The Royal University of Bhutan got the go-ahead to admit international students and to accept gifts and endowments to finance its work at a traditional ceremony attended by ministers and academics, writes Kencho Wangdi in Thimphu.
It represents a vital step towards autonomy for the only university in the Himalayan Buddhist kingdom, which has so far depended on government support. Zangley Dukpa, vice-chancellor, said: "We hope to stand on our own feet some day."
The university was established in 2003. It serves geographically dispersed communities through information and communication technologies. A network of ten institutions is scattered across the country, although they are co-ordinated by a central office in the capital, Thimphu.
The university has 3,500 students and 320 academics, including 74 foreigners from countries including India and Canada. The university is drawing up programmes for masters, PhDs, MPhils and MBAs.
Priority areas are tourism and hydropower, two sectors on which Bhutan relies heavily for revenue and employment. It is also introducing degrees in Buddhist languages and literature.
Most constituent institutions are affiliated to universities outside the country. The university plans to break away from such affiliations to further develop its autonomy. About half of Bhutan's educational needs are met outside the country.