How To Choose Higher Education Wisely

Oct 21 2016. views 758

Advice to Sri Lankan students 

Being a degree qualified individual has become a basic requirement for all. So there are many programmes that offer attractive benefits that are different to each other. It can be completing it in a short time period, or being affiliated to an established university abroad or one that offers easy paying schemes. But what must you really look for when choosing your higher education institute? 

Most students immediately turn down the idea of entering into a state university even if they qualify. This can be because of the time it takes to complete it or because of the ragging you have to endure. But what they miss out in return is receiving a highly recognised world class degree for almost free. The standards maintained are high and the training you receive is hard to get from elsewhere. 

In saying this we must also acknowledge that everyone cannot enter into one. And not everyone is privileged to go abroad and receive their higher education. So having private universities is essential. That being said there must be a certain standard that has to be maintained. 

We spoke to educationalist Mrs. Goolbai Gunesekara to get her opinion on this matter. 

When we asked about the private universities she said, 

“There are three to four good institutions. Royal Institute and Imperial College are two that I highly recommend. Most of the private universities and their affiliations are highly questionable. Parents should really do a lot of research before enrolling their children into a degree programme. Do not listen to your friends or relatives or fall prey to the manipulative advertising schemes followed by some of these universities. Principals of schools are very upset about this matter and are more than willing to guide you and help you pick a good programme for your child. 

I keep emphasizing that the government must impose regulations on private universities so that they maintain a standard. Some of these degrees are in fact only recognised within Sri Lanka and have no value outside. I have made complaints to ambassadors regarding this matter and questioned them as to why they allow these unrecognised universities to offer programmes here. They directed the issue back to us and said that it is the government of Sri Lanka that should regulate and stop them. 

I also strongly believe that any child who qualifies to enter a state university must follow through. It is highly recognised all over the world and it is free. Regardless of the time taken to complete I advise any child who qualifies to enter and graduate from it. 

Another matter that greatly upsets me is children entering into degree programmes right after their Ordinary Level exams. How can a child have a degree at 18 or 19 years of age and be mature enough to face society? The foundation course offered by these institutes hold no value unless they go abroad and follow it. Sometimes we find children who don’t pass their O/L’s or A/L’s coming back to school with a degree! I strongly advise parents to encourage their children to complete their Advance Level exams.” 

According to Mrs. Goolbai Gunesekara, a basic guideline to follow before entering a private university would be: 

  • Firstly complete your Advance Level examination. Do not just follow the foundation courses offered by these universities. 
  • Secondly when looking for affiliations, really do your research. Make sure that your final degree certificate is signed by the university it is affiliated to. 
  • Always seek advice from those in the know. Most principals would love to offer their guidance. Do not fall prey to advertising schemes. 

We also spoke to individuals who have followed courses in both state and private universities to complete their higher education to get their opinion on this matter. 

Thilina Madiwela 

"General perception is that private universities offer high quality degree. But I don’t agree with that. I think graduates from state universities are more tuned into ground realities of the country. Most private universities offer a degree within a short span of time to more number of students with the motive of making profits. This compromise the quality of the education. Sometimes there is hardly any time and space for in depth discussions. It is mostly children from upper middle class families who opt for private universities just after A/Ls. So the money spent is most of the time their parents hard earned money which gets concentrated in the hands of few who run these institutes. Affiliation, acceptance are socially constructed because we still live in a country with colonial hangover. We are yet to live in a society free from judging a graduate based on where they get the degree from. What matters is to have graduates who have not just knowledge but skills to work in a professional environment. We have to break away from the idea that private universities are always good. The need of the day is to improve the state university education system. Increasing budget allocations, having a nominal fee while continuing to give bursaries to those who are mostly in need, increase admissions (e.g. medical), having global north-south exchange programmes, internships with employers are some steps we can take instead of continuing to criticize the state universities."

Sugee Perera 

"I definitely don't oppose the existence of private universities as I believe the state universities alone cannot cater everyone's need for education. But at the same time, I don't approve private degrees being available in a haphazard manner, because most of them exist purely for the financial benefit. Being a student of a state university, I think the reason for the conflict between the two is the lack of efficiency and productiveness of state universities, which delay the students in grabbing the best opportunities in the society. I suggest that the state should play the role of the watchdog of the education system of Sri Lanka, making sure that quality intellectuals are produced!" 

Limasha Vitharana 

"So I did my Bachelors at a semi-government university, NSBM, affiliated to the Ministry of Youth and Skills. It was a 3 year honors degree from a reputed university in UK and spent about 9-10 laks as fees. I think the quality of the degree was good because we had lecturers from Sri Lanka as well as UK who directed us. We also had visiting lecturers from local universities also so we got to a diverse experience. The differences according to my opinion are: The private universities don't have any type of strikes that hinder academics and therefore they finish the degrees on time unlike government universities. Also the students are serious about their studies (most of them) because they have to pay for it and are not idle where they go for picketing. Also there is no ragging but a warm welcome. I also think it matters where you get your degree or masters from because the world rankings and the reputation matters in the long run."

