Indefinite freeze on issuance of Education Consultancy Firm licenses

Indefinite freeze on issuance of Education Consultancy Firm licenses

Merger of ECF and TCPF to create unified entity; moratorium implemented due to excessive license proposals

The Bhutan Qualification and Professional’s Certification Authority (BQPCA), formerly known as the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE), has recently indefinitely frozen the issuance of licenses to Education Consultancy Firms (ECF) in the country.

According to a program officer from BQPCA, the Training Consultancy and Placement Firms (TCPF), previously under the Ministry of Labour and now known as the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE), have been approved for merger with ECF as part of recent reforms.

The officer further added that discussions are underway regarding the merger of TCPF and the ECF with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) authority.

The decision to impose the temporary moratorium stems from the fact that the BQPCA received an overwhelming number of proposals for ECF licenses between last year and this year.

The program officer revealed that out of approximately 47 proposals received during this period, 23 have been approved and are currently operational, “while the remaining 20 ECFs have been approved but are in the process of meeting the required criteria. The shortage of human resources has hindered the authority’s monitoring efforts,” he said.

Although no specific duration has been set for the moratorium, the BQPCA aims to establish clarity and lift the moratorium once all the necessary processes are in place.

However, the officer stated that this may take at least one to two cycles.

“Cycle include the opening of application window; before there were two cycles but since last year we made it quarterly as people had to wait almost six months to apply for the license,” he said.

 Prior to the moratorium, the application window for licenses was open in January, April, July, and October.

The BQPCA issues licenses to ECFs immediately upon fulfillment of the specified requirements. These criteria include having sufficient human resources, at least one certified counselor, and a minimum of two rooms dedicated to their operations. Shared apartments and offices are not permitted for ECFs.

The program officer also disclosed that the number of ECFs in the country has reached approximately 90, including those approved in principle and those currently operating in the market.

“Of these, 65 are fully operational, while 20 are in the process of obtaining their licenses. Following the merger of ECF and TCPF, the total number of firms is expected to reach around 100, as there are already 10 TCPFs in existence,” he said.

Meanwhile, the imposed moratorium on the issuance of ECF licenses in the country has hit many aspiring entrepreneurs and potential investors. The halt on ECF licenses, which allow individuals to establish firms in the country, has put a damper on the hopes of those eager to tap into this growing industry.

One of the residents of Thimphu, Karma, 46, said, “Consultancy has emerged as a highly profitable business in Bhutan, enticing many individuals to transition from government or corporate jobs in order to fulfill the demand for expert service.”

He added that the lucrative nature of this field has attracted professionals seeking to bridge the gap in specialized knowledge.

Meanwhile, Bhutan has experienced remarkable growth in the consulting sector, transitioning from reliance on qualified experts from development partners to the emergence of homegrown specialists who provide valuable expertise in various domains. This trend has been viewed positively, as it highlights the country’s ability to develop its own pool of skilled professionals.

However, the moratorium on ECF licenses has overshadowed these advancements, leading to disappointment among those eyeing opportunities in the entrepreneurial landscape. Entrepreneurs who were preparing to establish their own ECF platforms are now grappling with the sudden halt imposed by regulatory authorities.

An official from BQPCA reiterated that the moratorium will be lifted as soon as the authority is done with the process and plans on the merging of TCPF and ECF.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu