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EXCLUSIVE: FUTA's framework for discussion on MOU

The idea of Education is central to the continuation and preservation of human society, materially as well as culturally. Education enables and sustains civilisations and promotes humanism. In modern times, education has been recognized as a fundamental human right.

( July 05, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Sri Lanka Guardian has exclusively received the full context of the document which was presented by the President of the Federation of University Teacher's Associations (FUTA), Dr Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri before his discussion with Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, the Secretary to the President.The discussion was held just one day before their land mark strike which was on 04th July 2012.

However after the discussion both the parties were unable to reach to any conclusion and therefore both FUTA and its sister unions went on one day strike as it was planned earlier.

1. Preamble

The idea of Education is central to the continuation and preservation of human society, materially as well as culturally. Education enables and sustains civilisations and promotes humanism. In modern times, education has been recognized as a fundamental human right. It is now universally accepted fact that everyone has a right to education and education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality (Article 26 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). Education has thus been recognized as a fundamental founding pillar of human society that buttresses and safeguards among other things, democracy, freedom, peace, and sustainable development, and should become accessible to all (World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century, 1998). 

In Sri Lanka, public sector education or ‘free education’ as it is commonly known, is a constituent component our state. It is a core value on which the modern Sri Lankan identity has been built. Many of our achievements for which we have won acclaim globally rests on the opportunities provided through public sector education. Over the past six decades, it has been the avenue by which the masses sought and achieved social mobility. Importantly, it was pivotal in bringing about a post-independence renaissance in the fields of learning, art and culture. It has sustained the public administration sector, the health sector, technical and engineering sectors sector through nurturing the human resources that have contributed to the development of these areas and of the country. Future generations of academics, intellectuals, scientists, managers, administrators, public servants, politicians, artists and philosophers in Sri Lanka will also largely come from a well-nourished public education system. A civilised and humane society requires all these different people to sustain itself. The threats that the public education system is currently facing need to be addressed immediately if Sri Lanka is to progress as a nation. 

Political regimes that control the reins of government for a limited and stipulated period of time have no moral right or political mandate to change or alter the nature and attributes of the founding pillars of the state without the express and informed consent of the people of the country who are the real owners of the state and who establish political regimes from time to time.

Universities in this context have a crucial role to play in this mission, particularly to contribute to enabling a sustainable and equitable society. Universities are also sites that encourage free thinking, generate and disseminate new knowledge and ideas and function as centres promoting humanistic ideals, propelling society in new directions. Since universities have a crucial role in this humanising and civilising mission, we believe that it is the duty of the government to give primary value in the higher education sector to State Funded Universities and that it is the role of the government to develop the State Funded Universities sector, and not sacrifice them in the ad hoc promotion of the private sector. 

At a time when public universities are at a crossroads, we believe that it is the responsibility of university academics to act as custodians of public universities and higher education. We believe that the struggle to protect the public university system is our paramount duty. History will judge us harshly if we abdicate or neglect this duty at this crucial moment in time.

We believe that the government should take concrete measures to preserve and improve all sectors of publicly funded education including the higher education sector. The government should commit itself to the improvement of public sector education, and allocate a higher portion of the annual budget towards it. At present, annual government expenditure on education and higher education falls far below accepted regional and international guidelines. This in itself, is an indication of the present attitude towards public education. 

The government should also quickly and decisively distance itself from initiatives that aim to undermine public education including efforts to privatise education without proper consultation with relevant partners. . The government must consider the views of all stakeholders including the university academic community as represented by the FUTA when considering education policy reforms. The government also needs to refrain from violating existing policy and legal frameworks through arbitrary and disjoined decision making. The University Act of 1978 provides the mechanism for consultation and involvement of academics and the government must at the very least adhere to this legal framework to work together with for the development of the state university system.

2. FUTA Demands 2012 - Detailed

A. Enhancing recruitment and retention of the highly qualified academics

1. Considering the crucial role academics play in generating knowledge and educating the youth of this country and consequently the rigorous academic training that academics have to undergo and the stringent recruitment and promotion process that they are subjected to, establish a Sri Lanka University Academic Service (SLUAS). (Refer to Appendix-II for a set of guidelines to be followed in drafting the service minutes).

1.1. Sign an agreement to establish the SLUAS, based on the guidelines provided in the draft attached in Appendix-II, by Jan 2013. The MoHE, the Ministry of Finance, and the Salaries and Cadre Commission should be signatories to this agreement.
1.2. Immediately setup a committee to draft the service minutes. The committee should comprise of representatives from the FUTA, Ministry of Finance, Salaries and Cadre Commission, and the UGC.
1.2.1. A written agreement that the first draft of the SLUAS service minutes will be provided by the FUTA based on the guidelines provided in Appendix-II.
1.2.2. A written agreement on the process and timeline of setting up of the SLUAS.

A written agreement by the Ministry of Finance to implement the remuneration steps outlined in the interim proposal of 7th July 2011. This proposal should contain commitments to:

1.3. Provide an increase of 20% to the basic salary of 2011, to be paid with effect from 1st Jan 2012 (refer to Table-03 in the Appendix-I). All existing allowances should be paid with no conditions attached.
1.4. Provide an increase 0f 16.67% to the basic salary to be introduced in item 1.3 above (refer to Table-04 in the Appendix-I). This increased basic salary should be included in the national Budget for 2013 that would be presented to parliament, and should be paid with effect from 1st Jan 2013. All existing and proposed allowances should be paid with no conditions attached.

B. Safeguarding and uplifting state education

To arrive at a written MOU with the government that will include:
1.1. A written agreement to increase Education spending to 6% of GDP by January 2015. This value is the UNESCO recommended value. Sri Lanka at the second ministerial meeting of South Asia Education for All (EFA) forum held in December 2009 has already pledged to meet this target.
1.1.1. Written agreement to restore education spending to at least 2.9% (the 2005 value) of GDP by Jan 2013.
1.1.2. Written agreement to increase education recurrent expenditure per student to at least reach 12% of per capita GDP (present regional average) by Jan 2015 for state sector universities.
1.1.3. Written agreement to increase Higher Education spending to at least 0.5% of GDP (the 2005 value) by Jan 2013.
1.1.4. Written agreement to increase Higher Education spending to reach 1% by Jan 2015.
1.1.5. Written agreement to increase the annual University Expenditure per student to reach an average of Rs. 450,000.00 by Jan 2015, for all conventional Universities and as appropriately for distance learning programs
1.1.6. No new national Universities should be established without a consultative process on national requirements and without having proper infrastructure facilities.
1.1.7. Recurrent and capital expenditure allocated for the particular university should be made available for the University at least by 31st January in each year.

1.2. Clearly state the government policy on state funded education

1.1.8. A clear written statement of the government policy on general state funded education, that includes The overall policy statement of the government on education that includes the specification of the expectations and objectives of the state funded general education system The five year plan and the ten year plan for state funded general education system. The financial commitment and plan to maintain and uplift the general education system

1.1.9. A clear written statement of the MoHE’s policy on state funded universities, that include The overall policy statement on Higher Education in Sri Lanka that includes a statement of the expected role of University education The five year plan and ten year plan for University education The financial commitment to state funded universities

1.3. A written agreement by the MOHE to suspend all existing higher education reform processes until a proper consultative process involving all stakeholders and the public takes place.

1.1.10. Written agreement by the MOHE to immediately suspend the following: Proceeding with any Education or Higher Education related legislative bills All education and higher education related reform processes. The Leadership Training program The agreement with CIMA and similar private education institutes that allow the use of University property, resources, and services to conduct their classes without payment. The foreign student scholarship scheme.
1.1.11. A written agreement to abide by the process detailed in the Universities Act 1978 (as amended) within regard to initiating, formulating, and proceeding, on any higher education reform processes or initiatives (including circulars) by proceeding through the proper channel of Faculty Boards, Academic Senates, and the UGC.
1.1.12. Where necessary to amend the Universities Act in a consultative and transparent process to reflect the reform initiatives especially in relation to enhancing the autonomy of universities, and ensuring the de-politicisation of appointments to university bodies including the UGC.

1.4. A written agreement by the MOHE to refrain from the politicization and micromanagement of the Universities so that these institutions can thrive as autonomous institutions acting as catalysts in the development of Sri Lanka. The agreement should include:

1.1.13. A pledge to respect and adhere to the Universities Act of 1978 (as amended) in all matters pertaining to the higher education sector
1.1.14. An assurance that the minister shall, in particular, ensure the proper application of s.44 of the above Act by not interfering in the appointment of members of the University Councils. The assurance must include an undertaking by the UGC that the qualifications of those appointed and the expected expertise each appointee brings in to the respective council to be publicized for the information of the University community and the general public.
1.1.15. An assurance to strictly adhere to the procedure pertaining to the appointment of Vice Chancellors without ministerial interference (at both stages involving the University Council and the UGC). This principle of non-interference by the minister was recognized by the Supreme Court Judgment (SC (SD) 5-12/1999, SC Minute of 03/05/1999).
1.1.16. A pledge to allow university councils to be the final decision making body with regard to all university appointments both academic and non academic positions..
1.1.17. A pledge to stop interfering in the allocation of University funds.
1.1.18. An undertaking to have the cabinet approved directive (in violation of the Universities Act) to hire the ultra expensive Rakna Lanka security firm for University security rescinded. 

