17 June, 2024


Where Is The Academic Integrity?

By R S Pathirana Kaluwella

Are the academics using their benefits of country’s free education system in honourable and fair manner?

In 2012, the academics of the state University system in Sri Lanka and FUTA engaged in a long, hard trade union action demanding 6% of the GDP to be allocated for education. Among FUTA’s other demands, stoppage of politicization of Universities, ensuring autonomy of universities etc, are included. These demands, if realized well, are expected to make sure the state funded, free-education based University system in the country could function in its true spirit and intellectual capacity. The noble idea is to protect the free education system introduced & established by the late, great, Kannangara.FUTA 4

Now we are in 2016, and we have amply witnessed that such allocation has only been a demand; a far fetched dream with the present way of handling national education. However, to address grievances at certain level, remuneration of academics were somewhat increased through various allowances added to the salary, but not to the extent of preventing performing academics joining the private sector for better prospects or leaving the country for greener pastures.

This little write up aims to question a recent activity of some academics, that is not so honourable, not like the sort of academic involvement the country (used to) respect, because it has serious conflicts of interests.

One of the privileges the academics and certain administrative categories in the local state University system enjoy is the sabbatical entitlement, where, upon completion of some specific number of years of service, an academic is entitled for one year paid leave to engage in research and other scholarly activities. This in fact, in true spirit, add value to academics’ profession and to the relevant institution, and the state University system provide even the cost of air passage for overseas sabbatical placements, while the host institution pay handsomely for good academics.

However, due to many reasons, in the recent years, a trend appears to be developing in Sri Lanka, that a considerable number of academics of the state universities system prefer to spend their sabbatical leave locally, in other state Universities. Though for some academics this could be partly due to their lack of sufficient research and related activities that is required to secure a sabbatical placement in a world class university, and for some this is a convenient mode of income while staying close to home. Whatever the reason, this practice is in a way encouraging for the new Faculties established far away from commercial centres such as South eastern University, to get additional support.

In this approach of sabbatical leave, the academics mainly engage in teaching, curriculum development and some even take up administrative duties such as Head of departments or Deans of a faculties. All these, in fact, help the new state Universities to establish more, and become better. As far as academics are concerned, there appear no conflict of interest, and some academics in fact do this willingly to help the system; take one to three month vacation leave from and engage in academic activities in newer Faculties, or allocate weekends for teaching in those places, to help the new Universities, help the students who are supposed to be the cream the country can offer; a deed that should be admired publicly.

Further, the above engagement do not interfere with national higher education system or higher education policies in the country, as all the activities are within public funded state system, and as per the regulations governing sabbatical leave, the academics concern receive salaries from both institutions. UGC even pay an additional Rs 150,000 per month for the academics to encourage such inter-university teaching utilizing vacation leave.

However, recently there was some unhealthy trends for the state University system appears to be developing with regard to academics spending sabbatical locally; in a way very much against the true spirit of sabbatical leave. Which is, full-time academics of state Universities spending sabbatical leave in non-state Universities (education for profit), and engage very actively in development of these places.

Yet, most alarming fact of this poor state of affairs is that senior members of staff who held administrative positions in state University system (Heads, Deans, Vice chancellors etc.) spending their sabbatical leave in non-state Universities, improving the status, profiles, and profits of non-state universities, by way of holding full-time administrative positions such as Heads of department, Dean positions. In summary, these academics engage in building up of non-state universities in many ways, fast track their growth, use all their clout with UGC and Ministries to develop the those institutions, speeding up approval processes, preparing the private universities to obtain global recognition etc (such as accreditations and other global recognitions). In short, what these academics do is serious interference with the policies of education and higher education sector in the country. However, If the above is done while on sabbatical leave in a foreign country, such engagements do not interfere with local policies in education in Sri Lanka, and the arguments here is not relevant.

Majority of the academics in the state University system have received school and University education through the free education system prevailing in the country. For such free education, public money is spent to provide learning environment and education facilities at all levels from grade 1 in the school to University, provide remunerations to staff (teachers, university lecturers lecturers/professors & non-academic staff etc), paid study leave are provided to acquire further educational qualifications (such as MSc, PhD etc, locally or overseas) paid vacation/ sabbatical/ conference and other leave are provided throughout the academic career. If one makes a fair estimate of the likely financial burden to the public/government to keep the free education system in the universities running, to bring a grade 1 students up to the level of a professor, and maintain one professor in a university up to his/her retirement age, it certainly runs into millions of rupees of public money spend annually on each academic.

With the above background, when an academic from state university, who is a product of the country’s free education system, decide to spend his or her sabbatical entitlement in a profit-making non-state university within the Sri Lanka itself, while being on the payroll of state /public funded University, there is a serious conflict of interest, it sounds something is not quite right for many academics who loyally serve the state University system, who will never opt serve profit making universities while in active service in state universities. But then again, teaching is a profession that serve society, so why not do it in a profit making university for a fee is a question that needs to be discussed and answered.

