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Colombo Uni VC appointment politicised or ethical?

12 June 2013 06:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Controversy has surrounded the university system once again following the appointment of the new Colombo University Vice Chancellor Dr. Lakshman Hirimburegama last month.

It has been argued that Dr. Hirimburegama possesses only the minimal qualifications required for the post and that the post should have been filled by a more qualified candidate. Some academics have said that the university should maintain high standards by recruiting the most qualified academics and have questioned why this important principle has been overlooked on this occasion.

Some have crtisised the appointment stating  that Professor Lakshman Dissanayake should have recevied the post as he had received 15 votes while Dr. Kumara Hirimburegama  had 13 votes and Dr. Prathibha Mahanamahewa 8 votes.

Some academics have stated that the UGC Chairman has already violated the Universities Act by sending all three names recommended by the University Council to the President instead of recommending a single name for the appointment.

The new Vice Chancellor is the husband of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairperson who held the post before him. Therefore, some believed it would seriously undermine the autonomy and independence of the Colombo University.

A list of highly-placed academics and retired Vice Chancellors recently wrote to the President urging him to withdraw the appointment stating that the appointment would lead to a conflict of interest. However, it is learnt that there has not been a response from the President’s office as yet.


UGC  Chairperson, Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama refutes charges



I am saddened by the articles published by some academics about me. What they have written about me is totally incorrect. Where are the ethics of these academics?  They say they must look into the facts but the facts that they have provided are wrong. I am surprised that being Vice Chancellors they don’t understand the university system. I know them all personally, it saddens me.  
There is a treasurer and an accountant at the university and I know myself. I trust myself. I’ve never gone for money and I’m not robbing or cheating. I am not worried about what people say. There would be no difficulty in working together in future. The President looks into the procedure and then he makes a decision, we have that trust in him. I have a very clear conscience. I am not scared, I have done nothing wrong.


Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne - Ministry S’try



According to the existing regulations, the university advertised the post of Vice Chancellor. Several applied and the most suitable six were selected. A number of Deans and Council Members voted and the three candidates who obtained the highest votes were sent to the President. There has been no violation. There is no regulation to pick the candidate who receives the highest votes or who is most qualified. The President can pick the candidate he wants. When the last Vice Chancellor was made, Kshanika Hirimburegama got the least number of votes though she was picked for the job. How could they talk of there being a lack of university autonomy? The UGC is an independent body which comprises a seven member Council. The university too has its own Council. They may be husband and wife but they are professionals.



Colombo University Vice Chancellor, Dr. Kumara Hirimburegama



The appointment was made according to the Universities Act. I don’t want to keep any secrets. Some people agree and some don’t. Its better that they get an opportunity to say what they wish. The difference was two votes. They know little about me. They talk of conflict of interests because my wife was at the university. But all these years I was at the university, I never applied for a promotion because I knew people would criticize. I did not apply for the position of Vice Chancellor either though several eminent people told me to do so.I said no, I would not apply but that if anyone wished to nominate my name that was fine by me and that’s how I came to be shortlisted for the position. People like to show that they know something, but that’s common. I don’t mind.


Colombo University Federation of Teachers Association President, Prof. Devaka Weerakoon




The reason we are against this particular appointment is due to several reasons. One is that all three names nominated for the position of Vice Chancellor had been sent to the President instead of recommending a single name for the appointment and is thereby a violation of the Universities Act. Yet another matter of concern is that at the time Kshanika Hirimburegama was appointed as Vice chancellor, the same procedure had been repeated where all three names of the nominees had been sent to the President. At the time, Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake had received the highest number of votes then as well and based on his academic qualifications and experience was the most qualified for the position, but he was overlooked. That baffles us. Academics are independent, free- thinkers and should not be influenced. The current Vice Chancellor has accepted that he is a political appointee. All decisions now would be taken partial to the government which won’t necessarily be the best for the university. Another concern is that he is the UGC Chairperson’s spouse. This is not a good sign for the future of the university and puts the university system in a precarious situation.

 


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  • Sam Thursday, 13 June 2013 12:05 PM

    A lecturer cannot be even considered for the VC post - but this lecturer has been appointed as VC.
    The reason was his wife as earlier VC conferred honorary degrees on the President and his brother,which degrees were not even considered by other universities.
    Kshanika has been earlier picked for VC for her loyalty & promise about the honorary degrees,though with least number of votes.One irregularity cannot justify another.


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