While students of several universities were continuing protest campaigns, university teachers said today they would launch a countrywide strike next Tuesday in protest over the Private University Bill which they said should only be brought to Parliament after the government discussed the matter fully with university teachers and other stakeholders.
The Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) said the government should not introduce the proposed Quality Assurance Accreditation and Qualification Frame Bill without the approval of all stakeholders in the higher education sector.
Meanwhile the government said it had no intention of introducing the Private University Bill at least in the foreseeable future.
FUTA, which comprises university lecturers in Sri Lanka said now that the bill has been postponed, the provisions of the bill should be discussed with all stakeholders and obtain their consent before the Bill was brought to Parliament. FUTA President Nirmal Dewasiri said provisions in the bill related to university autonomy, proposals to create a council to regulate non-state universities and other conditions which were not suitable for the educational structure in the country.
He said the employability of graduates; quality of higher education and the involvement of private capital were issues that needed to be given priority.
“There should be dialogue among the stakeholders first and then the policies should be introduced based on the dialogue. The authorities think they can make decisions on behalf of the education sector but it doesn’t work that way. It is the wrong attitude and the wrong decisions made which can be detrimental to the education system in the country,” Dr. Dewasiri said.
University teachers will also demand the salary increments and benefits which were proposed and approved by the Treasury Secretary last year but were still not given. They are also demanding that funds allocated to the education sector be increased to six per cent of the GDP.“Some of the many burning issues we are facing today in universities is because of low investments in the education sector, which has an allocation of some two per cent of the GDP, and this is much lower than Ethiopia which has an allocation of four per cent of the GDP,” Dr. Dewasiri said. (Olindhi Jayasundere)