Proposal to provide 50,000 new university places for students who are not admitted to university

Tuesday, 19 December 2017 00:23 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

1.0 150,000 GCE A/L students eligible to enter universities 

 Today there is a lot of frustration among the youth due to many students passing the GCE A/L exams and eligible to enter universities unable to gain admission to universities due to limited number of places in universities. Out of the app. 150,000 eligible A/L students 25,000 will enter universities. There will be another 125,000 left behind. This would mean that out of those passing only 17% enter universities while 83% are left behind.

We need to maximise the opportunities for higher education in Sri Lanka which should be the prime objective of any government. There is also an absolute necessity to provide degree programmes which are in demand, creating new skills and additional numbers required for the IT, Engineering, Science & Technology, Business, Management and Services sector for the development of the economy. 

Today India is a destination for world outsourcing industry earning valuable foreign exchange for the country and providing employment and good salaries to its graduates due mainly to the availability of the IT and Engineering Graduates in large numbers with the ability to converse fluently in the English language. This is due to their ability to produce graduates with the required skills, qualifications and numbers. 

We are at a very important stage of our history and the people need solutions to this pressing problem which is sending thousands of our youth overseas using valuable foreign exchange seeking to obtain a degree which they are deprived in their own motherland. It should be a priority of the Government to find a solution with the assistance of university academia, professionals and the business community in this country and provide a university education to the youth. They are the future of our country and will be able to contribute to the economic growth of Sri Lanka. 

2.0 What options are available?

If we are to make Sri Lanka a knowledge hub then we need to look at alternatives methods to provide higher education to a larger number especially the qualified youth and increase the percentage of University going students to over 50% from the current 16% to 20%. We need to develop the skills, the knowledge, language fluency and of course English, research capability and the opportunities for the youth to be trained in disciplines which will provide a future to them in their motherland rather than look for opportunities overseas. 

At present many foreign universities conduct degrees programs through private institutes without any control from any governmental educational authority. These degree programs are also offered at a very high cost and not regulated locally. Also many students go overseas pledging their parents’ house and property to obtain a bank loan and enter foreign universities. It has been noticed that many of them after qualifying do not return to Sri Lanka. 

Therefore we need to provide a solution to conduct a quality university education at an affordable cost to the many who are deprived of a university education in their motherland and to consider solutions provided by other countries. 

3.0 Alternate model for Sri Lanka

 One of the best opportunities available for Sri Lanka is to consider the Indian model of having affiliated colleges to universities which has been very successful and has produced large number of university graduates in India in different fields of specialisation. This system would immediately increase the intake to university degree courses via the college system with the entry regulated by the University Grants Commission and all syllabi provided by the universities and exams also conducted by the Universities while the education will be provided by the colleges at an affordable cost to all students. For students in need of funding, scholarships can be provided by the State or the Mahapola Trust Fund or loan facilities from banks as done in the last budget.

The Affiliated College system is a well tried and tested system of our closest neighbour India and has benefitted the large number of students seeking entry to obtain higher education and has contributed immensely to the development of the national economy. 

3.1 The Indian system of Affiliated Colleges

India has universities established under the University Grants Commission Act, which have territorial jurisdiction over a particular area.

According to the latest data from the University Grants Commission the first five universities with the largest number of colleges are as follows. 

  • Hyderabad Osmania University with 901 affiliated colleges
  • Pune University with 735 affiliated colleges
  • Nagpur University with 800 colleges
  • Rajasthan University with 735 colleges 
  • Mumbai University with 711 colleges

For example, in Pune, they have University of Pune which has jurisdiction over three districts, Pune, Ahmednagar and Nasik. Similarly there is University of Mumbai, having Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Amravati, Nanded and Solapur districts in the State of Maharashtra. These are all State Universities which are established by the State Government but recognised all over India and the world. All these universities have Affiliated Colleges in their jurisdiction. Pune University five years ago had 474 Affiliated Colleges with the total student population of 550,000 and Mumbai University 531 Affiliated Colleges with 650,000 students. 

The syllabus and the examination are decided by the university and the examinations are also conducted by the university. The final degree is awarded by the university. 

Affiliated Colleges are the mainstay in the country’s higher education system and they enrol 89.3% of the undergraduate students and about 72.2% of post-graduate students. 

Delhi University has grown into one of the largest universities in India. At present, there are 16 faculties, 86 academic departments, 77 colleges and five other recognised institutes spread all over the city, with 132,435 regular students which includes 114,494 undergraduates and 17,941 postgraduates. There are also 261,169 students in non-formal education programme, of which UG students make up 258,831 whereas PG students are 2,338 in number.

There are three types of colleges under Delhi University. Some are fully funded by the Government. There are also the private colleges. Depending on the funding and management they are classified as follows.

  • University-maintained colleges
  • Trust colleges
  • Delhi Government colleges

The University of Madras has 115 Affiliated Colleges. They also conduct evening classes also to cater to the demands of the working adults. About 150,000 students are on roll in Affiliated Colleges. 

The responsibility of conducting classes regularly is on the colleges. The colleges conduct graduation and post-graduation classes and has teaching and other staff as per the norms of the UGC. Universities are responsible for the administrative and academic responsibilities. 

For getting an affiliation to a college, there are norms prescribed by the university and after fulfilling them, the affiliation is granted. 

There are two types of colleges, Grantable and Non Grantable. Grantable means they are given grants by the Government and hence the fees for these colleges are quite low. There is also a fee committee established by the Government to regulate the fees for these colleges. 

Examinations are conducted by the university and as colleges are affiliated to the university, students in the colleges appear for these examinations. 

Affiliation norms are there for university colleges about the land, building, teaching and non-teaching staff, library, laboratory and so on. 

It has also been noted that many of the colleges and private universities in India have been set up under Trusts Ordinance and are Not for Profit Organisations and self-funding. This would be a very good concept to be used in Sri Lanka for the educational sector similar to public universities under UGC and professional bodies set up by Acts of Parliament such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka and the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka which are self-funding and set up under the Ministry of Trade and Commerce in early years and now under Industry and Commerce.

4.0 Way forward for Sri Lanka

4.1 The Universities Act should be changed to provide for university colleges to be set up and the relevant regulations made. 

4.2 All universities be given authority to approve university colleges with the older and reputed universities playing a major role in making this scheme a success. 

4.3 Private educational institutes currently in operation encouraged to set up affiliated colleges and banks should treat these as priority projects for purpose of funding. Government could link the loan scheme provided for students who are eligible but unable to enter universities as currently done for certain private universities and those with foreign affiliations. 

4.4 All Affiliated Colleges should be not for profit organisations and preferable be set up under trusts ordinance or as companies limited by guarantee. These organisations will also be self-funding and use any surpluses for the development of the institution. 

4.5 Government buildings and school premises be made available in the afternoon session for the university colleges where required in the initial stages in the rural and other districts. 

4.6 A scholarship fund to be set up by the Government to fund needy students. 

4.7 The intake to the colleges to be done by the University Grants Commission based on A/L results similar to the selection to other universities. 

4.8 The degree certificate will be issued by the universities with the name of the affiliated college. The syllabus will be provided by the universities and exams also conducted by the universities. 

5.0 Benefits to the country and economy

5.1 Make Sri Lanka a knowledge hub by increasing the number going into higher education and providing opportunities for qualifying students at A/L to pursue their higher studies. 

5.2 More students would be able to obtain a degree qualification and the number of educated youth and more skilled persons will be produced in the country. Increase the percentage of students going into higher education immediately to 50% and thereafter to be increased annually. 

5.3 The courses will be provided at an affordable cost to local students and Valuable foreign exchange going out of the country will be saved. 

5.4 Local professors, lecturers in the universities who undertake lectures will be amply rewarded for their hard work and this will result in stopping the brain drain which is a serious problem for the country. 

5.5 Those who are in overseas universities will be encouraged to come back to Sri Lanka and start their own colleges and this will attract overseas Sri Lankans back to their home country. 

5.6 Will attract more foreign direct investment to Sri Lanka to start knowledge based projects for the export market due to availability of skilled youth in sufficient numbers which is currently in short supply. 

5.7 Government could be a facilitator and control the quality and fees of these colleges through the Universities and the UGC. 

5.8 More colleges could be set up for skills and technology that are in demand and will advance economic development and the development of industry, commerce and the services sector, plantation and agriculture. 

5.9 The youth of this country will see a future in their mother country to earn a degree and this will also ease the problems of parents who have to mortgage whatever assets they have to send their children overseas for higher education. 

5.10 Employers will be happy that they will be in a position to find sufficient skilled persons for employment in their businesses.

5.11 The money invested in primary and secondary education will be amply rewarded by enabling students to go for higher education and to university affiliated colleges and increasing the percentage of students entering universities. 

5.12 A close link will be established with the private and public sector to conduct courses in demand with Science and Technology taking a prominent place in addition to the others. 

5.13 Also to consider setting up of Sri Lankan Institutes of Technology and Institutes of Management similar to Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) which should be pursued vigorously as these institutes have a direct bearing on the development of the knowledge economy. 

6.0 Conclusion

Although we are celebrating 40 years of open economy, the national higher education system has not been opened to meet the needs of our youth. During the last 40 years we have sacrificed a minimum of two to four million of our youth, losing the opportunity to proceed to higher education due to the closed national higher education system which needs a radical change if the country is to face the new challenges in a globalised economy and advance to a knowledge economy. We are unfortunately falling behind many of the other countries that are progressing at a very rapid level especially in Science and Technology and skill development where we do not have sufficient numbers.

At a time where many Advanced Level students who qualify to enter university app. 150,000, only app. 25,000 gain admission. The balance are deprived of an opportunity to pursue their higher education and students and parents are frustrated that despite them qualifying, their future is going to be bleak for no fault of theirs. Those who have the money go overseas using our valuable foreign exchange and many do not return to Sri Lanka after qualifying which is another big loss to the country as well as to the parents. 

It would be possible to overcome this barrier by implementing the university Affiliated College system which will provide additional places for those who otherwise are shut out of local Universities. By implementing these new proposals tried and tested in neighbouring India and other countries will benefit the large number of educated and qualified youth after A/L to see a future in Sri Lanka through higher education. 

We should also keep in mind that cost is also an important element and only local degrees and professional qualifications can provide an answer to this question. Let us also save our valuable foreign exchange that is going out of this country and build a knowledge economy for the prosperity of the nation. 

[Prof. Lakshman R. Watawala, FCA, FCMA. FCMA(UK), CGMA, FCPM, is President – Institute of Certified Management Accountants (CMA) Sri Lanka, Past President – Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka), South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), Organization of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA), Founder President – AAT Sri Lanka, Immediate Past President – Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia (AMDISA), former Chairman and Director General – GCEC and BOI, former Chairman – People’s Bank, People’s Merchant Bank, National Insurance Trust Fund, State Mining and Mineral Development Corporation, Ceylon Leather Products Corporation, former Council Member – University of Kelaniya, Open University of Sri Lanka, Institute of Computer Technology University of Colombo.]

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