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Daycare centres in Universities for young undergraduate mothers:

University intake doubled in the past few years

"During the past nine years, especially since 2010, the university system in the country has developed remarkably. Online programs have been introduced in Universities targeting the farmer community in the country. They can go from basic level to Degree level. It is intended to improve the agriculture sector by improving the knowledge of farmers.

In the West, courses are conducted targeting those in various sectors such as agriculture and industrial sectors. Everyone will be given equal opportunity to improve their knowledge", University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairperson Professor Kshanika Hirimburegama said in an interview with the Sunday Observer.


UGC Chairperson Prof. Kshanika Hirumburegama

A pension scheme which has been implemented for academic and non-academic staff of universities will be strengthened from next year. A health insurance scheme will also be introduced from February next year. The proposed insurance scheme is in the final stage. The circular will be sent to universities soon, she said.

"I am confident that President Mahinda Rajapaksa will strictly implement law and order and take strict measures to reduce corruption during his third term as he promised. He promised to eliminate terrorism, he did so and as promised he has implemented major infrastructure and livelihood programs across the country in a short time", she said.

In a developing country corruption is unavoidable and can be minimised when the country achieves its development goals, Professor Ms. Hirimburegama said.

Those who talk of corruption forget that it occurs within and around them. Not performing duties at work is also a form of corruption.

"Knowledge is the backbone of a country. There are only 12 percent in higher education in Sri Lanka and this percentage should be increased. Everyone in the country should be given opportunities for higher education", she said.

"Forty two new Degree programs which are suitable for the current job market have been introduced in Universities between 2004 to 2014. There is a severe shortage of translators in the country.

Translation studies have also been introduced by three universities. Many postgraduate courses suitable to the contemporary era and online courses have also been introduced especially for students who reside away from Universities", Professor Hirimburegama said.

Non-Academic staff will also be sent for short- term training courses abroad for exposure to international universities. The junior and senior scale staff will be entitled to follow these courses, she said.

We are also planning to establish daycare centres in Universities for young mothers so that the children are taken care of while they work. This would increase efficiency", she said.

Q: Can you tell us about the connection between political stability and the development of the country?

A: A country cannot achieve development goals without political stability. Political stability and development are inter-connected. For over 30 years development had dropped due to political instability. This is a well-known fact.

Now peace has been restored and the country is moving towards prosperity. Due to this development is taking place rapidly. Political stability is the prime factor for development. Now Sri Lanka is turning into a fast developing country in the region where tourism and foreign investment are improving significantly.

Q: Can you tell us the importance of new investment specially foreign investment in the country's development process?

A: Political stability is vital to attract more investors specially foreign investors. A country cannot achieve its development goals alone without foreign investment. Even the developed countries have foreign investments. So, foreign investment is crucial for country's development. Of, course there can be limits.

No investor will come forward to invest in a country where there is no political stability. When bombs are blasted here and there who will go to that country to invest. There are certain countries at present where investors are not keen to make investments.

Q: Are you contended with the development taking place in the country?

A: Of course, the Government has implemented a large number of infrastructure, livelihood development projects across the country including the North and the East. Even a villager will know about the development projects progressing across the country.

Implementation of law and order takes prominence among his promises for the third term.

When there is law and order, corruption can be minimised. People in the rural areas are clever to believe a performer than mere talkers!. They cannot be cheated.

Livelihood development projects should also be implemented in line with infrastructure development.

The University system received sufficient funds after 2009.

A significant amount of money has also been allocated to the University sector in the 2015 budget. Young academics will receive the money to commence research. This was not available during our time.

Q: What kind of mechanism is crucial to expedite development?

A: Knowledge is the main source. Everyone must be educated. We have a high literacy rate but only 12 percent are in higher education. This percentage should be increased. The UGC is working towards achieving this goal.

Q: Can you tell us about the increase of intake of students to Universities within the concluded 10 years?

A: In 2005 only 14,850 students were admitted to state universities that function under the UGC. The intake was increased to 26,000 in 2013.

Due to availability of funds the UGC has initiated many projects including technology and knowledge transfer to the rural sector. Their income has increased with knowledge based careers. Education is the only means for a person to improve his quality of life. It is my responsibility and duty as the Chairperson of UGC to give the correct picture of the university system to the public.

There were 13 Universities in 2004 under the UGC. Now the number has increased to 15. Apart from these universities there are Buddhasravaka Bhikshu University, Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) that are functioning as higher education providers. Vocational University functions under the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training. In addition Ocean University also provide higher education facility to a large number of students. Within the concluded nine years many Universities were developed in the country.

Q: Can you tell us about the assistance granted by the UGC for research purposes?

A: The UGC has given funds to conduct research in the universities. Rs. 75 million was allocated for research last year. Rs. 81 million was given for innovation. Rupees 108 million has been given for postgraduate programs of academics. The UGC has also given funds for short term trainings, to present their research findings.

Q: Compared to the Universities in the region what is the present state of Sri Lankan Universities?

A: Sri Lankan University academics are highly qualified in line with the academics in the developed countries. They are on par or above with respect to knowledge and skills. This is especially so in Medicine, Engineering and the Sciences.

Q: What are the goals you target to achieve in the higher education sector by 2020?

A: By 2020 the UGC plans to admit 100,000 students to Universities. Universities should be developed in the manner to conduct courses whatever the stream the student want to follow. Now 12 percent is given admission to universities. It will be increased to 40 percent as in developed countries. I am confident that this goal can be achieved.

List of number of students admitted to Universities from 2000 to 2013

Year Academic Year Number selected

2000: 2001/2002 : 12,132
2001: 2002/2003 : 12,654
2002: 2002/2003 (A) : 13,036
2003: 2003/2004 : 14,260
2004: 2004/2005 : 14,850
2005: 2005/2006 : 17,287
2006: 2006/2007 : 17,248
2007: 2007/2008 : 20,069
2008: 2008/2009 : 20,846
2009: 2009/2010 : 21,547
2010: 2010/2011 : 22,016
2011: 2011/2012 : 28,908
2012: 2012/2013: 24,198
2013: 2013/2014 : 26,000

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