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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 862

Sri Lanka, University Lecturers and Brain Drain-High time to solve the problem/s

By Nalin Abeysekera - Senior Lecturer, Open university of Sri Lanka

On 26th of April , The Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) protested in Colombo over government's failure to fulfil the previous promises made to the university teachers and more importantly in order to convince the importance of education for the de-velopment of the country.

Especially it can be observed that lesser percentage of money has been allocated from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the education in Sri Lanka. Currently less than 2% of GDP is allocated for education and which is even lesser than the allocation in the previous years. And also it can be seen the slashing of budgets for capital and recurrent expenditure of universi-ties. The crisis which exists for years on university lectures about their salaries also has not been solved.

This is all about not implementing the salary proposal put forward by the FUTA at the time of cessation of the trade union action in July 21, 2011 .There were series of discussions which always lead to common way of addressing to the problem as appointing committees etc. In Sri Lanka we have only 5000 University Lectures and Already 500 University lectures have gone abroad. The equation is changing by every day. After defeating the LTTE, the Govern-ment of Sri Lanka has declared the economy war under the theme of “Wonder of Asia”. De-veloping human capital to create and sustain the knowledge hub is the vision of the Higher Education Ministry in Sri Lanka. What would happen if Sri Lanka lost another five hundred lectures again from the equation? This is all about brain drain. What is the motivation for graduated first class student to come and serve as lecturer?

In the private sector he/she can earn more .Still the Senior lecturer with Doctorate in national University is getting a salary of little more than the fuel allowance of the company executive.

In Human resource management we are talking about attraction of right candidates. And also we are talking about attraction of quality people. Because lecturing is noble job and many sacrifices has to be made with more considerations.

Last year University Grant Commission(UGC) has issued a circular which has prevented senior lectures who joined as direct recruitments to go abroad for their PhDs on full pay study leave.

In Sri Lanka we are taking about partnerships with the private sectors. In Sri Lanka professionals from different disciplines can be absorbed to national university system as senior lecturer (grade two).This is very much important for the sustainability of the system and especially in business education which can be considered as important. But now if you are a person who directly recruited after sacrificing your professional carrier, can go abroad for your PhD on no-pay! This is not applied for others. How the system can attract profes-sionals in this context? Then what about retention? After 4 years of special degree, two to three years of masters and three to five years of PhD still you do not have enough salary. Which means there will be a problem of performance appraisal system of the institute or the person? And also it is worth to note that the demands on salary hike are already has been ac-cepted in principle by authorities in 2011.

Recently some of the universities in Sri Lanka have been ranked among the best in the list of South Asian University category, as reported by international grading of universities.

According to the ranking Webometrics of World Universities in selecting the ‘Top 100 uni-versities in South Asia in the 2012’, Colombo University is in the top 10 at eighth place while the Peradeniya University is ranked 23rd; Moratuwa University 50th; Sri Jayewardenepura University 61st and Kelaniya University at 98th. Different ranking methods have been ap-plied in the globe. The Webometrics ranking is actually targeting to promote Web publication. Certain measurements have been used in this ranking consists of supporting Open Access initiatives, electronic access to scientific publications and to other academic material.

Consequently there are some other accredited rankings which are acknowledged by top uni-versities in the world. For example October last year most newspapers highlighted the news item titled ‘Harvard Loses Top World University Ranking for First Time’. They employed the ranking of ‘The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-2012.’ It is important to understand the measurement used by TIMES rankings (with data supplied by Thomson Reuters Corp.) in this regard.

They employ 13 separate performance indicators designed to capture the full range of uni-versity activities, from teaching, research to knowledge transfer. These 13 elements are brought together into five headline categories, which are:

Teaching - the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score).

Research - volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent).

Citations - research influence (30 per cent).

Industry income - innovation (2.5 per cent).

International outlook - staff, students and research (7.5 per cent).

It is important to note that 60 per cent has been allocated for ‘research and citations’.. Ac-cording to TIMES rankings California Institute of Technology, ranked as number one is fol-lowed by Harvard and Standard in US. Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay is the only South Asian university ranked among top 400 universities in the world.

The same university is ranked as number two in South Asia under the ranking of Webomet-rics. Sri Lankan universities have not touched upon this particular area properly. There should be a framework for the country to move forward in higher education in terms of Rankings as well.

There are many challenges ahead for Sri Lanka for the future. But you need intellectuals. In-tellectuals are foundation for the development of the country. In the vision of making Sri Lanka the regional hub in five sectors, it speaks of transforming Sri Lanka to a dynamic global hub in five sectors: A maritime hub, an aviation hub, a commercial hub, an energy hub and a knowledge hub. There is a need for a task-force which should comprise academics, practitioners in the private as well as sectors. There is a strategic window which has opened for the development. But recent developments show some negative signals which might be an expensive in long run for the country. But still there is time and time to heed the demands (on behalf of the country) of the University academics.

- Asian Tribune –

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