Kiriella holds previous regime responsible for deterioration of universities


By Saman Indrajith

Universities standards had plummeted to the Maha Vidyala level today, University Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

Addressing a press conference at the Parliament complex the minister attributed the deterioration of university standards to political interference under the previous government.

"It is the political leadership that should be held responsible for the sorry state in our universities. They appointed their henchmen to universities instead of letting them be independent and autonomous. How could politicians make decisions for universities? Our immediate predecessors did not understand it. They meddled with the universities and now we have to find solutions."

Minister Kirielle said that the UNP was for autonomous universities. "We even suggested including the University Grants Commission in the list of independent commissions in the 19th amendment to the Constitution, but other parties opposed it. In many developed countries the universities have autonomy and there is no political interference. That is why those universities are ahead of us."

The government had proposed a fourfold increase in funds for universities in the forth coming budget, he said. "We have proposed to increase the amount paid as bursaries and waiting for the response from the Treasury."

Minister Kiriella said that universities had become hotbeds of crisis only in recent times. "There was a time when universities of this country enjoyed autonomy. The vice chancellors we had then had the strength of character. We remember that there was a time that even the Prime Minister of the county hesitated to call the then Vice Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya, Sir Nicholas Attygalle."

"Reforms are necessary, but there are some people who are averse to change. It is said that when slaves of ancient Rome were set free around 50 per cent of them returned to their lords, a couple of days later, for they did not know any other way of living except serving their masters. A similar situation prevails in the education sector."


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