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Sri Lanka reiterates goal to become edu hub

Sri Lanka says it still aims to become an international education hub by 2020, despite signs earlier this year that the plans had stalled. With an eye on regional hubs such as Singapore and Malaysia, The Higher Education Ministry said last month it wanted to attract more foreign branch campuses and convert local universities into world class institutions.

Sri Lanka's ICBT university delivers Sheffield Hallam University degree courses at its home and gulf campuses.

“We wish to transform Sri Lanka into the most cost effective and quality education hub in the region"

It also plans to improve the employability and quality of graduates as well as the quality of academic and non-academic staff in education.

A bill tabled in parliament earlier this year intended to open up the HE sector was withdrawn

“We wish to transform Sri Lanka into the most cost effective and quality education hub in the region,” Dr Nawaratne, secretary of the ministry of higher education, said.

“We offer quality higher education degrees, diplomas, masters and PhDs at an affordable price. In addition, the expenses for foreign students in Sri Lanka are much cheaper compared to other foreign countries.”

Sri Lanka has a projected target of attracting 10,000 foreign students by 2014 and 100,000 by 2020. Sri Lankan institutions already recruiting overseas include the University of Colombo which attracts Chinese and Vietnamese students to its medical faculty; and ICBT, which has 300 students mainly from the Maldives, China and Pakistan and offers courses from a number of UK universities (as well as running campuses in the Gulf).

Attractions include the possibility of education in English medium, modest prices and “positive government”

Reputable universities from Australia, the USA, UK, India and China are said to be interested in investing in the country, but political opposition remains a barrier.

A bill tabled in parliament earlier this year intended to open up the HE sector to more private foreign higher education institutions and branch campuses was withdrawn after student demonstrations and objections from politicians. There is uncertainty over whether a revised bill will be passed.

A 2012 paper from the World Bank said that Sri Lanka offered a variety of attractions for international students, such as beautiful scenery, a multicultural society, the possibility of education in English medium, modest prices and “positive government”.

However, it also identified weaknesses and threats including “inadequate facilities on many public campuses, recurrent strikes, insufficient information on quality, and a limited reputation for academic research”.

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