By Garvin Karunaratne –
It is lamented that our Universities enjoy very low rankings even among the Asian Universities. In the Quacqarelli Symonds Asian University Rankings – the University of Colombo ranks at 156 and the University of Peradeniya ranks at 242.
It is my attempt to request our Universities to make an attempt to be more useful to our country in the first instance and to the world. Our country is at the moment steeped in debt and so are other Third World Countries. We have all come to a stage where our debts have to be serviced by falling into further debt. Perhaps this is an area that can bring repute and stature to our Universities if only they can try. Can our erudite dons address what is happening to our economy today. If any university can do this task the world will be at their feet.
One method is to develop Courses of Study in Development at graduate and post graduate level for the purpose of equipping graduates with a broad knowledge of development as well as the know how of bringing about development and to build up research in order to arriving at a model of economic development that is particularly suitable for Developing Countries. In other words the latter aim is to build up a new paradigm for development.
Building up a new paradigm for development is a crucial area because the World today has failed in every respect, be it economics or politics. The Third World countries are riddled with debt, the European Countries and even the USA are finding that the designs of development they have hitherto follow cannot bring about prosperity.
It is observed that Third World countries, since achieving sovereign status were managing their economies in a self reliant manner, controlling the use of foreign exchange, controlling imports and building up the necessary infrastructure to enable a peasant economy to increase production, etc. till the Seventies, when the IMF introduced its Structural Adjustment Programme and followed free trade – the open liberalized economy, liberalized the use of foreign exchange, abolished import controls, accepted the private sector as the engine of growth, and when the countries could not make ends meet, advocated the use of loans and the privatization of State assets, resulting in the present predicament of indebtedness. The countries were slowly but effectively brought under the control of the IMF and the financial institutions of Developed Countries- the creditors. These countries saddled with debt survive by raising more loans in order to pay up their debts. This story is narrated in my most recent publication: How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development (Kindle & Godages).
Hitherto forays by Universities into Development has been to develop faculties in important disciplines like agriculture. economics etc. There is not a single University that has taken on the mantle of enabling the all development encompassing subjects into one well integrated Faculty of Development. Universities have made a distinct contribution in teaching but forays into the field of development have been marginal. Their main aim has been to teach students and conduct research within their own disciplines, which has been achieved. New inventions in scientific research have also helped corporations and the private sector, which is creditworthy. However though sciences like animal husbandry, agriculture, geography, education and industry have been concentrated on we seemed to have sidetracked and paid less emphasis on equipping the graduates to attend to the total task of bringing about development. Today this is left to be achieved when a graduate gets appointed to a job in development within the Government Sector.
It appears that even the foray of the IMF, since the Seventies, to enforce the concept of the free trade-open economy and liberalization of the use of foreign exchange even when a country does not have the foreign exchange, which is the teaching of Milton Friedman of the Chicago School of Economics, has gone without comment by academics all over the world. It has so happened that it was only after the Third World Countries came to be burdened with foreign debt, devalued currencies, increased poverty and deprivation that many authorities have opened their eyes. Major critics of the IMF happen to be Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Professor Jeffery Sachs. However they too are only critics and have not come up with any alternate model of development. It is important to note that Universities that specially attend to Development Studies like the University of Sussex, the University of East Anglia in the UK have not addressed the inroads of the IMF into the Third World Countries, structuring their economies to make them indebted since the Seventies. Even today there is not a single University in the entire world that has concentrated on the total field of development including the economics underlying the Structural Adjustment Programme of the IMF.
It is my opinion that if a University directly tackles this subject, there will be world acclaim, many graduates from foreign countries will apply to study this subject and the prestige of the University is bound to increase.
It is suggested is that all major disciplines are brought together in teaching aimed at equipping graduates with a complete knowledge of Development in the first instance and applying their knowledge in order to develop practical applications in development projects all aimed at building up a new paradigm for achieving economic development. Students and Faculty will be researching on this subject and their publications will be acclaimed.
It is hoped that the Peradeniya/Colombo University will take on this mantle to bring about development to a world that is ridden with poverty, unemployment, and inequality – the rich becoming richer, while the rest, the majority, are becoming poor and more deprived. Such an aim is all the more required in the concept of free education up to the graduate level, which is an avowed undertaking of the Government of Sri Lanka. Free higher education can be expected to be adequately funded only if education is totally contributive to development. Teaching in development studies and equipping graduates with the know how to apply themselves to the field of development will immediately be accepted as helping Government Departments that are functioning in the key areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, rural development and the sciences. This would apply not only to Sri Lanka but all countries.