The simple argument of most of the academics who are currently involved very actively with non-state Universities using their sabbatical entitlement, some even condemning the state system in subtle manner, is that ‘we need money’. Aren’t there many honourable non-conflicting ways for knowledgeable senior academics to contribute to the society and earn that requirement of ‘money’ in a gentlemen manner ??

Non-state universities, in very smart manner, use the profiles of the members of academic staff of the state universities (profiles developed through spending public money in every step of the way), to boost up the images and profit, can we blame them ?? Please see the web pages of leading non-state Universities to get an idea on how many academic from leading state Universities serve these place as heads, deans, visiting lecturers, visiting consultants etc. (list may not be complete, but should give anyone a good idea).

It looks as if these academics are given sabbatical leave to build up and strengthen competitors against the State university system, which may be good in a way, however, then there should be a policy to make sure the conflict of interest is handled properly, to prevent sabbatical entitlement being (mis)used against state Universities, against the system that helped those academics, and all other academics, to thrive and become senior professors/professors/senior lecturers and researchers, and do what they do now.

Where is the academic integrity?, where is the nobleness of the profession ?, where are the (crocodile) tears that were shed to protect free educations, some of the very people who appeared as saviours of free education in Sri Lanka, now selling education for business and profits ??.

Senior academics spending sabbatical entitlement in a manner that challenge and affect the policies of higher education system in the country, while being on the payroll of the publicly funded state Universities, needs to be seriously looked into and unethical involvement of some of the academics deserve public condemnation.

Is this the beginning of a new era? – a hybrid system, hybrid policy of higher education in Sri Lanka ?? Can few selfish academics betray the whole system that help sustain the growth of the country?, Aren’t we in need of a code of ethics for those senior academics ?

Please do not let uncaring, unprofessional activities of few senior academics to ruin the good name of many silent, long serving, academics who serve the state university system with care and dedication, please don’t insult their life long commitments.

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Latest comments

  • 10

    Do not lie this is the truth in University recruitment for academic positions and promotions:First they find a person and then advertise according to his/her requirement and send aboard for their friends’ places for PhDs.More than 40% University Lecturers are relatives to each others and they give PG degrees to each other (Husband gives PhD to wife and girlfriend/mistress getting PG degree, sons, daughter and son-in law and daughter- in-law). Some Dept are family trees and even after retirement still they are in Universities and leave approval mainly based on sex other other outdoor ways in Sri Lankan Universities. Check minister inside please. As a tax payer to run this business, I like to propose following measures to clean Universities and get back to old golden days. 1) Identify and transfer all family members work in same University/Dept/Faculty as Lecturers. Recheck how these all family members came to system and penalize the responsible. Sometime wife is writing articles putting husband’s name for articles and husband getting professorship without shame (what ethics) presenting these to promotions. 2) Recheck all Lecturers and Professors qualifications and publications based on that re-grade them. 3) Never sent job applications received for academic positions to the respective academic depts. If you sent these applications they remove qualified PhD people and only interview henchmen. 4) Remove good business subjects from Arts faculty and hand over to Science and Technology faculties. See how Arts faculty destroyed good names of many good disciplines. Today Arts faculty products (graduates) are a symbol of unemployment. 5) Famous family dept must be closed and appoint President Commission to check inside and FCID must be called to checked inside for last 20 year period. 6) Never give professorships for jokers. 7) Reduce retirement age for academics 65 years to 60 or 58. 8) Follow strict rule while appointing Professors: In order to be a real international professor your PhD from world top 100 University, minimum 20 articles in ISI/SCOPUS indexed journals, 10 text books with international publishers and three countries have to appoint you as a Visiting professor. 9) Never allow any dept to issue first degree if you do not have sufficient number of PhDs in that dept. Take some Universities many Deans do not have PhDs. This is a recipe for disaster. 10) UGC can directly take task of recruitments of lecturers and give to respective Universities. This must be done quickly. 11) Select the best Lecturers with help of private sector independent body and sent to world top 100 universities with strict bond requirements. 12) Many of these so called academic jokers are now entering into professional bodies or they themselves create own fake professional bodies and they destroyed that profession also. 13) Develop comprehensive web sites for each University and say to show Publications with indexing place to public by each academics (not joke conference papers) and degrees where (Country and the University and international ranking of that University) they got their PHD. Today the most important thing is your PhD must come from accredited, ranking (at least 100) best University of the world to recognized your University basic products. Now see Sri Lankan local Universities are rotten to death.Somebody has to clean it.

    • 5

      girl friends, mistresses getting better marks and appointments is some thing very old there.

      Even politicians children got appointments with lower qualifications. that happens very often.

      • 1

        Check on how some people get into Oxbridge universities in the UK.
        Do you think that the royalty will qualify to enter a middle rank university in the UK?

        • 3

          You need a complete overhaul and a mere 6% allocation of GDP will get us no where.

          My cousin is a senior lecturer grade 2 at a govt. university and is one of the most privileged govt servants.

