Protests over an opening of private Medical Faculty

( April 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The controversy over the establishment of a new private medical college has surfaced again with the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) planning protests.

With plans being unveiled to open a private medical faculty being constructed at Malabe in affiliation with a university in Russia, various persons expressed their views.

The issue is not new with the debate dating back to 1981with the establishment of a private medical institute, which was attached to the Kelaniya University amidst many protests.

The proposed new medical faculty in Malabe has already got the green light from the Board of Investment (BOI). According to Dhammika Perera, Chairman of the BOI, the University Grants Commission too had gone through the proposal to establish a private medical faculty and had said that it did not come under their purview. “This is a higher education institute affiliated to a foreign university,” he said.

He added that the degree obtained through the university was equal to a degree obtained by students who travelled and studied in Russia. Nothing about Sri Lanka was even mentioned in the degree certificate, he said.

Dr. Neville Fernando, chief executive officer of the new medical faculty said that all arrangements were ready to begin academic sessions shortly.

“The first intake will be 100 students selected through the Z-Score. We plan to take in the best students for the medical faculty,” Dr. Fernando said.

He said one had to spend over Rs. 5 million to enter a medical faculty in the United Kingdom or Australia. A deposit of Rs. 5 million had to be deposited before going there. But here in Sri Lanka, it was only Rs. 5.5 million, he said.

However, Udul Premarathne, convener of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) disagreed.

“This is a big farce. This is just a private university that only has a massive image. This is an attempt to destroy free education in the country and to privatise it. Opening up private universities, while having state universities is an element of privatisation,” said Premarathne.

On the claims of Z-Score, the IUSF convener said that students to the private faculty would not be admitted on the basis of marks obtained. “Students are admitted if they have Rs. 6 million,” he said.

He also said that large-scale protests would be organized together with all medical students. The private university in Malabe would definitely be closed down, he said.
Professor Wishwa Warnapala, Minister of Higher Education, expressing his views on the issue said that neither the government nor the ministry had decided to open private universities.

“On the other hand, a bill should be passed in Parliament to open a private university,” Prof. Warnapala said.

Commenting on the planned protests, Minister Maithripala Sirisena, general secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party said that it was an attempt to justify their political existence.

“We should look at the world with an open mind. We all want to give our children the best education at an institution of our choice. Instead of clinging on to meaningless arguments, we should open the opportunities of the new world to our new generations. We should all agree to such endeavours,” the minister said.
-Sri Lanka Guardian