Private Universities: An Idea that’s Long Overdue
Posted on May 14th, 2010

By Ven. Udagama Sumangala, Los Angeles, California

Dear Editor:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I am writing to commend the new Minister of Higher EducationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s recent brave decision to allow the establishment of private universities in Sri Lanka.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In the past there were many roadblocks to this idea, including the JVP, the University Grants Commission, some senior academics, and others.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  IƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢m pleased to see that these obstacles have finally been surmounted, and we can proceed with an idea that is long overdue.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Mr. S. B. Dissanayake has given a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-green lightƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ to this concept at a time when it is most needed ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” for many reasons.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ First of all, the existing Government universities have very limited enrollment capacity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This fact alone eliminates many of the brightest, best qualified, students in Sri Lanka from taking advantage of their constitutional right of higher education.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Many of these students may pass their entrance exams and be qualified, but because of the lack of space they have no chance for admittance.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Private universities will automatically increase capacity in Government universities, which will provide opportunities to poor rural students who otherwise would have been shut out of the system.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Please also keep in mind the fact that the students that come from poor families have no influence with the higher-ups to get their applications accepted.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This eliminates the practice of cronyism in higher education, which itself is long overdue.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ For many years Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s students from the wealthier families have gone abroad for their university education ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” usually to the U.K., Australia, or America.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This has created a tremendous cash drain on our country ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” not to mention the brain drain that takes place when many of these students get their higher degrees and decide to stay and work in their host countries.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  These students rarely come back home.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This creates the additional problem of lack of qualified specialized workers, to such an extent that we have to import them from abroad.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ With the advent of private universities, most of them will be branches of private universities in other countries, our wealthier students will be able to stay home to complete their studies, and not drain the country of both its cash and its brains.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  IƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢m sure that Minister Dissanayake will make sure that the new private universities meet the quality of standards required by the Government, which will insure the overall image of our institutions of higher learning.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Nearly all countries have private universities ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” including even Bangladesh.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This has been the case for decades.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sri Lanka can compete effectively in the overseas foreign students market.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The new private universities will be able to attract students from many foreign countries who will bring with them their funds, adding to the overall local economy.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I urge all of the people in Sri Lanka to support Minister DissanayakeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s efforts to make the establishment of these private institutions of higher learning a top priority, and get them up and running as soon as possible.

4 Responses to “Private Universities: An Idea that’s Long Overdue”

  1. PRIYAN WIJEYERATNE Says:

    This idea is very long due. This would bring in opportunities to students who missed-out because of few marks but are talented individuals who just did not have that extra time for studies. Our University graduates are, while very talented in academic subjects; about 75% of them are not made for their chosen disciplines, for example to become Engineers. But there are many out there who are brilliant Engineers, but could not get a degree because they were not that talented in core academic subjects such as mathematics, physics and chemistry. Also, bringing in private Universities would create competition for excellence. This is a fantastic idea. It is the ideal timing to make it happen. Sri Lanka needs many more Engineers, Doctors, Accountants etc etc, if we want to see us in the developed world.

  2. De Mel Says:

    Private Universities and Hospitals catering to the needs of neighbouring countries should play a major role in any strategy to make Sri Lanka the hub of South Asia. A visit to the Lanka Hospital (former Apollo Hospital) managed by Sri Lanka Insurance will indicate the potential to cater to the affluent Maldivian Market.

    The new Chairman of BOI Mr. J D Bandaranayake should target prestigious Universities and Hospitals that can attract students and patients from the region and offer special concessions to attract them. The presence of prestigous foreign universities will provide avenues for qualified Sri Lankans with postgraduate qualifications to secure well paid employment in Sri Lanka. The competition will also help to accelerate the transformation of the existing Universities managed by UDA to international standards.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    While this may be a good idea, we would advice Caution.
    Let’s ask ourselves some Questions.

    * Who is going to FUND these Universities ?
    * What is going to prevent a private University handing out degrees for a fee ? This is already happening in
    some parts of the world.
    * What control would GoSL have in where the funding comes from & the Curriculum ? Will their Curriculum be Lanka
    friendly ?
    * Will Private Unis bring in foreign lecturers who have no idea about our ideals.
    * If superior to Govt Universities, will it create a new breed of Colombians ?

    Better cautious than be sorry later.

  4. Andare Says:

    Reference this article while there are some pros there are some cons too.

    It will create a new class structure, as it is the ones who have educated abroad are superior and have pick of the jobs. Education will be the new divide and rule policy.

    It will be the Catholic Universities who will proliferate in Sri Lanka. They get so much funding from the West that they will have no problems in opening up Universities. Already in the Catholic schools the nuns prohibit children from even speaking in Sinhala language. There will be no education about the Buddhist history and the culture. It has got eroded over the last 30 years and during colonial rule. Conversion to Catholicism will be a pre-requisite to enter the Universities as it is now to get private sector jobs.

    All the students who fail to enter the Sri Lanka University will now be able to enter the Private Universities even if they have no talent for academic studies. It is a foolish waste of money. In USA and other western countries the emphasis is on Technical education where students who are not good at academic studies can get in to more technical studies. There are many private institutes which provide that type of education. Why not work with them to open Technical Institutes which provide Certificates and Diplomas in various branches of work needed in a society. The academic degrees are of no use to get employment in the real world.

    There should be Government run academies for training of police, army, navy, air force personnel (other than the Kotelawela academy for the forces). Institutes for training in shipbuilding, environmental studies, computer studies, hardware repair studies, etc. These provide the real skills which are job oriented and can be private academies supervised by the Government.

    All Private Academies have to carefully monitored by the Government to ensure that proper education standards are met and that the students remain loyal to Sri Lanka.

    Why not also upgrade our existing Universities to International Standards.

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