Sri Lankan Higher Education Ministry has decided to temporarily withdraw the proposed Private University Bill after university students’ heavy demonstrations and resistance which erupted throughout the last week. Although the government has closed two universities, Students unrest is still growing and spreading to other universities. Sri Lanka university teachers have joined against the Private University Bill. However Sri Lankan Higher Education Ministry says that the proposed bill is not a Private University bill as called by certain groups but a bill to monitor the private degree awarding institutions.
Sri Lankan Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake who vowed to set up foreign universities in the island now maintained the silence due to students and other stakeholders’ pressure.
Meanwhile two senior Ministers of the Sri Lankan government have strongly opposed to this Private University Bill and asked to pull out. However, Higher Education Minister is hoping to conduct discussion regarding the bill with several Ministers on 23 January. After this crucial discussion, Higher Education Ministry will decide whether the bill present to the parliament or not. Nevertheless Higher Education Ministry is hoping to present another Bill to parliament which also related to the Higher Education sector.
Sri Lankan Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake has assumed duties on 2010 and said Foreign Universities would be established in Sri Lanka and invited to foreign countries to set up their branch campuses. The objectives of establishing foreign universities were to retain the money in the country and to reduce the brain drain.
Universities from USA, Japan, UK, Russia, China, India, Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore have shown a keen interest on set up Foreign Universities in Sri Lanka.
However, the Minister has agreed to grant 20 percent of the slots for local students in those universities. IUSF and the JVP strongly opposed to private university concept from the beginning.
Annually over 120,000 students are qualified for local universities but only 23,000 entered in to universities. Every year about 10,000 students from Sri Lanka migrate to foreign countries expending over 12 billion Sri Lanka Rupees.
Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) strongly oppose the idea of establishing private universities. Speaking to University World News, Marxist backed IUSF Convener Sanjeewa Bandara said that the proposed Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Qualification Framework Bill is another name for Private University Bill.
“Government tries to fool us by changing the name of the bill. Title may be different but the intension is the same”. We know that Bill has some legal provisions to establish private universities.
Government should develop local universities rather than establishing private universities. “If government tries to establish private universities in the country and destroy the free education, we are fighting against it” he further said.
Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake said that the Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Qualification Framework Bill is not a Private University act. The objective of the act is to monitor and regulate private degree-awarding institutions in Sri Lanka. He further said that all these unrest and protests are manipulated by IUSF to rouse students and gain political benefits.
Private University is not a new concept to Sri Lanka. Private universities have been operating in Sri Lanka since 1987. At the moment there are about 60 private degree awarding institutions and out of them 30 institutions are affiliated to local and foreign universities. Some of these institutions are functioning well but some are not. Our intention is to monitor these institutions he further said.
Meanwhile Higher Education Ministry is preparing another bill which proposed to grant loans to students to follow professional courses such as Chartered Institute of Management (CIM), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA),Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA),Chartered and AAT. The proposed bill has named Human Capital Development Finance Act.
The new wave of students’ unrest is a politically motivated one. They try to create a protest series in Sri Lanka as ‘Arab Uprising’ said University Grants Commission Chairman Prof. Gamini Samaranayake.
The Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) launched a token strike against the Private University Bill yesterday.
“Before the Bill introduce to the Parliament, it should be discussed with all stakeholders including students. Bill should be present after creating a fruitful dialogue among all these parties” FUTA Media spokesperson Mahim Mendis said.
He further said that some provisions in the bill are not suitable for the free education in the country.
Meanwhile all the students’ unions of Colombo University have decided to gather together and protest against the establishing of Private Universities in Sri Lanka. They launched a protest yesterday inside the university.
Sri Jayewardenepura University will re-open its academic activities on 23 January which closed due to student protests. The students have launched protests demanding the removal of the Vice Chancellor of the University who is responsible for destroying their memorial statue and later closed the university to control the students protest.