Education: In what should aid class XII graduates with disadvantaged economic backgrounds looking to fund their tertiary education, an online loan application will become available from next month.

This will allow students to apply for interest-free loans of up to Nu 300,000 per year from their place of residence or from any internet connected device, rather than having to travel all the way to Thimphu.

However, the loan will be available only to those pursuing a degree program in Bhutan or India and at most, only 10 percent of accepted applicants will be placed in India. It will also be eligible only to those who have passed class XII the preceding year and are not already recipients of a government scholarship. The eligible candidate must also have scored a minimum 50 percent aggregate.

The loans are being provided by the government under the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) to enable academically sound but economically disadvantaged students.

“Pursuing higher education should not be a luxury for the privileged only, but for all our Bhutanese students,” said Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in a statement released yesterday. “The system being launched today is sensitive to the realities of such students living in far flung corners of our country,” he added. “It enables them to avail the opportunity without having to come to Thimphu as it is available from any access point with internet connection.”

The online application system was developed jointly by the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) and the G2C (government to citizen) office.

DAHE chief programme officer Rinzin Wangmo pointed out that a prior online system had been developed using Google Apps, last year. However, as it was developed with time constraints, it had a number of limitations, for one, it was simply a spreadsheet document that had to be downloaded and emailed back to DAHE.

A total of 437 students had applied using the online system, with 91 receiving loans.

The new online system is more simple and user friendly.

Applicants provide information such as how many family members they have in their household and whether their parents are still together or divorced and where they have been accepted for tertiary education, among others.

This information is then checked by an operator and if all documents required have been received, passes it on to a verifier who awards points based on six criteria: parental support, number of siblings, education background, academic achievements, economic background and place of residence of parents. The information and points are then forwarded to a loan committee that makes the final decision.

The criteria was developed by the education ministry and approved by the cabinet.

Applicants are then notified by SMS on whether their loan has been approved or rejected, with reasons.

Students have to begin repaying the loan two years after graduating and will be given 15 years in total. If unsuccessful, they have to repay the loan two years after discontinuance, in a lump sum amount.

Besides aiding students, the online system is also expected to bring about more transparency and efficiency in the selection process, according to Rinzin Wangmo.

The online application system, available on will be accessible from April 30 – May 20.

By Gyalsten K Dorji