Ishan Jayasekara 

"My degree takes four years to complete and we have to pay nearly 1.6 million. It wasn't the time or the money came in first but the recognition when we leave the place. The institute I'm studying at had a positive image in the IT industry that's what I think set my mind to enrolled in it. It’s a tight race between us vs the Moratuwa university graduates in the industry."

Darshatha Gamage 

"I believe education is a right for everyone in the world. Sri Lanka is the fore front in the world, as it offers free education from the primary up to bachelors' level and Sri Lankan state universities offer a wide range of degree programmes while maintaining high standards. The State Universities mostly offer a quality education. The university curricular is mostly developed by reputed academia and are delivered mostly by the same. While different universities may be ranked differently, they make an attempt to standardize the education. However, these universities have something, which students call a sub culture. It is a fascinating thing, which bonds them together and this has different practices which may differ depending on the university, faculty or even the department. This at times is affiliated with politics. I am an advocate for Student politics, but when party politics come into play things get ugly as they are played with limited intentions in mind. The time taken is higher and universities do not go according to the planned scheduled due these reasons. 

I do not object to private universities, but at times I question the quality of the education offered at these institutes (They are not universities). I know quite a few institutes that maintain high standards, but some do not. The qualifications of the lecturers at certain institutes do not live up to the reputation. The importance of affiliation is in the quality of education, because the affiliated institute sets the curricular, setting the standards. The important distinction is the cost incurred in the private institutes. At the state universities we see a lot of amazing talented individuals who would not have made it if not for free education. It is the universities that polish these gems. But the lack of exposure in the real world may effect both parties in the way they act or behave." 

Sajini Fernando 

"First and foremost being an undergraduate of a local university, I have no objection to private universities that provide quality education to students. Education should be universal and accessible to all, poor and the affluent. Having said that, I reiterate on the quality of education, and this applies both to state and private universities. I concede to the fact that there are delays in the local university system and some may take years to complete their degrees. But it's something we as undergraduates are aware of and having been able to safely secure a place in a local university, I still went ahead with it because it was my choice and it was my dream to be where I am today. Of course, the development of an efficient and speedy system will definitely be fruitful. State universities provide an education for a very small price. You can look at it in two ways; that it’s alright to have that price taking into account the many underprivileged students or you might think it's unfair that a degree of that nature should be given at that rate, because undergraduates could easily take it for granted. I suppose one can't make a generalization as to who would take maximum use of the opportunity (local or private) because it depends on the motivations of the individual involved. In terms of affiliation, again it depends on the university it is affiliated to. If it's in relation to an individual's choice to choose one university over another, affiliation and the relevance of the same on ones future academic studies cab have a bearing on the decision. Local universities, though not affiliated, hold value on its own and have been ranked highly in global university rankings. 

I don't think it matters from where you get your bachelors or masters as long as it fits in line with your own aspirations. If one wishes to pursue higher studies abroad, the value of your degree and how well you've performed both academically and in terms of extracurricular activities can have a huge impact. Again, what matters is how well an individual utilizes his or her opportunities." 

Amanda van Eyck 

"I think private universities are necessary because everyone should have the opportunity to obtain higher education, not just those who get the highest A/L results, and the opportunity to study further should be available at any stage in life, not just straight after A/L's. I don't think clear cut statements can be made about the quality of degrees obtained from state and private universities because the standards maintained vary according to university, faculty, and department. So, ideally, each sector should focus on improving or maintaining the quality of their own courses rather than trying to bring down or discredit the other."

Firnaz Najimudeen 

"I believe that the quality of education of private universities greatly depend on the affiliation because it is a known fact that education has become a highly profitable business out there. Every day you can come across advertisements from new universities with fancy names but the truth is only some have proper recognition and provide quality education. The key is to identify which of these are worth the investment of time and money and which of these are not. No doubt state universities are given the first priority by our society when it comes to higher education due to various reasons which are commonly known. But trends are changing and more and more organizations in the industry which used to give preference only to students from state universities, have begun to give opportunities to graduates from private universities. I believe that it is due to private university graduates enter the industry at a younger age than the state university students and yet having equal or equivalent knowledge and skills possessed by the latter. The four year degree takes more than four years to complete at times in the state universities and this is I see as a major downside. Private university students taking part in strikes and activism is a very rare occurrence, misbehavior is strictly handled by prominent private universities and this suggests the graduates are rather disciplined. That is one aspect which needs improvement in the state universities."


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