by Dayantha Wijeyesekera
( April 4, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is evident from the University Grants Commission (UGC) website that there are a large number of institutes awarding local degrees in Sri Lanka. This is through 15 State Universities established under the Universities Act No 16 of 1978, and 4 other Universities established under different Acts of Parliament.
Furthermore, there are about 10 degree awarding institutes recognized under Sect 25A of the said Universities Act, and seven institutes granting degree awarding status recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education. While the latter has been from about 2013 the former has been from 1988, with the Institute of Technology Studies being the first degree awarding institute outside the university system, followed by the Institute of Surveying and Mapping, Diyatalawa in 1990.
It was my privilege to be involved in the evaluation of the Institute of Surveying and Mapping in 1990, along with late Professors A. Thurairajah and H.B. de Silva for the degree of Bachelor of Science (Surveying Science). While the process has gone through for nearly 40 years, despite a simple start with rapid improvements thereafter, it has served a tremendous onerous role to meet the rapidly increasing demand for higher education in the country unable to be met solely by the conventional state universities.
While I have been involved in further evaluations / reviews of Institutes since 1990, I noticed a welcome procedure developed and maintained by the UGC and the Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council (QAAC). This is most essential in view of the large number of “off shore campuses”, some with good quality and others uncertain now recruiting students, some at exorbitant fees and offering fancy promises.
It is imperative that a yardstick for the measurement of quality and grant of recognition would depend particularly on the Professional bodies for Professional degrees, while the QAAC should have a major say on the rest. Unless this is strictly maintained the value of the Local Degrees in Sri Lanka would be at stake.
My article however would not be complete unless I mention the other alternative routes available to obtain a local degree for those who have the attributes, aptitude and aspire to obtain a degree most diligently, ie through the Open University of Sri Lanka and through the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) avenue; eventually obtaining the degree at University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTEC) together with programmes of study provided or associated by professional bodies.
Hope the decision makers and those attempting higher education as a profitable business would take serious note of the above and not let the reputation of the local degrees deteriorate any further.
Vidya Jyothi Emeritus Professor Dayantha Wijeyesekera is Chancellor, University of Vocational Technology and Former Vice Chancellor, Open University and Moratuwa University. He was the President, Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka