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Kotelawala Defence University Bill violates free education 

24 Jun 2021

  • NPP’s Dr. Harini writes to President 

By Pamodi Waravita    Jathika Jana Balawegaya (National People’s Power – NPP) Parliamentarian Dr. Harini Amarasuriya has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressing disappointment about the recent tabling of the General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University Bill as it constitutes a significant deflection from the free education policy which the country has adhered to for many decades. Noting that the said Bill proposes the establishment of a separate fee-levying, Treasury-funded University system under the Defence Ministry, Dr. Amarasuriya has said that this system, which is to be parallel to the existing one regulated by the University Grants Commission (UGC), is not within the free education policy of the country. The letter further states that the Kotelawala Defence Academy was originally set up to provide defence-related higher education to those in the military. However, the said Bill violates this intention by offering subjects not related to defence to civilians. Moreover, as the proposed Bill allows only minimum space for external accountability of the Kotelawala National Defence University, primarily depending instead on military personnel, Dr. Amarasuriya has noted that it is a violation of “accepted global principles of higher education”. “There is no doubt that changes are required in the existing higher education system, especially in the university system; however, these changes must be in accordance with universally recognised principles of higher education. The proposed changes should not destroy the free education policy of Sri Lanka.” As such, Dr. Amarasuriya has recommended that the Kotelawala National Defence University be transformed to a university regulated by the UGC, and to withdraw the current Bill immediately. “If necessary, establish a defence university catering only to the military and those specialising in defence studies as done in other parts of the world, managed by the Defence Ministry,” the letter has suggested. The Bill was presented to the Parliament in March 2021, following which the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) warned that universities and higher education will be militarised as a result of it.  

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