The Government yesterday ordered the closure of all universities except the medical faculties until further notice.
The Minister of Higher Education S.B. Dissanayake has said the decision to close all the universities was taken due to the two-month long strike by the university academics jeopardising the future of the university students.
The Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA), the trade union of the academics, is currently engaged in a strike demanding the government among others to allocate 6 per cent of the country’s GDP for education, grant independence of universities from political interferences and an increase in salaries for university teachers.
The strike commenced by the university academics on 4 July has paralysed the functions at the country’s universities.
The present situation of the universities warrants a close inspection of the current university network as the present circumstances indicate an uncertainty whether the university network is actually functioning, the Minister has said. At a special discussion held yesterday with Vice Chancellors, lecturers and deans of the departments, it has been concluded that the Government need to take an immediate measure to prevent the current situation becoming worse and hence the decision to close the universities.
According to the Minister Dissanayake, the situation has become the main barrier for the progress of the students and to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the universities.
The Minister says the strike by the FUTA, is politically motivated since the Government has taken maximum effort to find a solution to FUTA’s demands through several rounds of discussions. The Minister has noted that although final decisions were arrived at these discussions on agreements the lecturers’ trade union has not shown a positive response to solve the problems.
The Government has agreed to all demands submitted by the FUTA, but one for the 20 per cent salary increase, he said adding that the salaries of the university teachers have been increased between 36 to 83 per cent.
Further increase of salaries will completely complicate the salary structures of public servants, the Minister has noted.
The Government has also proposed to appoint a special presidential commission to find long term solutions to the problems at the country’s universities and to establish a fully-fledged post graduate institution in the country.