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KDU Bill militarises higher education: FUTA

  • Says Bill places KDU outside University Act/UGC purview

By Hiranyada Dewasiri

 

The Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) claimed that universities and higher education will be militarised through the proposed General Sir John Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill.

The KNDU Bill was presented to Parliament in March 2021.

If enacted, this Bill paves the way for the rapid militarisation, commercialisation, and decline of the quality, standards, and fundamental goals and objectives of university education in the country, the FUTA claimed in a statement issued on 5 May.

“The Bill threatens to fundamentally change the State higher education landscape in the country by creating a parallel space for fee levying higher education driven by a highly instrumentalist and military style decision making framework.”

The University does not come under the purview of the Ministry of Education, but under the Ministry of Defence, the FUTA claimed in the statement.

Similar opposition was expressed by the academic community when the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (Special Provisions) Bill was proposed in 2018, the FUTA further said.

“The FUTA calls upon academics, students, the civil society, and citizens to rally to defeat this dangerous attempt to bring university and higher education under military control and to open the floodgates to loosely regulate private higher education,” the statement further read.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (6), FUTA President Prof. Shyama Banneheka said that the FUTA along with other stakeholders would be launching a campaign to educate the society on the Bill.

“We are joined by stakeholders such as the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) and the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) to take the matter to the society. We will be deciding on future action based on the Government’s reaction.”

According to this Bill, the University would be placed within a regulatory framework that exists outside the Universities Act of 1978 under which all State universities and the University Grants Commission (UGC) operates, the FUTA claimed.

The FUTA also alleged that the Bill includes provisions to suppress dissent in the name of national security.

According to the FUTA, under the Bill, this University would not only be a University that would solely serve members of the armed forces but one that would cater to anyone.

The Bill grants rights to said university to admit students, decide entry qualifications, maintain its own academic quality, charge fees, award degrees, and invest profit in any business considered suited by the administration of the University, the FUTA claimed.

Despite several attempts, Defence Secretary (Retd.) Gen. Kamal Gunaratne was not available for comment.