          1 no work after 4-30 pm on weekdays
          2 picks up kids from school at 1-30 pm
          3 gets a car permit every 5 years
          4 teaching is limited to less than 4 hours per week !!
          5 no compulsion to do any research
          6 allowances galore on an yearly basis
          7 does lectures during weekends at University for Masters students and get additional payments for teaching, setting, marking and every thing.

          The best thing is they are not responsible for the final product- the quality of the undergraduate

    • 2

      With all respect to you…

      is that not the same whereever they are.. I once knew a family who worked for Bonn (Germany) Embassy. He has left his uneducated son a post in that embassy.

      So goes it – from Parent to their ones… this is the culture down there.

      This the UNP cant change within 24 hours.

      Nobody can change it. Germanny s University reforming took years long even today they have failed to introduce the due.

      We cant expect utopic world in far uncivilized 3 world countries. Even degree holders behave down there in Srlanka as if they have nothing their brains. They dont mind their colleagues supporting corruptions or abuses. Just take for example – stealing stationaries given to the Uni staff – I know myslef some Ruhunu university staff members do so. They have earned their academic titles but their behavours have not been developed. Even about the car permits or the like -how they public servants do – they would sell them – is that not abusive ? This is part of their cutlure. What we see in Europe as – almost every thing is planned according to laws in action, will never have taking ground in the systems like ours. We can just hope or wait 100 more years to see the change. About highways, my family and all known to me – described as if they experienced it as a wonder made by Magic man Rajakshe. But very same roads and devlepments are the case for some afro countries today. Some former poor asian countries today. That is the global trend, but people in the coutnry are far from gettin this. since some dozens of journos work to paint the picture in them. LANKEN MEDIA MEN are the worst as I see it now. So long that would not change, nothign towards healthy awareness of the people will be succeeded.

    • 1

      A point here !

      Who are these Kalu Suddhas trying to pulverise the name of our country.
      When did SRILANKANS BECAME SRILEN KEN?? Don’t they know the spelling of our country??
      This is total ignorance or to do with their education ? Or just Modayas.

      CT please edit out when Srilankans are called Srilenkens……
      Some idiots suddenly forgotten how to spell the name of their country..

    • 1

      If someone has the qualification you suggested here, he can work in world’s top university or he can work as a highest paid professor in Mideast, China, Hong Kong or Singapore. I think someone has a PhD from a university which is ranked below 500 in world ranking (such as Times or QS rankings systems) or less than 100 in Asian ranking is reasonable. Publications should be 2 SCI or SSCI papers per year are reasonable as first or corresponding author. Medical, management, engineering and science faculties of state universities do not have enough lectures with PhDs and it is also hard to find freshmen with PhDs. Even someone applied for a job with a PhD and good publications, he/she will not be selected due to academic jealous of deans and head of departments.

      • 0

        These says everything.

        In Germany even if you have years long record on publications, there are lot more PDs (Privat dozent – Associate Profs) on the waiting list not getting appropriateUni poistions. Not the VIT B but highly specific- areas and methods are what they have been focusing when selecting the appropriate candidates.
        In our home country, obtaining a completed PhD seems to be the best qualification regardless of the updated list of publications.The knowledge should be flown to the others- if only those highly educated candidates are given a chance to publish their know hows only that can work for them and future of the others.

        Besides many that work for the unvieisites seem tobe isolated in the country. I have not read any articles being published by many lectuerers in the country. They dont have the chance to do so, since the policiaans have not paved ways those professionals to work with the industry. I think Agro sector – there are good moves but in other areas I really dont think that lanken lecturers do have chances.

  • 5

    there’s a need to redefine free education as for some it means free of charge

    why can’t we emphasize free and easy access

    instead of giving it free we can make a solid loan system available so only the needy can apply for it

    we can reduce the tax burden as well

    before giving education make the poor healthy; give them free food and charge for studies.

  • 2

    Where is The Academic Integrity?

    I think Academics follow their boss, the minister.

    Where is the politician’s integrity , honesty and desire to accept that he did something wrong, except talking like a donkey and doing nothing useful to the country except destroying it.

    Is this the way to feed families ?

  • 2

    Nepotism was not invented yesterday. Irregularities existed even in the “good old days”. That is not to justify their continuation. You may know that the retirement age was raised from 62 to 65 in 1974 merely to secure the support of senior dons who were overwhelmingly hostile to the University Act of 1974.
    Do not glorify academics: however learned, they reflect the society that they live in.

    “More than 40% University Lecturers are relatives to each others”
    Can Devasiri justify this with statistically valid data? (People of the same caste are likely to be related in some way, and I hope that is not what is meant.)

    I know of spouses who sacrificed lucrative careers elsewhere and took university jobs to be close the the family. I agree that there have been spouses who have been located in positions for which they were not adequately qualified.

    Devasiri’s shopping list is probably based on his experience, but does not seem to contain universal answers. Some of the cures are impractical in the present context while some others are worse than the ailment, like for example: “UGC can directly take task of recruitments of lecturers and give to respective Universities.” This will only serve to further bureaucratize the UGC.

