The University of Kelaniya
- On June 17, 1959, Vidyalankara Pirivena commenced its new era
- Accordingly in 1966, 319 female students were admitted to the university
- The present era commenced in 1985
- As at present the university has produced over 200,000 graduates
The establishment of the universities of Vidyalankara and Vidyodaya can be attributed to two main reasons. The first reason is the approval of the Sinhala Official Language Act in the Parliament, after the MEP assumed power in 1956. The second reason is the problems involved in the implementation of the Official Language Act. Due to the above situation there was unrest among intellectuals in the country and the Government took action to establish two universities.
On June 17, 1959, Vidyalankara Pirivena commenced its new era by transferring its status into a university after serving the nation for 83 years by providing leadership in education and guiding the society ethically, morally and all aspects of life. The chief guest of the inauguration ceremony of the Vidyalankara University was the then President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The then Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike addressing the gathering said that the newly formed university had a great responsibility of developing the Sinhala language throughout the country.
There have been so many developments and changes to the university act to date. The entire period from the beginning to date can be divided into four eras. The first era was from 1959 to 1966. During this period, several activities were implemented to develop the university status as an internationally recognised educational institution. The major drawback the students faced at the time was the non-availability of many English books, translations to Sinhala and vice-versa. In order to address this issue, the Research and Publication Unit within the university was established. This unit took action to translate English books into Sinhala and vice-versa.
The major drawback the students faced at the time was the non-availability of many English books, translations to Sinhala and vice-versa
The second era of the university was the beginning of the national higher education bill no 20 of 1966. During this period there were many structural changes facing and the first was the decision taken to admit female students to the university. Accordingly in 1966, 319 female students were admitted to the university. The second important decision was the creating of the position of vice chancellor with the post being open to layman. By 1967 the university had established four faculties including the faculty of science in the academic year a1966/67 and the studies of science faculty commenced in Sinhala Medium.
Political interferences and student unrests
The third era of the university commenced with the approval of the university bill no. 1 in 1972. The third era was from 1972 to 1978. During this period, Vidyalanka University was renamed as Vidyalankara Campus of University of Sri Lanka. During this period six campus authorities conducted the administration and there were many administrative problems and political interferences and student unrest.
The fourth era commenced with the approval no. 16 of 1978 University Bill approved by Sri Lanka Parliament. This bill was entirely different from that of 1972 and the immense structural changes had taken place. From January 1, 1979 Vidyalankara University was renamed as University of Kelaniya and became an independent university. Thilak Ratnakara was appointed as the first Vice Chancellor of the University. The Haywood Aesthetic Institution has been upgraded to university status and affiliated to University of Kelaniya
The present era commenced in 1985. There were many amendments to the University Bill in 1985. During the last decade in the 20th century and first decade of this century there were many developments within the university structure. The Ragama Medical Campus, Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Medical Campus and the Trincomalee Navy Academic Campus were affiliated to the university.
As at present the university has produced over 200,000 graduates. Most of them are serving schools and some are in the Government and public sector holding responsible positions. We can be proud of their valuable contribution to the growth of the country.
I have given a brief account of the history of the University of Kelaniya. We cannot simply dwell on past events. We should adopt the lessons learned from the past to shape the future journey.
In the recent past, one of the main questions that has cropped up is the issue of university closure and the huge amount of public funds used to run these institutions. This question applies to the University of Kelaniya too.
During this period, Vidyalanka University was renamed as Vidyalankara Campus of University of Sri Lanka. During this period six campus authorities conducted the administration and there were many administrative problems and political interferences and student unrest
One of the main purposes of a university is the acquisition and dissemination of new knowledge through research.
The university provides all facilities and assistance required to its students. The academic staff guides them to become well respected intellectuals in the country. Education is a process of learning to learn.
The university should make its primary objective to provide all opportunities to satisfy those who have a deep quest for knowledge and carve out their paths. Universities which cannot maintain healthy communication with its students during their ups and downs are like desserts.
Inculcation of the virtues of compassion, commitment, dedication, perseverance and integrity is equally important in shaping the characters of the students. Kelaniya University has made an invaluable contribution to the country and I am certain that it would continue to render an even greater service to the nation.