3 Summary table on FUTA salary demands

Appendix II

Proposal to establish “Sri Lanka University Academic Service” (SLUAS)
Drafted by Professor AM Navaratna-Bandara, Department of Political Science, University of Peradeniya for FPUTA

“There are four principal objects University must serve, the conservation of knowledge and ideas, the interpretation of fresh streams of thought, the unceasing adherence to intellectual ideals and the training of men to uphold and continue education. Hence the staff needs must comprises original thinkers and research workers as well as men who can bring together the researches of others, and men who can stimulate students, so that teachers and students not only acquire knowledge but develop knowledge, thus advance the study of social, educational and political problems. ” Andreas Nell 

1. Reasons for the recognition of University Academics as a special professional category
(1) Only the highest achievers are considered even for an interview for an academic position in the university system.
(2) The process of evaluation for recruitment to the university academic staff is stringent and only the best of the available best make the cut.
(3) Once within the system, process of evaluation for promotion is tedious and stringent.
(4) Academics are not instantly replaceable, as the training and knowledge they have had is unique.
(5) Academics are expected to work independently in relation to their own disciplinary boundaries
(6) University Academics train the best of the best students and set the standards of the top-level workforce in our country.
(7) They carryout work 24hrs, everyday and there is no overtime paid for this service (Most of the research work is done outside of teaching time).
(8) They are not remunerated for the research work and student supervision that they carry out.
(9) They review scientific work without any monetary considerations.
(10) University academics do not get remunerated for publishing their scientific work in Journals, actually often they have to pay a fee to the journal to publish their articles.
2. The components of the Minutes of the Service
3.1 Recruitment & promotion
3.1.1 The present schemes of recruitment and promotions should be accommodated into the minutes in detail. The document prepared by Dr. Rohan Fernando on behalf of FUTA in 2010 is annexed and it should be incorporated into the service minutes.
3.1.2 The recruitment should be done separately by each university institutions following the common recruitment and promotion schemes.
3.2 Transfers
3.2.1 A member who joined the service cannot be transferred from the university institution which recruited him/her initially to the service.
3.2.2 However, a member can move from the serving institution to another university institution as a new recruit but with the service points so far acquired if the authorities of both institutions agreed to facilitate the transfer by making arrangements to settle the liabilities/bonds of the staff member concerned.
3.3 Salary Scheme
3.3.1 The basic salary of each grade or service category should be based on the salary scheme agreed upon by the Universities Authorities and FUTA.
3.3.2 There should be a permanent pay negotiation body comprising the representatives of Ministry of Higher Education, UGC, Universities, Teacher Trade Unions and FUTA to assess the revision of salaries, allowances and other service conditions annually and recommend necessary adjustments in the existing pay structure and the service minutes.
3.4 Salary increments
3.4.1 Proposed to follow the pay schemes adopted by the Indian UGC to this effect
3.4.2 3% to 4% of the basic salary (differentiation can be made between the grades)
3.4.3 Number of advance increments should be arranged for PHD/M Phil/MA/M Sc holders at the level of recruitment and also on the completing those degrees by the staff members already in service.

Increments should be accompanied by an evaluation and assessment of academic’s contribution by an independent group of peers. The details of this process needs to be worked out and included.
3.5 Allowances
3.5.1 Continuation of the following special allowances without any conditions: Academic Allowance as a continuation of the principle accepted by the Cabinet in 1996 to distinguish University Academic from other service categories in the University system Research and Development Allowance as an incentive to encourage the academics to pursue research and knowledge development
3.5.2 Proposed to add the following Need Base Allowances to the salary House Rent Allowance for those not living in the university quarter or house owned by the member or spouse (25% to 30% of the basic salary). Transport Allowance to compensate the cost incurred by the members to travel to work station by their own vehicle or hiring a vehicle or utilizing the public transport. Children Education Allowance up to two children. The allowance could be varied depending on the category of school attended i.e. government school/private school/in hostel. Internet and broad band allowance to facilitate the members to maintain private access to internet and email

3.6 University Establishment C ode
The formulation of a university establishment code that details the codes of practice for university academics respecting the need to protect academic freedom
3.7 Medical Scheme (not to be included in the service minutes)

A Medical Insurance scheme may be adopted for all academics. The teacher may contribute 30% of the premium and the rest to be contributed by the employer. The UGC should negotiate with leading insurance companies to develop a scheme.

3.8 Group Insurance (not to be included in the service minutes)

A group insurance may be adopted for all university and college teachers throughout the country. UGC should once again negotiate with leading insurance companies to develop a scheme.

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