    Educational planning in this country is conspicuous by its absence.
    The Arts could have been made attractive to bright students in many ways including restrictive admission. The programmes could have been designed to match development needs.
    But the way new faculties have been set up and admissions decided have little to do with benefit to student or community. As for publications, academics with long lists of publications need not be great assets.

    Given the large student:staff ratio, priority is good teaching, rather neglected by several ‘great’ researchers– not for search of new knowledge but more points for promotion.

    A conscientious teacher is worth more than a dozen research paper machines.

    Let us get our priorities right.

    • 6

      Now Sri Lankan public University system like a mafia business. With immediate effect privatize it. Go beyond Sri Lankan airport and see International job market. Even in Middle East job market, without PhD from accredited Western University you cannot become even Assistant Lecturer. But in Sri Lanka more than 80% professors do not have PhD. What Devasiri say 1000% true and it is a real mafia business. CID can easily catch people take sabbatical leave and stay home in Sri Lanka. Recruitment, promotions, leave approval and all other activities are hell state. Even fee leving PG courses money they handle like own money and even recruits sex workers by using this money.

    • 1

      I agree that there are serious problems.
      But to make universities appear like the underworld is a little over the top.

      To make ‘catch all’ accusations is easy. Universities differ and faculties in universities differ. Even departments differ.
      Sweeping statements will not help to address problems.
      Major criticisms should be substantiated. Even some of the critics will retreat on some of the effective remedial action.

      The purpose of sabbatical leave has been perverted in many ways, and long ago. Will the Academic Unions (FUTA included) be agreeable to strict monitoring of sabbatical leave? They should I think.
      Will they approve of the CID loitering in the campuses to catch bad academics? That will be close to a police state.

      Will they approve of the UGC handling all academic recruitment to the UGC when there is much clamour about UGC monopolizing non-academic appointments? They should not approve I think.

      The UGC was pushed by international agencies (WB, IMF etc) to go for the Continuous Assessment & Course Unit systems. The UGC pushed universities. Many academics resisted. But the process was imposed on universities lacking in resources.

      Now the UGC is promoting “Outcome Based Education” which I imagine is the academic equivalent of a plastic moulding factory. This half baked idea with following in Australia is now pushed from outside.

      The general craving for a university degree is one of our social ills.

      I am sorry to say that the prescriptions by Dr Devasiri are unikely to cure the ills of higher education. Some of them are utterly impractical.

      It is, however, possible to establish Super Universities the IIT, IISc, the JNU and so on in India and make them the benchmark for others.

      Bu the government is more interested in making excuses to bring in foreign businesses flogging degrees for a big fee and fleecing the country.

      Emotional claims of 1000% right may be close to 100% wrong.

      • 3

        Nothing impossible in life. No harm of trying Devasiri’s perfect suggestions as all of us know that our tax payers money based public University system rotten to death and work as private property of few people to now family business and mafia. Even after retirement they stay inside. People retire why because they can not work. Some Universities all the deans do not have PhDs. Then they never allow any PhDs to stay or join the system. Check inside and no one should allow to have positions more than three years. As you have less than 3000 lecturers easily you can catch sabbatical mis-users and fake professors and kingdom builders, family members/trees and sex based PhD supervision, recruitment and promotion, etc.

      • 0

        Nothing is impossible as long as it does no violate the laws of nature.

        We do not venture out on any project because “nothing is impossible”.

        My objections were to proposals that seemed highly impractical.
        There can be plenty of other ‘clever’ ideas too. One has to think through them and not accept them simply on the reputation of the source.

        I am somewhat aware of the problems, but cannot offer simple explanations or solutions.

        Governments should plan education and provide for it.
        Education has to serve society.
        There are alternatives that will provide access to the deserving without being a drain on state resources.

        Education should not be a salable commodity for the unscrupulous to profit from.

  • 3

    The state of the education , health , state industry, and the judicial system all gone to dogs since the Independence in the 1948. It’s cancerous no one can irradicate or cure it.
    How did we get to this state..?

    Start from the hierarchies The Top, from the past Primeministers to the Ministers. They all had a hand in the state coffers,It was free for all free for all kind. Not for the poor and needy but these crafty Greedy
    MINISTERS AND COMPANY , who cultivated this greedy culture among themselves and helped themselves while all the above institutions were starving for FUNDS.
    While the prelate who told our President yesterday that the ” past President did not do any harm to the country ” the religion should be safe guarded by the new President.
    What was he thinking??? The unlawful murders of the journalists ,the innocent women and children ,and the whole sale state pilfering ( stealing ) by the whole gang was right in the books of Buddhism??
    Did Lord Buddha say that thieving and murdering was acceptable??

    Come on what’s going on in these so called old religious leaders mind??

    The country is Bankrupt by the past Regime , that is acceptable ?? Certainly not ,
    While these over fed , over indulged prelates not realising the true situation of the country ,very sad to note its coming from someone high up in Buddhagama.
    Is this the answer .? Give Wrong advise and spread wrong perception???

