In his 2024 Budget address, President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced the establishment of four new universities. While this decision may appear to expand opportunities for qualified students seeking higher education, it raises several concerns regarding its feasibility and potential political motivations
The proposal for new universities has been questioned by senior academic professor Rathnajeeva Hool.
Firstly, the timing of this announcement, coinciding with an upcoming election year, casts doubt on the genuineness of the decision. It seems more likely that President Wickremesinghe is using this initiative as a political ploy to gain favor with voters rather than genuinely addressing the educational needs of the country.
Secondly, the lack of a clear plan for staffing these new universities raises further concerns. The recruitment process for academic staff is notoriously slow, often taking up to two years to appoint a single professor. With such a bureaucratic system, how can the government ensure that these new universities will have the necessary faculty to provide quality education?
Thirdly, the decision to establish these universities without considering the needs of all provinces is another cause for concern. With no provincial elections in 2024, the government has neglected the aspirations of Tamil-speaking communities for a university in their region. This exclusion highlights the deep-rooted communalism that continues to plague Sri Lankan society.
Instead of focusing on political agendas and expanding the university system without proper planning, the government should prioritize addressing the existing disparities in education access and quality across all provinces. The establishment of new universities should be driven by a genuine desire to improve the educational landscape, not by political opportunism.