News

Setting up private universities: Expanding options for students 

By Yumiko Perera

Private universities and what they stand for, as well as the contribution various private universities make to the education system in the country, has taken centre stage over the past few years and is a topic that is being discussed at length at present.

Whilst opinions on the matter are divided, The Sunday Morning reached out to several individuals to understand their perspective on private university education, and whether private universities do indeed give students a vast range of options to choose from, instead of having to travel overseas in order to pursue higher studies. 

Admission to local unis too competitive

Mario Wellalage, 20, undergraduate

Given that it is very competitive for every student to enter a local university, it’s actually helpful that students have the option of enrolling in private universities to pursue their choice of undergraduate degree programmes. Private universities do offer a wider range of degrees and prospective students aren’t limited to a handful of degree programmes. 

Many private universities in Sri Lanka actually promote transfer, and I feel that there are pathways to many international universities. Many have established affiliations with international universities in order to facilitate their transfer in terms of coursework.

Pvt. unis do more good than harm

Dushan Silva, 29, entrepreneur

Kids dream of being doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but only a handful of them manage to make it due to various reasons. Competition is also very high. In a situation like that, private universities that offer degrees to those that fail to make the cut are definitely a necessity.

When you take a country such as ours, state universities have only a limited number of seats available, regardless of how well a student performs. If private universities offer degree programmes that are within their reach and are more economic and convenient for them, I feel that it would do more good than bad. 

More pvt. unis will reduce brain drain

Janani Vithanage, 20, undergraduate

State universities are not an option for many students after their Advanced Levels (A/Ls); for those who attend international schools, state universities are completely out of the question. Out of those who do local A/Ls, it’s only a very small percentage that’s selected to attend local universities. 

Often, students who are actually very intelligent and could do a lot for the country are prevented from pursuing their higher studies at local universities because of the Z score criteria. 

If not for private universities, a vast majority of Sri Lankan students would have to give up on their wishes to pursue their higher studies. The only option left would be to go abroad for university, which, due to expense reasons, is not possible for many. It is my opinion that unless state universities are expanded so that more students may be admitted, private universities are a necessity.

I do believe that more private universities and an expansion of the range of degree programmes they offer may lead to less Sri Lankan students travelling overseas for further studies. This is especially true in the field of medicine, where aspiring doctors who are not selected for local med schools are forced to go abroad to study, since Sri Lanka has no private medical schools, and very few are picked for the state faculties that do exist.

State uni admissions declining over time  

Nihal Peiris, 63, retired teacher 

Only a limited number of students across the country get the opportunity to enter faculties of state universities, and even if they do, I believe certain limitations prevent them from pursuing degree programmes that they may genuinely be interested in. 

Private universities, however, seem to offer a variety of different programmes that the students can choose from as per their ability and convenience. The catch, however, is to make sure that private universities maintain a certain standard and are strictly academically driven. 

Education should be equally available to all students who wish to pursue further education, and I believe private universities are necessary to maintain that balance, especially given that the percentage of students being given admission into state universities only seems to decline over time. 

Range of degrees offered a deciding factor

Marina Fernando, 52, homemaker

Private universities offer a vast range of degree programmes some state universities may not offer, and if private universities do not suit the requirement of certain children, then that is when they start looking at overseas universities. If local universities in the country expand their degree programmes, I believe it would be a deciding factor for most students to opt for degree programmes that are available locally. 

SL’s entire uni landscape not good

Dinuka Hewa Walpita, 37, engineer/business development manager

I do believe that private universities help increase options for students and give them a chance to choose from a wide range of degree programmes, and it most definitely prevents students from travelling overseas for further studies. However, it is unfortunate that there are so many limitations when it comes to what universities may offer here in general. 

Multiple benefits of expanding pvt. unis

Vinuri Hewage, 24, undergraduate

Students have the opportunity to follow international degree programmes locally thanks to private universities and I think that it is great for those who have very specific aspirations. 

The biggest pull factor when it comes to private universities is the sheer range of programmes they offer, and you don’t find that selection when it comes to local universities that often, and not to mention the limited percentage of students that are enrolled each year. 

Although local universities are well recognised, I believe it is the same as other well-renowned private universities in the country, and private universities in the country have also produced great alumni. 

When it comes to the question of whether private universities and the degree programmes they offer would prevent students from flying overseas, then I do believe that students would at least tend to reconsider it, and decide what’s best for them depending on what is being offered.

Variety of graduates from pvt. unis

Melissa Perera, 27, graduate

Some private universities in the country offer certain degrees that state universities don’t, and if you take that into consideration, then I suppose private universities produce a variety of graduates. 

Also not every student who wishes to get into a state university has the chance, especially when it comes to fields such as law, medicine, etc., whereas private universities offer them the chance to pursue these, which I think is great.