Private medical education in Sri Lanka
Posted on December 11th, 2015

Dr. Upasiri de Silva Sydney Courtesy Island

Sri Lanka Medical Council has failed to Act in accordance with the Commission they received under the Chapter 105 of the Medical Ordinance.

After reading a notice published by the Sri Lanka Medical Council, in a newspaper on Nov. 8, 2015, I thought of writing this letter to the Editor, as I have some knowledge about this tug of war between SAITM and the SLMC since 2006.

In September 2015, after their inspection or fact finding mission SLMC wrote to the Minister of Health not to recognize SAITM degree, thinking they are the authority to approve Medical Degrees. But the statement of the SLMC is not meeting the Commission granted to them by the Act of Parliament-Chapter 105. Chapter 105 direct the SLMC in section 2 of that Commission issued to them – “According to the Medical Ordinance, the Sri Lanka Medical Council has powers to maintain the standard of Medical Education including standards relating to courses of study, examinations, staff, equipment, accommodation, training and other facilities of the Universities and other Institutions which grant or confer any qualification which entitles a person to obtain registration under the Medical Ordinance [Section 19(e)].

In simple words this Commission granted by the Act of Parliament is to ‘accredit’ the Medical Institutions engaged in Medical Education by checking their course of studies, clinical practices etc.etc. and if it meets the above requirements in accordance with the Chapter 105 of the Medical Ordinance, to grant accreditation to such Institutions, but not to request the Minister or any other Authority like the University Grant Commission (UGC) not to recognize the Medical Degree offered by such Institutions or SAITM. If the SLMC understood the meaning of the words “POWERS TO MAINTAIN” means that they should examine and direct the SAITM to direct their medical education meeting the Medical Ordinance and if they are not meeting the above requirements, then the SLMA should take up this matter with the Minister of Higher Education and the UGC in a very confidential manner. Due to SLMA failure to understand what their responsibilities are now trying to stop the accreditation of the degree offered by this institution, where students are enrolled under UGC supervision meeting UGC guidelines, without guiding the SAITM and the others involved in providing medical education to citizens of Sri Lanka by correcting their teaching methods.

As Sri Lankan medical education has, for the last 100 years, maintained very high standards, it is the duty of the SLMC to direct the SAITM to achieve the best standards in the field. But SLMC has failed in its duty to check the SAITM institute for the last 6 to 7 years and now like in a trance they go and do an inspection and issue a report to the Public and to the SAITM management about the shortcomings.

In this regard I like to mention about a media reports that out of 7,000 students who completed their medical studies in foreign countries and sat for the local qualifying examination, only 17 students completed the SLMC examination to get their registration in Sri Lanka. How many times the SLMA has gone to these countries where Sri Lankan students study medicine to check the standard and the quality of education they receive, when they spend the hard earn money of the Sri Lankan parents.

SLMC consist of qualified medical professionals and they are aware that medical ethic does not allow them to make known their findings to the public, but in this instance they did a mistake by doing so. The enrollments and selection of students for the medical degree at SAITM is recognized by the UGC. I am aware about this as I was present in 2006, when the then UGC Chairman, Prof Gamini Samaranayake met some university medical students protesting against the recognition of SAITM by the UGC, dash into the Chairman’s room. There were nearly 150 students protesting about the FREE EDUCATION getting eroded outside the UGC gates blocking the road, and the only alternative was to meet these student protesters Prof. Gamini invited them to meet him. Students’ main objection was about FREE EDUCATION GETTING VIOLATED by allowing this Private Medical College.

Prof. Samaranayake listened to their grievances and asked three questions.

Q. Do you pay money for your education or you enjoy the FREE EDUCATION provided by the government with university bursaries.

A. Yes, we are using the facilities provided FREE to us by the UNIVERSITIES.

Q. How many of you will treat sick patients , once you get your FREE Education FREE.

(Half the students left the hall without giving a answer YES or NO)

Q. When you complete your fellowship and get qualified will you treat sick patients FREE?

(NO answer, all the students left the hall without waiting for Prof. Samaranayake to tell them what he is going to do with the SAITM recognition.)

