From left: University of Colombo Alumni Association Head of Administration Sumanaratne Marasinghe, Secretary Ruwandhi Thathrige, Vice Chancellor Prof. Chandrika Wijeyaratne , President Rajeev Amarasuriya, Minister for City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education Rauff Hakeem, Alumni Association Vice President Suranjani Wickramaratne, Treasurer Milad Mubarak, Asst. Treasurer JMS Bandara
The 37th Annual General Meeting of the Alumni Association of the University of Colombo was concluded recently at the Senate Hall, College House, University of Colombo.
Alumni President Rajeev Amarasuriya and the Office-bearers were elected for a further term of office.
The Chief Guest at the AGM was Minister for City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education Rauff Hakeem. The meeting was attended by the Vice Chancellor Senior Professor Chandrika Wijeyaratne, past Presidents of the Association, academics and members.
MP Rauff Hakeem, in his keynote address, congratulated the Alumni Association and the University of Colombo for the efforts made towards the development of the undergraduates and the university. Whilst the University should be proud of all the past accomplishments, he said that the Sri Lankan higher education system should strive to improve on international rankings and recognition as well.
Reflecting on recent events, he said that it was time that we addressed issues of religiosity and our connection to existential values concerning co-existence. The Minister, citing many statistics, stated, “We have comparatively a very low annual population growth rate of 0.92%, a low birth rate of 1.6%, well below the lower middle-income countries. We are closer to countries like Brazil and Turkey. Our structure of the economy is moving away from the traditional agriculture-based and towards manufacture and services. Right now, the services sector accounts for 6% of the GDP and the industrial sector accounts for 31% of the GDP. What is more encouraging is our high status in the Human Development Index. Our primary education completion rate is 95%, secondary education completion rate is 86%, the literacy rate is at 95 % and the life expectancy for females 75 years and males 72 years, so we are virtually on par with upper middle-income countries and we have progressed well.”
He further stated that during the last four years alone, almost 80 hostels have been built for universities which can house 400 students each. He added that there has been an increase in intake for universities, from 24,000 to almost 33,000, including an increase in almost 100 seats in the Ruhuna University for Medicine. He also said that two new medical faculties were opened in Sabaragamuwa and in Wayamba.
The Minister continued that, with the introduction of a new piece of legislation to set up a separate Quality Assurance and Accreditation Commission, he wishes to regularise the Higher Education system and further improve its quality to a level that would attract international students as well.
Alumni Association President Rajeev Amarasuriya in his address, highlighted the key activities that were carried out by the Association in the past three years, with focus on the previous year.
The Association undertook several student welfare projects, including the launch of an internship program and the leadership program instituted with the help of the Bridge Partnership and NTB. He greatly appreciated the contributions made by the Alumni Partners by way of monetary and other contributions.
Amarasuriya briefed the Association on the largest project in the history of the institution, the building of a professional swimming pool, and said that he is thankful to Minister Rauff Hakeem for extending his fullest support towards its construction, with hopes to work with him closely to see this project become a reality in the near future.
He also stated that the next year is a very important year for the University of Colombo, as it would be celebrating 150 years since the formation of the Ceylon Medical College, which also marks the beginnings of the University of Colombo. He continued that there will be many activities that the Alumni will necessarily be involved in, and together with the University, some events dedicated to Alumni would also be held.
Reporting to the membership that the Association in the last three years had achieved substantial progress as an Alumni body, it was now time to look at the next phase of its development, which would focus on expanding the Alumni base for a larger number of members to engage with the University, he added.
The Secretary’s Report was presented by the Ruwandhi Thanthrige detailing the activities of the Association.
Speaking at the AGM, Vice-Chancellor Senior Professor Chandrika Wijeyaratne said that the University of Colombo had consistently strived to provide the best education and best learning facilities for its students. She stated that with the collective effort of the administration, the Alumni Association and the students, it is possible to achieve high levels of success.
Commenting on the activities of the Alumni Association, the Vice Chancellor remarked that she was very pleased to see the Association engaging in many activities aimed at enhancing the quality of the undergraduate experience. She was particularly happy to note that the Association had come forward and provided leadership for the swimming pool project. As the only State university in Colombo, it is important for the University to have its own pool, in order to hone the skills of its swimmers, many of whom are extremely talented, she added.
Felicitation of five senior distinguished alumni
A special item on the agenda was the felicitation of five very senior distinguished alumni for their contributions in their respective fields and their overall contribution to the country at large. This was the third such felicitation, with the first held at the AGM in 2016 and thereafter at the AGM in 2018.
Kalakeerthi Dr. Edwin Ariyadasa, Deshamanya Vidyajyothi Professor Colvin Gunaratna, Vidyajyothi Professor Lalitha Mendis, Deshamanya Professor J.B. Disanayaka and Deshabandu Dr. C.G. Uragoda were felicitated for their respective contributions to the nation.
Furthermore, the Alumni Partners of the Alumni Association; LOLC Group, Nations Trust Bank PLC, Deutsche Bank PLC, 3CS and Akbar Brothers, were recognised for the financial and non-financial support given to the association to achieve its student development and welfare goals. Sri Lanka Bridge Partnership Lead Consultant Keshini Jayawardena was felicitated on a honorary basis for conducting an ongoing series of high-level leadership programs followed by mentoring undergraduates in collaboration with Nations Trust Bank.
The Executive Committee for the year 2019/2020 comprises: Rajeev Amarasuriya (President), Lakshman Keerthisinghe (immediate past President), Senior Prof. Chandrika Wijeyaratne (ex-Officio Vice President), Suranjani Wickremaratne (Vice President), Ruwandhi Thanthrige (Secretary), Prof. Naazima Kamardeen (Asst. Secretary), Milad Mubarak (Treasurer), J.M.S. Bandara (Asst. Treasurer), Mahesha Amarasuriya (Editor), M.K. Gnanasekera (Asst. Editor). Other Committee members are Milton Arandara, K.D.R. Siriwardena, Jithendra Gunathilaka, G. Wijemanne, Dr. Dayani Panagoda, Dinesha De Silva, Pradeep Uluwaduge, Asanka Ranhotty, S.R. Balachandran and Chathurika Akuregoda.
The past Presidents as Advisors are Tissa Devendra, J. Charitha Ratwatte, Thilak Karunaratne, Ramanee Amarasuriya and P.W. Senaratne.