    All must be fools to believe the above notions!! Or just believe in what was Preached, ones commonsence is blanked by the blind beliefs.

  • 6

    The article is not about the whole academic community it seems, but about few who are greedy, who are dishonest, — as encountered in any circle in the society. However, the damage those few are doing to the spirit of dedicated good teachers (what we need are good lecturers who can guide and mould the cream of the country), the practices and the honesty…..of course the integrity is the issue

    See how many from Moratuwa and Peradeniya are with Malabe now, there is a former VCs, former heads, former deans, on sabbatical, holding admin position – heads of depts and dean/research etc

  • 4

    Simon, a point well made.
    Thank you.

  • 9

    Why would one think that the private universities and state universities in Sri Lanka are in competition? What are they competing for? Sri Lanka has more qualified 18 year old young people than the state university system can accommodate. So there is space for private provision. What one can object to is when state resources are channeled to support the private universities. This is a good reason to object to the private medical colleges, but in topics like computer software, the equilibrium now is that we need more trained personnel. So let there be private providers.

    Some harsh words are being used to describe academics spending time at private universities. Come on, some of these people have given far more to Sri Lanka’s state education system than others who took free education and left the country the day after graduation. They have taught under highly adverse student staff ratios, they have been bullied by bureaucracy, hierarchy and political interference, and they have been paid far less than people of equivalent ability who joined the private sectors. No harm in them taking a break and earning a few bucks (and that is not a lot). Of course there are incompetent people in the system — quite a few of them, true — but let us not generalize too far.

    So, before using such harsh words, please, please remember that fellow who said: “let him without sin cast the first stone”.

    • 1

      They need the money; and it is understandable in a context where academic wages are poor.
      Then we also talk of misuse of sabbatical leave. There should be a better way out.
      So, do not kindly present them as martyrs, certainly not where things are done at the expense of their main job.

      The US has private universities. It is a rich man’s world.
      But why are there no reputed private universities anywhere in the UK or Europe?
      Funding is an issue with having many good universities. But there are many ways to resolve it.
      ‘Learn now and pay later in cash or kind’ is a fair option in our context.

  • 0

    Erm…but these people you’re talking about; these guys have toiled hard day and night…first with A levels and then with their undergraduate studies and then further..they spent blood, sweat and tears (in place of money) and had to give every effort and sacrifice to show the country that they are worth the tax payer’s dollars. The case was that they suffered…and suffered intensely.

    Now they don’t want others to have to go through the same torture they went through…they want an easy, sensible (and arguable way of more equality…and so they desire. They know that without privatising education, a poor country and govt like ours cannot serve justice to all deserving A level students. The most optimum solution is to provatise, and so they argue… In their eyes they are helping others…and so be it.

    And for your claim “the cream the country has to offer”..offer for what?
    And please prove that these students, the majority of them, who pass the Z score threshold are the “cream the country of offer”. Remember that our A levels aren’t fit for purpose. They are designed so that only the book learners and rout learners can pass. Not the ones with the actual creative thinking and who unfortunately is weak in memory. This can easily be demonstrated by comparing an A Level biology paper from the britissh exam board Edexcel and that of Sri Lanka. Its a world of a difference. And no wonder, Sri Lanka doesn’t ever produce good ground breaking research in spite of the cream and the funding. Its the wrong criteria being used all along.

  • 2

    “let him without sin cast the first stone”
    The fellow who said it was crucified.

    NK, be serious, there will then be no comments in these columns.

  • 5

    A very good article. I think UGC and higher education ministry do not have proper policies and not regulate the universities well. Scheme of University recruitment for academic positions is too old and it is the British system in early 1940s or 1950s. It should be changed and only PhD holders with good research publication should be recruited as senor lectures. Only assistant lecturers should be recruited with the first degree and they should be promoted to the lecturers with master degree and 6 years of teaching experiences. Private universities in Sri Lanka should be well regulated by UGC or Ministry and every private university should have 75% of full time faculty. I know that all staff members of Management faculty at KAATSU International University in Sri Lanka are part-time faculty and most of them hold positions at management faculty in Colombo University. If government want to create employment opportunities in higher education sector for Sri Lankans, private universities should be well regulated and encourage them to set up their own degree programmes with UGC approval. It saves foreign currency and help for balance of payment of the country. Minister of Higher Education and state minister of higher education are responsible for these problems. If the higher education minister is very busy, he gives some responsibilities to state minister such as regulation power of private universities.

  • 5

    A university academic has. To engage in three activities, teaching, research and extension. Every academic teaches, regardless of his competence or in depth reading on the subject. It is transferred from the text book to the student, without enrichment from the lecturer delivering it. It is in most instances what a school teacher does.

    Research in this country has to mostly at the level of problem solving , testing what research has revealed in more advance countries locally and determining its relevance. Fundamental research on the knife age of any science is impossible here and it is futile to expect it. We have to develop scientific journals of high quality in every field of study locally and encourage our researchers to publish critically and meticulously reviewed material in them. Can we publish books of international standard, except in extraordinary circumstances or iwith the exception of certain fields here?