Most members in the SLMC completed their fellowship in Australia or the UK as Sri Lanka was still not able to professionally test them due to some inadequacies. A few years back the Australian government offered scholarships to students who completed the HSC to study medicine in Australia. Approximately nine students got qualified to receive that scholarship grant and FOUR students completed their medicine degree at the Sydney University, and completed the first, second, third, fourth and the fifth years in the top order. Three students topped the list in the final examination and were awarded the gold and other medals. The scholarship arrangement was that the students should go back to their own countries to do their internship and then get qualified to work in that country. Eight students came back to Sri Lanka and the SLMC refused to allow them to work as interns and most of them left for the UK and some came back to Australia. Out of the students who left Sri Lanka and settled down in UK and Australia, are now working as qualified surgeons and specialist in other fields. Due to SLMC failure to recognise the degrees awarded by the Australian medical colleges, the Australian Government cancelled the scholarship scheme, and Sri Lankan students lost a golden opportunity to receive medical education at no cost.

In my professional opinion, what the SLMC should do is to prepare a list of the shortcomings they detected at SAITM and appoint capable and experienced medical professionals to tackle each and every section coming under the Medical Ordinance and direct the UGC and the Minister of Higher Education to request the SAITM management to rectify these shortcomings and recommend to the Minister of Health to allow these students to participate in clinical and other essential areas to learn their trade in either Colombo South Hospital or at Ragama or any other hospital, so the students who now follow this medical degree are not left between two worlds.

Sri Lankan parent’s main intention is for their children to become doctors, and if the Medical Colleges affiliated to the present Universities are unable to provide the facilities for the students, let the government formulate a Education system to open private Medical, Engineering and other Universities, to save the deflated foreign currency reserve in Sri Lanka, as the proper medical Education in the Western countries will cost around US $ 225,000 to US $ 300,000.

My professional opinion is that the government should look into the mushrooming of foreign technical institutions and other education providers as a matter of urgency as the country should clear this hurdle of providing a good education to the young generation.

Dr. Upasiri de Silva



9 Responses to “Private medical education in Sri Lanka”

  1. aloy Says:

    Thank you Dr. Upasiri.
    I think it is jealousy at all levels that is at play here. Most professionals (who have come through the free education system) in SL who dont have a child studying in SAITAM are against it as they do not want others to become professionals. This is the typical Sri Lankan mentality.
    During our uni days students used to crack a joke about this mentality of SLs. It goes like this:
    It seems in the hell there are separate sections for each nationality and each section there is a yamapalla (guard) at the gate to prevent the inmates escaping. How ever in Sri Lanaka’s section there is no guard. When asked bout this from the chief of the hell he has said: “no need to worry, if one tries to escape the other Sri Lankans will pull him back”.
    We are a complicated set of people. We do not know how to solve a simple problem.

  2. cwije Says:

    1. MBBS graduates wait without appointment but hospitals are short of doctors.

    2. Human body is the same in any country and most doctors learn after graduation by trail and error and by killing patients. I say this with my close connection to a medical school in USA.

    3. Rich people go and get medical degrees and most do not come back. So why not allow rich people to have a medical school/s in SL.

    4.Poor people who became MBBS grads behave as cruel money collectors from the people who labored for their free education.

    5, As Upasiri rightly pointed out outcomes assessment was what the stupid M council should have done. I know this because I was in college educational outcomes assessment for 15 yrs. Would they seek our help or kiss some white man’s ass?

    Medical field is another shit pit in mismanaged SL.

    What a mess this country is in due to black white UNP and SLFP and Red crooks since 1948.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Private medical and other schools are essential. When free education was introduced it was never intended to become a monopoly of providing education. Private education is much more beneficial to the nation as students pay upfront without burdening taxpayers. Government should promote more and more private medical colleges and ensure they follow quality guidelines.

    Free education does not mean free education only. It means free education to those who cannot afford paid education. This must be understood by those who protest.

  4. aloy Says:

    I have commented couple of times on this issue, let me do it one more time.

    We do not have any children or relatives studying in SAITAM or intending to enter it. I have two daughters who are specialists in this field working in NHS,UK and in Australia. In fact one of them (holding FRCS) visited the Malabe hospital with my wife recently, when she wanted to do some tests. They found the staff very courteous and helpful. The services were very good. When the tests were repeated overseas the results were the same. She also found later that those in the managerial positions are her contemporaries in Colombo medical college. Why not the SLMC give a helping hand by encouraging them to do better by way of advice or even setting rules and guide lines in this regard.

