Many media in Sri Lanka and government ministers seem to support the idea that Sr Lanka needs private degree awarding institutes, as only few can be allowed to enter National Universities. However, some Sri Lankan University Student Associations, oppose the idea of Private Universities, and Medical students have voiced their concerns on the Private Medical Faculty (SATIM) established in Malabe, which award degree from a Russian University for a fee of about 6-7 million rupees.
Though many people argue that Private Universities are common in every country, it is not the case. For example in England, Universities are currently allowed to charge home students £3,225 fees per year. This is initially paid to the university by the government, and then paid back through the tax system by students once their income reaches £15,000. In addition, students are eligible for loans towards their maintenance costs, which they pay back in the same way as their fees.
Therefore, similar to Sri Lanka, the role of private universities in England has so far been limited – with tight regulation over the rights to award degrees. Recently Universities Minister David Willetts in UK has suggested that he would bring forward legislation to enable private universities. However, University Lecturers’ Union Head, Ms Sally Hunt says in her letter to Mr Willetts that she is deeply concerned about any moves to mirror such growth in the for-profit sector in England.
It is true some countries like USA and India have private universities, but those are traditional universities with well established academic and research capabilities.
Students who are not eligible into a National University because of low z-score, should also have a right to obtain a University degree in Sri Lanka. But we have to assess whether establishing vast number of private Universities (Colleges) in the country, as in India is a solution to this problem. Better solution would be that Sri Lankan government should concentrate more on developing open university system, online learning, and semi government institutes such as SLIIT, NIBM (although these institutes also charge extremely high tuition fees), external degrees and technical degrees which charge reasonable amount from students.
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