ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers has approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to establish a University of Science & Technology through a public private partnership with a United States university.
A statement from the Government Information Department said on Tuesday January 09 that one of several US universities will be selected for the project as a partner university, including UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC Davis and University of Michigan.
“It has been recognised the desirability of establishing a University of Science and Technology with the support of a prestigious university in the United States of America with the aim of preparing the foundation for producing a group of skilled professionals to lead the critical sectors of new scientific discoveries, technological innovation and sustainable development. Such a university will provide the opportunity to utilise modern methodologies, foster global academic linkages and create an enabling environment for research and development,” the statement said.
Private university education is a contentious topic in Sri Lanka, with many left-leaning parties and academics historically opposed to the opening of private higher education institutes, particularly in the field of medicine. Student unions representing state universities routinely protest the establishment of private degree-awarding institutes in the country.
Education Minister Susil Premajayantha said in December 2023 that Sri Lanka will set minimum standards for private university degrees like for state universities through a unit of proposed new education commission to ensure high quality while encouraging private investments.
Starting private universities is strongly opposed by undergraduate unions in state universities and left minded political parties. They say the move will drain the best academics from the state universities to private universities.
They also argue such private universities could sell degrees for money and the move is seen as encouraging unqualified students to earn degrees for money.
The 2024 budget has spelt out plans for Sri Lanka to allow any recognized educational institution in the world to establish universities in Sri Lanka “once a set of powerful rules and regulations for the regulation of non-state universities are put in place”.
The move is to attract more foreign investment into education as well as to reduce foreign outflow from those who send their children for higher studies in foreign universities. (Colombo/Jan09/2024)