The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) has condemned the latest amendment to the University Act No. 16 pf 1978. FUTA points out that through this amendment, which was published as an amendment to an extraordinary gazette on 31.01.2014 the higher education institutions granting professional degrees in fields such as medicine, engineering, architecture has a discretionary right to obtain a compliance certificate from professional bodies dealing with the respective fields.
FUTA points out that in this scenario the Sri Lanka Medical Council which has the mandate to uphold and quality and standards of medical education would not have the power to regulate the content of education that is being offered at these non-state institutions. Interestingly an extra ordinary gazette which was amended had made it mandatory for private institutions to obtain certificates of compliance from professional bodies responsible for the discipline. The amendment to the extraordinary gazette which was issued in January this year has taken out such obligations. This action will severely erode the standards of medical education in Sri Lanka and could eventually compromise the wellbeing of the health sector and the lives of the people of this country.
We publish below the FUTA General Secretary’s letter to Prof. Carlo Fonseka;
Prof. Carlo Fonseka, President,
Sri Lanka Medical Council, 31, Norris Canal road, Colombo 10.
Power and Responsibility of Sri Lanka Medical Council to protect the standards of Medical Education
We, representing more than 95% of the members of the academic community of Sri Lankan state universities, are gravely concerned about the recent amendment made to the Universities Act which has specific consequences for medical education.
The amendment made to the University Act no 16 of 1978 by means of Gazette notification published on 31st January 2014 is as follows:
An amendment was made to the section 31 of the RULES made under Section 137 read with Section 70 C and 70 D of the Universities Act, No. 16 of 1978, by the Secretary to the Ministry of the Minister assigned the subject of Higher Education being the Specified Authority appointed under Section 70 B of the aforesaid Act.
Previous – Extra ordinary Gazette No. 1824/21 – on 22.08.2013
31. All Non-State Institutes which have been recognized as Degree Awarding Institutes in pursuance to the Report made to the Minister by the Specified Authority under Section 70 C of the Act and which offer study programmes leading to Degrees in Medicine, Engineering, Architecture and other similar professional Degrees shall, obtain compliance certification from the relevant Specified Professional Body and shall submit such certification to the Specified Authority.
Amendment – Extra ordinary Gazette No. 1847/56 – on 31.01. 2014
31. All Non State Institutes recognized as degree awarding Institutes in pursuance to the reports made to the Minister by the Specified Authority under Section 70C of the Act and which offer study programmes leading to Degrees in Medicine, Engineering, Architecture and other similar professional Degrees also may seet* compliance certificates from respective professional bodies.
According to this amendment the pre-requisite of all non state institutes recognized as degree awarding institutes to obtain a compliance certificates from professional bodies has become discretionary. Consequently, the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which has been mandated to uphold the quality and standards of medical education, will no longer have the power to regulate the quality of medical education. It is our view that this is a serious blow to ensuring educational standards within non-state institutions.
It is our firm belief that professional bodies established under acts of parliament for the purpose of setting standards and marinating professional integrity in their respective areas should continue to fulfill their role without obstruction and interference.
We wish to bring to your attention section 19 (e) of the Medical Ordinance. This section clearly denotes that the Medical Council is the body designated to maintain minimum standards of Medical Education including standards relating to courses of study, examinations, staff, equipment, accommodation, training and other facilities at universities and other institutions which grant or confer any qualification which entitles a person to obtain registration under the ordinance. However, this power of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (as well as other professional bodies) has been undermined through the above mentioned amendment to the University Act.
It is worth emphasising that the Medical Council has the power to make representations to the Government on any matter connected with the medical profession in Sri Lanka in accordance with section 12 (3) of the Medical Ordinance. Yet, we believe amendments which have serious consequences for upholding the standards of the medical profession are being made without consultation with the Sri Lanka Medical Council.
Hence, we urge the Sri Lanka Medical Council to seriously consider this matter and to take all necessary and appropriate actions to challenge the said amendment and to protect the standards of medical education in this country. We pledge our fullest support to the Council in this regard as part of our efforts to protect the standards and quality of state education in Sri Lanka.
Thank You, Yours Faithfully,
Dr. Rohan Fernando – General Secretary/FUTA
*as in the Gazette, probably a printing mistake for ‘seek’.