Thursday, September 22, 2011

Private Universities

Private university is a taboo term in local universities. Every time when there is a discussion about opening a private tertiary education center in Sri Lanka, the university students' get on to the streets with placards which say that "Education is a right not a commodity" and the government is conspiring to "kill free education".  Let me tell you that I am not a fan of this government, for that any government but when it comes to private universities someone needs to bell the cat!

Even currently and also in future any government is not going to be capable to give free education to all the deserving students at tertiary level. If anyone thinks that only the student who get top results at the ALs only deserve to have a degree, then that's they typical mind set of the people who wants to build a safety net for life showing the achievement at a single exam. I agree that the achievement at A/L is good and should be rewarded, you can give that 1% merit and full scholarships, but the rest who qualify should also have an opportunity to at least EARN their degree. What has happened is that 97% who doesn't enter the university doesn't have trade unions or 'leaders' to voice their part of the stories and on the other hand the 3% who are hell bent on preventing others getting tertiary education are making their voice heard.

Ironically today's paper had the following as the medical student's arguments when demanding to stop establishing a private medical college.

“We are asking the Higher Education Ministry to stop the private medical faculty as it is of low standard and does not have the recognition that is required for a medical faculty,” 
How I see it: If its going to be of lower standard, the natural low of the nature would take over and the product from those universities shall be rejected. Such concern! I am sure you would also next tell you are concerned about the society that will be affected by these doctors. If you are scared of competition tell it out openly don't hide behind other reasons.

“The minimum requirement to join the private medical faculty is three passes in the science stream. However, we have found that students from other streams are also recruited by the institution. The only requirement necessary to join this institution is to have parents who can spend Rs.65 lakhs on education." 
How I see it: Wow such concern again, if you really want demand that they should be regulated, which is a valid demand. But the rest of the concerns are ironical!

Local universities will die a natural death since the government is only focusing on private education,
How I see it: Now this is the real point which should be addressed, which is getting lost in the chaos. The need to create a self sustainable model for local universities. Which should be made to function in more competitive and pushed to create revenue streams around them. It can be in the form of external degrees, paid courses, post graduate education, research in partnership with private sector, etc.

seriously when people demand that private universities should not be established, remember how many children are denied the right to education because of the scarcity for places in the local universities.

Quotes from Daily mirror :


  1. LIke the way you've ended the post. I had/have so many friends who were considered 'mediocre' and they're parents sent them abroad early and half of them are in premed/med and even dentistry. Could they have even got into any med uni here? Really doubt it. And the sad thing is, all the money just flows OUT! These anti-arguments to me are just plain silly

  2. Good post man!

    As for students from other streams granted into Med school, is not wrong.
    For instance ppl i know succeed as awesome software eng. with no prior computer education at local ALs since there's no stream or subject. Everything is taught at the beginners level.
    Same applies for Med school.

    It's hard to believe that students from SL go to far worse countries just to get a good Uni education.
    The government needs to sit down and have a public debate with these socialist idiots and prove their stupidity for the entire country to see.

  3. WTB : I beg to disagree, especially with your comparison of software engineering with medicine! As someone who has gone through the process, i can assure you, that everything is NOT taught at beginners level (if so, the degree would exceed 5 years!)and prior knowledge is very important. For example, the initial lectures cover in 2 hours, what we at AL classes did over 3 weeks, and that again at a much higher level. After the end of my first week of classes, I was horrified and exhausted by the amount of material that I had to cover, and this with the advantage of good English (I only had to go through the text books with a medical dictionary, instead of having a "regular" dictionary as well!)

  4. Sayanthan : Thanks for the post, and apologies in advance for the long winded comment! Just want to give my opinion on the very thoughtful points you bring out...

    "1. If the standard is low, the product will be rejected"

    You are absolutely right, and this is what can be expected is a balanced and fair society. Unfortunately, in SL, what happens is (as has happened before) the low standards continue, and when the "product" is rejected, cases are filed in courts of law, money changes hands and political clout is pulled.

    The best solution for low standards is NOT closing down the institute, but raising the standards. But more and more students are merrily being enrolled, the FIFTH intake, and they still haven't got a teaching hospital, and none of these students have examined a single patient! What is to be said of their training? Isn't it unfair that they spend so much money and STILL get substandard training?

    And yes, I AM concerned about the effect to society. Not because I am afraid of the competition (I do not do private practice, and frankly believe that we DO need more doctors). For example, how can someone who has NEVER seen a patient with TB diagnose it? How can someone who has never delivered or even seen a childbirth do a delivery?

    "2. Minimum requirement..."

    I have covered this in my comment above. I DO believe that the quality of the "raw material" is very important to the final product. That said, the AL is definitely not the best method for selection. BUT it is the only method we have, and a private institute should not be exempt from regulation!

    It would be great if this institute (and indeed, government universities) can have some sort of selection exam or aptitude test, that will really show their concern about this. But unfortunately again, we are in SL and you have to admit that money, power and politics tend to sway things more than talent!

    "3. Need for local universities to be self sustaining"

    Now this is where I really break into applause! The government universities can do so much better with more attention to infrastructure etc. This is what the higher education ministry should be focusing on.

    Once again, apologies for the long comment...

  5. Thank you very much Dr. Angel for the informative comment. From the little that I read in the media with respect to this case, I never saw the issue about inadequate training been highlighted. Thanks for enlightening me on that. I see a valid point there.

    From the time I was at the university I had been observing the protectionist approach by the university students. My point is they should learn to live with private universities and press with all the power they have for more legitimate demands like regulatory bodies, entry requirements, forming a professional body to approve practicing etc. I know that what I am saying in Sri Lankan context is not easy, but then we should start somewhere.

    With respect to your view that "The government universities can do so much better with more attention to infrastructure", I can only partially agree on this, for me the mindset at most local universities is flawed. At least at faculties I had seen, in most cases I see them to me inefficient, outdated and lethargic. I usually call this as typical government mind set. There is no reward for better performance, value addition or efficiency, hence no motivation for the staff to create a self sustaining university. (please note I do know that there are staff members who out of their own drive do this, but as a whole local universities doesn't have such a focus. ) Till this is changed adding more infrastructure is not going to solve the issue.

    Please do let me know your perspective on this! Don't worry about posting long comments, you are most welcome to do so!

  6. @Dee - Yes I had missed to highlight the financial angle of it. Thanks for pointing it out

    @Welcome to Boredom Thanks for the comment, on the topic of other streams, I believe for certain courses we might need minimum entry qualifications.