A major breakthrough of academic knowledge into development was the Land Grant Universities in the USA. The aim was to forge a link between higher education and development. In every State a university was established to spearhead development in both conducting research and application of knowledge to bring about development. For instance Michigan State University, a Land Grant University that was mainly established to teach and also to apply academic knowledge to bring about development in the State of Michigan concentrated on the sciences like agriculture and animal husbandry. It also developed studies in Resource Development. The Faculty of Education had studies in Non Formal Education, a term which broadly denotes unstructured education for development. The work involved building up private enterprises as well as cooperative enterprises. The economic prosperity achieved in the USA is ascribed to the work done by Land Grant Universities.
This concept was extended to the Developing Countries by the Michigan State University that provided academic expertise for the Comilla Programme of Rural Development. The Government of Pakistan sought the assistance of the United States to find out the quickest method of bringing about development. The academic expertise was to be provided by Michigan State University. The Government of Pakistan selected the Kotwali Thana(Division) of the Comilla District as a laboratory to find the quickest method of brining about development. A special educational institute, called an Academy was established where a few professors from Michigan State University were posted as experts to advise the Director of the Academy, Dr Akhter Hameed Khan on the programmes and methods that had to be used to enable development. The professors posted were from the areas of international development, resource development, agriculture, animal husbandry and non formal education. This programme began in 1958 and cooperatives was the institution used to enable the participation of the people. Within a decade, this programme enabled the achievement of full employment and doubling the yields of paddy which is a unique record in the annals of economic development.
It is important to note that there is no university where development comes in for concentrated study. Even the University of Manchester which had Community Development as a section in Adult Education has stopped this study. Michigan State University that had Studies in Non Formal Education as a Section within the Faculty of Education, no longer teaches this subject. This happened due to the emphasis given to business management in the past few decades, when studies in business management leading to the MBA became the coveted field.
The major part of the studies can be done by the various Faculties and Post Graduate Institutes of the University. New Disciplines like Community Development and Non Formal Education which are the core strategies that can be used to bring about development have to be initiated within an existing Faculty. Further the practical application of the knowledge taught in every discipline has to be done within the administration of development programmes which is done through the various Government Departments. It is therefore necessary to co opt expertise from the various Departments of the Government.
It is suggested that the University of Peradeniya/Colombo will eventually have a full fledged Faculty of Development that will develop the Course Structure and liaise with other Faculties to obtain the services of expertise in their disciplines. The Universities in Sri Lanka can even pool their resources. This Faculty will be essentially a coordinating body drawing the various disciplines together. However in the initial stages it will be ideal if this task could be attended to by the Vice Chancellor, or a special unit under his direction because the work will involve the coordination of major Faculties and Institutes of Post Graduate Study, comprising major professors who may resent the inroads into their domains by professors of other Faculties.
The following subjects are suggested:
What is Development?
Agriculture in Economic Development
Animal Husbandry in Economic Development
Small Industry in Development
Employment Creation Programmes
History of Development
Strategies for Development(includes Non Formal Education and Community Development)
Geography in Economic Development
Administrative Systems for Development
Institution Building for Development
Secondary Areas for Development(Tourism etc.)
Business Management for Development( Private entrepreneurs & Cooperatives)
Community Economic Development
The Free Trade-Open, Liberalized Economy of the IMF
Industries in Economic Development
Education for Economic Development-Vocational Education
Adult Education in Development
Environment- Green House gases- Climate Change
International Institutes in Development I (United Nations)
Sustainable Development, Self Reliance, Import Substitution
Land Reform, Agricultural Credit,
Project Design and Implementation,
Youth Development Programmes
Studies on Development Programmes:
Rural Development in Sri Lanka
Agricultural Marketing (Department for Development of Agricultural Marketing in Sri Lanka, the BULOG in Indonesia)
Community Development Programme of India
TRYSEM and IRDP of India
The Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh
Sri Lanka, India, Ghana, Tanzania, Philippines, Bangladesh
Pertaining to Sri Lanka
The Rajarata Ancient hydraulic Irrigation System,
Evaluation of Projects
The Economy of the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka
The Economy of the Wet Zone of Sri Lanka
The Economy of the Hill Country of Sri Lanka
The Rural Development Programme.
Small Industries Development Programme
The Divisional Development Councils Programme(1970-1977
Politics in Development
Development Infrastructure for Economic Development
Inflation and methods of controlling inflation
Poverty Alleviation Programmes
I am certain that it will be possible to attract foreign students and this will be of great importance in obtaining foreign funds. It should be possible to be self financing within a few years, once students all over the world come to know of this new field of comprehensive development studies.
I am certain that there will be ready acceptance by students both in Sri Lanka and overseas for this study in Development and sufficient publicity has to be done both in Sri Lanka as well as overseas in order to attract students. This course of studies can easily become a great foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka.
I can assure anyone that this foray into Development Study can be established successfully. It is something that is required for world development today and any University that succeeds will be amply rewarded in prestige and status among universities
*Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. Michigan State University, M.A. University of Sri lanka(Peradeniya), Former Government Agent, Matara