested positive, their awards will be cancelled. This is according to the Ministry of Education.

Education ministry said the initiative was in line with the immigration requirement of different countries, university systems and to support the national effort to control drug use.

An official with Department of Adult and Higher Education said that although the department used to make those undergraduate students going for scholarship in third country undergo mandatory drug test, everyone should now undergo drug test, including those going for professional studies inside the country and to India.

“The students used to go under drug test either in Bhutan or after reaching the particular third country earlier,” he said. “It is being made uniform for everybody because it involves intensive investment funded by the government. It is also to meet the immigration requirement in another country.”

The official said if the candidate is tested positive the scholarship would be cancelled. The slot would automatically be added next year instead of giving it to the standby student.

“This is because the drug test will take place after the selection and since our selection is based on merit, the next candidate would have already taken some other courses, which is why it is difficult to keep a standby candidate,” the official said.

The official said that a student who tested positive cannot apply again for the scholarship because scholarships are provided only for the fresh graduates of class 12 of that particular year. However, he or she would be given a chance to prove if they were on medical grounds.

Earlier the students had to only do a medical test or any other comprehensive test based on the specification each university or country required. Official said that in some cases if the student is diagnosed with any disease, a medical leave is given to undergo treatment and then they can avail the scholarship.

If a student is tested negative in Bhutan but is tested positive after reaching the university, then it would be dealt as per the university norms. If the scholarship is cancelled, they would have to refund the scholarship fund as per the undertaking signed.

This year, the department announced a total of 196 undergraduate scholarships  both in and out country.

A total of 866 students are pursuing undergraduate studies on scholarship today.

Yangchen C Rinzin