    Extension involves transfer of new concepts and technology to the community, through demonstration, interaction and through lay publications. How many university teachers are involved in extension work today? How many understand the issues confronting the communities around them and direct their knowledge, experience and research towards finding solutions?

    It is also important that University teachers are trained in research in the world’s best universities to bring them to the front lines of knowledge, techniques and make them understand how those universities function and serve their communities. This experience will last them a life time and influence them enough to have a positive impact locally.

    When recruiting faculty , in addition to intelligence and grades, intellectual breadth, idealism, ability to dream and unimpeachable character should be important considerations.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2

    Teaching, research and extension are main functions of a professor. I agree with Dr.Rajasingham Narendran. As Mr Hemantha suggested, every lecturer does not have ability to earn a PhD and some does not want. They can teach more classes and earn more money from the university. Others can focus on research and they should give publication targets. If someone cannot fulfill the qualification requirements for senior lecturer/ Associate professor or professor, he/she can continue work as a lecturer. Therefore, quality of publication should be determined when people are promoted to senior lecturer/ Associate professor or professor. There are quality indexes such as SCI, SSCI and ranking of journals such as ABDC (Australia), ERA (Australia) and ABS (UK) and Financial Times 45 journals in Business to measure the quality of publications. At present, all most all academic people in Sri Lanka who published in local, indian/Pakistan journals or university level conferences, then they are promoted professors and senior professors. Most of these professors do not have single publication in SCI or SSCI indexed journal. But, they earn Rs 250,000 per month as a salary from the university and more from giving classes for private university or doing business or giving tuition for school children.

  • 4


    we are proud of our free education system. high literacy rate is always highlighted but what’s its impact to development. an irony is that it is ignored by our transport workers as if our people cannot read and understand the destination name that is shown in 3 languages.
    isn’t it a headache to be in town. the nation has hearing problems because of that.

    fortunately we don’t have private railway network

    the aim of free education should be making good individuals to contribute for the development of the country.

    compare india with just 50% literacy rate and sri lanka over 90%.

    aren’t we lagging behind.

    free education started way back in 1945.

    in which period our bribery and corruption started its rise,

    most probably in 1980s

    lets make a simple calculation

    we made the first undergraduate with the blessings of free education in 1950
    his age 19 years old.
    he graduated in 1954 at the age of 23 and joined government service as junior officer
    in 1964 he is a middle level officer and he is 33 years old.
    in 1974 he is upper middle level officer with 20 years experience, may be in civil service.he is 43 years old
    in 1984 he is 30 years experienced and a top level officer,at the age of 53

    so the products of free education system took high positions from 1980.
    now we have to decide; isn’t that they had not been capable enough to contain the bribery and corruption or they themselves engaged in malpractices. i know this observation is to annoy a lot.
    but why don’t we make constructive criticism

    This is the reality.

    • 4

      Let us understand better through an example of few cases at Malabe, the kind of cases and kind of issue that are likely to have some similar conflict of interests as pointed out in the article

      1. former Head/civil engineering at Peradeniya – now head/civil engineering at Malabe
      2. former head production engineering department, former dean-engineering – now head/mechanical engineering at Malabe
      3. former dean engineering -Ruhuna Hapugala faculty – now dean-research at Malabe
      4. former head civil engineering, former dean-engineering, former vice chancellor at Peradeniya – now senior visiting academic helping with Washington accord accreditation, lecturing first year subjects, helping with clout at UGC and Higher education ministry to help build up better images for private univ

      All above currently on sabbatical, paid leave (from tax payers’ money, public money) away from Peradeniya and they say that they serve Malabe because the situation at Peradeniya is not good … being previous administrators, aren’t they responsible for Peradeniya becoming ‘NOT good’ ???

      • 1

        Dear Univ Pera,

        “aren’t they responsible for Peradeniya becoming ‘NOT good’ ???”

        Not necessarily.

        SL universities are heavily micro-managed by the UGC and academics and academic administrators have to face severe political pressure. The rot started with JR and Stanley Kalpage — I distinctly remember a seminar in Peradeniya sometime in 1978/79 given by Kalpage who had just been appointed both chairman of UGC and Secretary to the Ministry. Someone in the audience suggested it was not a good idea to concentrate power so much in that way. I can still remember the arrogance of SK’s reply: “HE the President wants me to do both jobs, I have to do both jobs,” were his words. But his body language was “I am powerful, shut up”.

        Of course, several incompetent people have climbed the academic administration ladder and screwed our universities. Gone is the era of Ivor Jennings, Kailasapathy and EOE Perera in Sri Lankan higher education — people with vision and commitment; we have recently been through the days of Hirimburegamas and Balasuntharampillais. Sad, indeed. But with such a pathetic setting prevailing, if some academics (even those who have held senior positions) want to explore ways of earning extra money in the private sector, you cannot really blame them. I certainly cannot, having moved to greener pastures here down under….

