The district quota system introduced under the standardization of university admissions is presently under review for the introduction of a novel system in conformity with recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), officials said.
The standardization of admission criteria was introduced in 1973/74, and it was roundly opposed by the Tamil polity. Political analysts even cited it as a reason, among others, for the advent of Tamil militancy.
Currently, 40 percent of students are admitted in island wide merit, 55 percent on district quota and five percent on the least developed district quota.
An official of the University Grants Commission (UGC) said that the number of students to be admitted on district quota is still determined according to the 1993 population of the country. The official who wished to remain anonymous said that the quotas allocated to each district did not tally with the subsequent population changes.
“It was argued at that time that students from the northern districts including Jaffna were at the receiving end after the introduction of the quota system. However, the population of the north has dropped today. Yet, the northern districts still enjoy the same quotas determined according to the 1993 population. At that time, there were more than 700,000 people in Jaffna. It has come down to 400,000 today,” the official said.
Also, the official said though the Colombo population had increased both due to natural growth and migrations, it enjoyed a proportionately low quota in university admissions.
The LLRC in its report had recommended the appointment of an experts committee to do with the quota system for a merit based system. Recently, the National Action Plan for the Implementation of the LLRC Recommendations, in a report to the diplomatic community in Colombo, informed that a committee had been established to work in this regard. A period of two years has been stipulated for the UGC to finalize action on the issue.
Asked for a comment, Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne said that a new system would be implemented gradually without causing injustice to any community.
“It cannot be done overnight. A gradual approach is actually needed for it,” he said.
Professor R. O. Thatil who introduced the Z-score marking system for Advanced Level Examinations, also stressed the need for gradual doing away with the district quota system.
“Once a fully pledged school network is established throughout the country, there is no need for a district quota. We can abolish the system gradually,” he said. (Kelum Bandara)