ECONOMY NEXT- After an unprecedented economic and foreign exchange crisis, Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe said the island nation should consider becoming a regional hub for education in order to retain the forex outflow of the country as more students go abroad for higher education.
Sri Lanka has banned dollar payments in mid-2022 to contain the dollar outflows from the country after it faced a severe shortage of forex following the rupee was floated in March 2022.
“At the end of the day, we should not have bricks and mortar universities. It will be something else. But why can’t we be a regional hub for that? Sri Lanka can be a regional hub for education. Let us make up our mind. You are allowing billions of dollars to go out.”
He said around $3 billion is going out of the country for those who spend for education from foreign countries.
“By doing this, we not only can save $3 billion, but we can earn an additional $10 billion.”
The cabinet on several occasions disclosed plans of allowing branches of foreign universities to open in Sri Lanka to improve the quality of education system in Sri Lanka as thousands of youth have been leaving the country to have a quality education. This has increased after the economic crisis, analysts say.
Though the central bank has said it has allowed banks to facilitate outward remittances for education processes, many foreign students have complained that it is extremely difficult to receive foreign remittances from local banks because the island nation does not have dollars.
President Wickremesinghe in October, said he will open several new universities including in Kurunegala and Batticaloa districts as well as give national status for private institutions such as NIBM and SLIIT to speed up the reforms in the country’s higher education system.
The government is focusing to advance the education system and facilitate the establishment of foreign branch universities, particularly focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
The President said in the revised 2022 budget that scholarships will also be provided to Sri Lankan students to study in such foreign university branches and that the private investment in higher education will release the government resources, maintain free education for needy people and broaden beyond the present levels. (Colombo/Dec02/2022)