Graduates of Sikkim Manipal University (SMU) are hopeful that they would be able to meet the prime minister with all relevant agencies together to discuss the issue of getting their degrees recognised.

This was after Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met some 48 graduates of Gangtok-based SMU affiliated colleges on August 21. The graduates claim that the prime minister has assured them to hold a meeting soon to clear miscommunications, if any.

With the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE), and Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC) stating different reasons, graduates Kuensel spoke to say, they are not satisfied with the response they got so far. It was for this reason that they approached the prime minister.

Graduates say they are confused and are expecting a concrete decision at the meeting. The graduates have requested the prime minister for a meeting with all relevant agencies.

According to the graduates, the government says that it couldn’t interfere with the ECB and RCSC’s decision, while the ECB and RCSC tell them that if they have an accreditation from BAC, the competent authority, they might have to consider. The BAC however, stands by its rule that it cannot be accredited.

One of the 2010 graduates of BB Pradhan Management College, requesting anonymity, said these responses are confusing.

“We already have a precedence and nobody questioned the accreditation,” he said. “Since we don’t have certificates that mention directorate of distance education, we’re requesting the government to help us recognise the degree.”

Many said that they attended classes like any other regular colleges with all six semesters.

The issue of recognition came up in 2016 when a competent authority in India asked all universities to reflect the mode of education as ‘distance education’ on their certificates. Both RCSC and ECB do not recognise the degree if it is not a formal university degree.

Although a few questioned on why they were allowed to appear the recent BCSE preliminary exam (PE), which a few have claimed to pass, RCSC officials said, they do not have provision for distance education under SMU and if they find out during document verification, those graduates would not be allowed to appear the main examination.

A graduate from Six Sigma College said if it was not recognised then why were they allowed to sit for PE. “When we tried to register online, they accepted the application,” he said. “Although I didn’t get through but we applied with the hope RCSC would let us appear BCSE.”

Their only hope to resolving the issue is the meeting that the prime minister has assured to hold. “Some officials suggested that we could approach as ‘classroom mode’ instead of the distance education.”

An official from BAC said that after DAHE took over BAC from the Royal University of Bhutan in 2015, it was learnt that distance education is reflected only in the mode of study and not on the degree certificate.

Earlier, education minister Norbu Wangchuk at the meet the press on August 4 said that despite the government’s request to help the graduates get their degrees recognised, both the ECB and RCSC had remained unconvinced.

As per records with BAC, a total of 1,423 graduated from SMU from July 2004 until May 2017. There are 404 currently studying in different colleges affiliated with SMU. There are no record of students enrolling in colleges under SMU for 2016.

Yangchen C Rinzin