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NEC backs govt. move to set up branches of foreign universities

The National Education Commission (NEC) has thrown its weight behind Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake’s move to set up branches of foreign universities in Sri Lanka.

The NEC has formulated plans to promote non–State degree awarding institutions as part of the country’s national policy framework on Higher Education and Technical and Vocational Education.

Minister Dissanayake recently told parliament that foreign universities would be allowed to set up branches in a bid to accommodate those who could not enter universities. The JVP has vowed to oppose the move.

Chairman of the NEC, Prof. A. V. Suraweera addressing the media yesterday, at the Government Information Department, highlighted the development of the existing State-run universities to offer maximum benefits to the country as one of the main recommendations of the National Policy Framework.

Prof. Suraweera said that the NEC would promote the establishment of non–State degree awarding institutions subject to quality and accreditation requirements.

He said that the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, had accepted their recommendations. The NEC called the media briefing after having met President Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees last Monday.

Prof. Suraweera said the policy framework included three categories covering higher education, technical and vocational education and quality assurance, assessment and accreditation. The higher education covered all universities and other government and private institutions providing higher education whereas other two categories covered technical and vocational education and career guidance and counselling among other subjects.

The NEC has recommended a review of the existing procedure to accommodate successful GCE (Advanced Level) students to universities based on merit and district quota with a view to minimising disparities within and among districts. Prof. Suraweera said that they wanted to give freedom to universities regarding academic, administrative and financial matters.

Prof. Suraweera said the all undergraduates passing out from Sri Lankan universities should be productive citizens and play a role in the development process of the country.

He blamed lack of interaction among undergraduates, academic and non–academic staff of universities for trouble at universities, while emphasising the need to maintain discipline. He called for measures to prevent external interference with higher educational institutions.

The NEC has also recommended expansion and upgrading of external degree programmes conducted by universities as some of them have failed to maintain minimum standards.

The committee has recommended the establishment of a National Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council (NQAAC) to oversee all areas of higher education, including institutions which would be set up in the near future.

Committee member Prof. Dayantha Wijesekera said they had introduced several programmes to enhance the quality of undergraduates passing out annually,

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