Thursday, 11 September 2008

Bhutan : Red faces in scholarship selection snafu

11 September, 2008 - The recent selection interview for Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) 2009 masters in business management (MBA) - global business, corporate strategy and human resource management - has left some engineers questioning the selection process.

Sixteen Bhutan power corporation engineers applied for the courses. While a few got short-listed in the first and second rounds, none made it through to the final round.

While labour ministry officials reasoned that the courses were not relevant to their current job description, applicants pointed out that the first announcement on the scholarship was not clear. “It didn’t mention who all could apply for certain courses and this created confusion among the applicants,” said one.

One of the engineers said that the selection committee has not been fair because last year it was based on academics. “We don’t understand why suddenly new criteria were set up this year. It just shows that they’re incompetent and inconsistent.”

Further confusion was created when three different shortlists appeared on the ministry’s website. Applicants said that, when the first list was posted, some of them had made it. It was soon removed and a second list posted where some of the short listed applicants in the first list went missing.

One of the ministry’s short-listing committee members, Deki Wangmo, said that the committee had first prepared two lists, one based on academics and the other on relevancy.

“It was a mistake on our part. We uploaded the wrong list by mistake so we had to take it out and upload the right one.

This “mistake” made some applicants based outside Thimphu start their journey as early as 3:00 am to make it for the interview scheduled for the next day.

Norbu Tshering, BPC’s manager of electrical services division in Pemagasthel, rushed to Thimphu right after he heard that he’d been short-listed. “When I reached Wamrong, I contacted my friends to inform them that I’d be a little late for my interview but they told me that a new list has been posted and my name wasn’t there.”

Director of the department of human resources and also a member of the short-listing committee, Sonam Rinchen, said that the donor representative had some reservations when the first short list was based on academics alone. “The representative was not happy because those short listed were not relevant for the program. He advised the committee to do a second short-listing based on relevancy.”

The director explained that relevancy meant shortlisted candidates should have worked for some time in that particular post they are currently holding and that the program they would pursue in Australia should be relevant to their present job portfolio.

“Last year the shortlisting was done on academics and the ADS never raised this issue,” said the director. He said that the difference was last year the donor representative came as an observer and this time as a panelist. “We didn’t expect the donor representative to come up with this issue. That was our drawback in the sense that it was beyond our control.”

The director also said that the human resources development guideline for private and corporate sector clearly explains that the training should be relevant to the job responsibility of the nominee and HRD needs of the organization.

The director however said that the engineers were right when they said that MBA was relevant to them. “I know that it’s relevant for engineers, in fact, engineering and MBA is a better combination. But the selection committee has to go as per guidelines.”

An AusAid official in Canberra, Australia, Ms Sophie, said in an e-mail interview that applicants can apply for any field of study at a post-graduate level (MBA included) but will have to consider what the selection panel is looking for. “There are a lot of things taken into account during selection, and if it’s decided that the MBA will not benefit the country, then it’s not likely that the applicant will be selected.”

Meanwhile, the labour ministry is proposing a Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) to shortlist candidates for MBA in future.

By Sonam Pelden

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