        If the sabbatical leave is paid, you can complain a little and ask for the rules to be changed, but if it is unpaid sabbatical, you really cannot…

        • 1

          Sabbatical leave, was paid for from the inception, until it became a venture for pocket money.

          Making it one year paid and two unpaid was a later adaptation like extending the sabbatical leave privilege for the Librarian to Registrars.

          Academics in the professional fields refuse one year’s paid leave to gather industrial experience, unless they can collect two salaries.

          There were elected vice chancellors at one time. And when the government wanted to handpick a VC, it let the Council send up three names in the hope that one of them will be acceptable. More often than not the first choice was side-stepped to accommodate one who went after a politician.

          I think that unpaid sabbatical leave is a bad idea. Secondment for another service is another matter. A person going on unpaid leave exceeding a few months should no be given increments for the period of absence.

          Much of the abuse has been because university academics were for long paid poorly by even Asian regional standards.

          In the 1980’s Stanley K had the cheek to tell academics demanding a better pay that ‘those who deserve a better pay will find jobs abroad’.

          There is increasingly a lack of sense of belonging among academics to varying degrees. That is a factor in universities becoming less good.

          Quitting is one thing having it both ways is another.

        • 3

          Dear NK and others,

          It appears many readers are blaming the whole academic community though the article is about few crooks, few dishonest academics – may be about 50 – 60 – who got to where they are in dishonest manner(out of about or more than 4500 academics in Sri Lanka) and this 50 – 60 who conduct themselves dishonestly, who misuse the sabbatical and other entitlements, while staying in the state university system.

          Please make that distinction here, please don’t blame the majority of good academics, who have toiled for the country, who have helped, and keep helping the country, regardless the constant insults, to produce some of the best, world reputed scientists, doctors, engineers, administrators etc…. you cant apply one blanket here to blame and shame all of them,

          Perhaps silence of the said majority may be an issue, where the cooked, dishonest minority play havoc that made questioning of integrity of all the academics. Lack of active discussions from the silence majority is making some real damages to them as you could see.

          To understand better, let us elaborate on one or two such cooked cases, as examples, so that the reader can understand the context. This is not a personal attack on anyone, however, just please try to take the literal ideas, read in between the lines if you may, to understand the limitless selfish moves a con academic can take to elevate himself/herself to where the person desires to be, while destroying a whole profession – this is the pathetic situation the article tries to highlight I beleive

          (++) There was a vice chancellor at Peradeniya, during early part of 2000, who had a clout with the then UGC chairman. This vice chancellor, when he was the dean of a science related faculty in Peradeniya, using this clout with the higher place of UGC , in a very subtle manner managed to change a certain circular that concern promotion of professors to senior professor positions (the circular was later called after this person, academics at Peradeniya know this story), and got to the post of senior professor, and managed to get a some good number of salary increments in one go. Then later on as the vice chancellor, he made sure that all the related document in his personal file are gone missing.

          This academic, with some JVP background in the close family, got to the post of VC through doing all sorts of political slavery, pretending to the council to be the only leader, who has no political connections or political agenda in Peradeniya University, who can lead this place out of eminent death. Then JVP leader, Weerawamsa, took him to the president Rajapakshe, and with the recommendations of the chief monks of two temples in the Kandy (managed to fetch though another clown in the Vet Faculty), he was given the post of vice chancellor of Peradeniya Univ.

          Everyone in the said Faculty expected, with his (in)genuine smile, and physique – he’s gonna make a fine administrator – Alas, what a crook and incapable person he proved to be. Since he was showing to the outside that he is not at all politically connected, he could not handle then minister of higher education at all. He delivered absolutely nothing to the University as the vice chancellor, he could not use even the given annual allocation of few million rupees, and at the end of the year, he was boasting of saving money for the country (a nice way to interpret and to cover up incapacity ??) out of the allocation to the University.

          Only thing he did well, does well, is taking revenge, for example, the other candidate who contested to dean position with him in early 2000, the academic who proposed an academic from Moratuwa for the dean position in Peradeniya etc…, all were served with very nasty revenges that damaged the careers of those academics, while he was the VC, He is such a appalling person when it comes to taking revenge, regardless how far back the event took place.

          Yet, look at his academic credits, no good publications, no good research, but he is very good in forming clout and getting to places. He has some few puppets back in the Faculty, whom were recruited when he was dean, these back-boneless puppets in his own dept, who a are there to protect him regardless what he does. So, he is ok at the Faculty, even after all these dirty work.

          Last few years he was doing all sort of manipulations, used his clout and experience as the VC, to get rid of the present dean through organizing various petitions, no confidence motions, misleading of students, misleading of staff (why ?? – inferior complex ??, as the Faculty is trying to make its presence felt). Now after having failed in those, he formed allegiance with the present vice chancellor to attack his own Faculty, get a puppet appointed as the dean. However, having failed in that, and having got exposed of his cunning plans at the last dean election, he left for Malabe on sabbatical, and now spreading stories among professional and alumni that good teachers are leaving the Faculty because the situation in the Faculty is not good .. is this honourable conduct of academics ??