    We need to think positively and always keep in mind that we are an endangered species in this world. Our numbers are dwindling and an average family have not more than two children, where as myself and my wife had six children in each of our families. Singapore’s population as at now is six million and they are planning to increase it to 12 in the near future. They will be able to do that because their standards are high and their economy is improving. We too need to improve our standards in existing institutions by going in he right direction, thereby stopping money and people leaving the country.

  5. mario_perera Says:


    Your comment on FREE education and PAID education is a GEM.

    Your last phrase sums it all up with great clarity and brevity as well: Free education does not mean free education only. It means free education to those who cannot afford paid education. This must be understood by those who protest.

    Mario Perera

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Do PURELY Western style Uni education systems deliver the expected results ?

    Do PURELY Western style anything deliver the expected results ?

    While we move in a Globalised world and are compelled to follow certain rules of engagement with the rest of the world in Learning methods, Economics, etc., Lankans ought to get far more innovative to get truly meaningful results.

    This is a challenge indeed, and western style COMPETITIVENESS will have to be changed to CO-OPERATION and LIFE SUPPORTIVENESS in all our actions. It starts in childhood and is up to schools (public or private) and parents, politicos and all others to nurutre the spirit of co-operation rather than competition.

    We have to formulate what works well for us as a Nation with common needs to survive. Money must serve Mankind not the other way around.

  7. cwije Says:


    You are mixing apples and oranges. Blindly copying western medical or kentucky fried chicken is diferenet from allowing private medical schools in SL.

    Even when free education came only the rich got to go to Ananda, Nalanda etc.

    Even Harvard uni medical col now accept Ayurvedic treatment. The fault in all this is not western medi but the black white slave mind of SL doctor class. Even poor child living in a tin roof house who becomes a doctor with donations become a shark charging money from poor patients! Or thye try to poison the water tank of competing doctors.That is the black white process.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:


    I appreciate your comments.

    Re Medical Schools : Even if both Public & Private Medical schools are allowed, there exists far greater problems for the Nation of Lanka. Yes, I agree that the negative black white process is a killer as it is mostly money centered.
    We live in hope that a POSITIVE black white process comes alive and takes over development in Lanka.


    To better what we already have, some changes must be made.

    I acknowledge that MONEY talks ! This is true not only for doctors but also for other professionals. Few would sniff at extra money. This is the reality. Gone are the days when PM Dahanayake went up the Parliament steps in an ‘amude’ to show the public the importance of the farmer and introduce the simple life to the VIP. I think some of our leaders try to lead a simple life with some status – though some media will try to show otherwise to vilify leaders. Ambitions are reserved for the children who are sent abroad. Perhaps most will return well informed and rather disappointed ……

    However, it is more (most) important that a sense of PATRIOTISM be inculcated in the very young in Lanka. How is that to be done ? Right now we have a large population of Tamil folk (even Muslims of the East are mostly Tamil folk) who like the idea of Separatism under some colonial yoke or perhaps even the Tamil Nadu (Indian) yoke. This problem surmounts all other problems. This I leave to the experts to handle. Cheap Labor from TN has been a costly exercise for Lanka, in terms of funds, destruction of material wealth, and the mental health of the Nation. Stress caused by Terrorism for Separatism (Vadukoddai Resolution, 1976) has caused the demise of many a VIP and ordinary folk.

    These are the important items to handle now that visible terrorism on a large scale has been removed from Sri Lanka, thanks to the MR govt.

    * PATRIOTISM (starting from the Homes, Schools, Universities, Temples & Churches, etc.)
    * LEAD BY EXAMPLE required from all Parents, Teachers, Politicos, etc.

    And more ….

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    Again, even if Private & Public Medical Schools co-exist, there is a deep felt need for Community Colleges. In the west these Community Colleges hold courses of studies for adults for skills & job training, as well as for hobbies.

    Sample :
    * Studies on Community Enrichment :
    Creative Writing
    Financial WEellness
    Food & Beverages
    Home & Garden
    Motorcycle Safety
    Music, Dance & Film
    * Studies on Occupationall Training :
    Advanced Manufacturing
    Craft Beverages
    Emergency Services : Nurse Aides
    Hospitality Services
    Job Preparedness
    Workforce Training

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