          As we hared, during last election, he, who claimed to have no political attachments, has backed the present minister of higher education to make him win, has gone to stages to talk good of him. So the minister gave him a constancy project to develop some highway proposal, well is this his speciality – highways and road, he is supposed to be some soil guy as per the phd ?? Now he has formed clout with election commissioner, trying very hard to get into some position in the government –

          Above is glimpse of one example case, these are very unique people, who are disguised academics who are ready to betray anything for power and money – these are the type of people the article talks about – these type of people cannot be filtered out at the recruitments, because their academic records up to recruitments are good.

          However, crooked actions of these type of people questions the integrity of the whole academic community in the country (who are mostly silent and serving the country)

          If necessary some examples from Peradeniya can be found, Moratuwa, Colombo, Ruhuna etc too most likely to have such stories … as these cooks are everywhere

  • 3

    I read the article, and all the following comments, then shook my head with much sadness. CWW/IJ et al must be turning in their graves.

    Is it any wonder that a student who can, will pay a small fortune (or if really good, get a bursary/scholarship) to study at a foreign university, where three years spent will bring you a lifetime of benefits.

    It will be along time before our academics come to their senses and realise the damage they are inflicting; on the students they serve, themselves, and the country.

  • 1

    Without going through this leftist fantasy just read UGC circular 08/2013. That should clear up the matter. The author clearly seems to have a genuine feelings against the private sector. If state educated personnel can take up jobs in the private sector what is the issue with a lecturer doing the same? If you read the definition of sabbatical leave it says, leave to be spent on foreign or local employment , on research or academic activities.
    The state universities alone, do no have the necessary capacity to accommodate every student who wishes to earn a degree. Hence, the private sector. It has alwas been the argument that the private unis dont have the required standards. The author himself points out that senior academics taking up positions there helps boost the private sector standards but concludes saying its a bad thing. The money that was spent on free education on these senior lecturers belonged to every citizen of the country. Everyone paid taxes to fund their education. They serve the entire country. Students who are at private unis also paid for the education of these lecturers. Therefore when talking about ethics one has to have true facts.
    It can only be concluded that the author has some personal scores to settle but the effort has been pathetic.

    • 1

      The case for private sector in higher education is still very weak in the industrialized West, except for the US.
      In India the private sector has destroyed good university education.

      Paying for education is one thing but letting the greedy to profit from what should be the responsibility of the state is another.
      Our tragedy started with lack of state planning and investment and more seriously obsession with privatization to duck responsibility.

      “If state educated personnel can take up jobs in the private sector what is the issue with a lecturer doing the same?”
      A lot of graduates do. But can people have it both ways?

      Quit and join whomever you like. Many have gone abroad. Nobody protested.

  • 1

    All — everyone accepts salaries being low (even by Asian standards) is an issue; everyone knows there is very unhealthy politicization of the universities. So some academics find ways of earning a bit more by working in the private sector. I have no issue with that. Of course some of these people have not done their main job properly, and should come under scrutiny for that. But others have. When I look through Malabe Web pages, I recognize names of people who have made good contributions in the state sector. So if someone gives 27 years to the state sector and three to Malabe, it is no big deal. Think of arrangements in the US. Academics can get paid for nine months on their university funds and spend three months on other ways of paying themselves — consultancies, industrial research grants etc. So my 27+3 example is just an extended version of US practice. We should not target excessive criticism at these people for working in Malabe — as Spring Koha appears to do about damage to students and country. Please don’t target everyone with the same criticism. By all means criticize those who don’t do their main job properly, bend rules and abuse the system — and please be specific about who is doing what damage and how.

    • 2

      There is no issue if people resign or retire and then serve whomever they like. But abusing Sabbatical leave is another matter.

      Univ Pera
      Some of the charges are directed at people who are located in positions where they cannot publicly defend themselves without reference to confidential communication or embarrassing third parties.
      There is need for restraint in handling sensitive information.
      Personaly, I would have stopped at a summary statement on how some senior dons are abusing a privilege, avoiding personal detail.
      A this rate, you will drag Faculty Board, Senate and Council Meetings and even Examination Boards at risk of breach of confidentiality much to the detriment of the institution, since it will become uncontrolled mud slinging to entertain an uninformed audience, where prejudices rather than search for truth dominates.

  • 1

    [Edited out]

  • 2

    Writing under pseudonyms, what right does any of us have to ask others to reveal their identities?

    If someone opts for anonimity let us respect it. But that will be at the cost of reduced credibility.
    Many of us use pseudonyms because the temptation for personal attacks often get the better of discussion of the subject at hand.

    What I do not want to see is a situation forcing people to discuss confidential matter in ways harmful to institutions when the institution itself cannot respond.

    I think that “Univ Pera” was a little over the top in identifying “culprits”, especially in the second communication. But he is not the only one.
    CT could intervene but at the cost of “freedom of expression”.

    I think that writers should exercise some discretion. It will do all of us some good.

    • 2

      Fully agree.

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