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Friday, June 17, 2011

World University Rankings, Sri Lanka and University Lectures

Asian Tribune

Nalin Abeysekera - Senior Lecturer and Chartered Marketer,Open University of Sri Lanka
According to world University ranking in 2010 all top five universities among top 200 are from US starting with Harvard, Califonia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanform University and Princeton University.

Then Oxford and Cambridge Universities from UK are in the 6th Slot. If we study by regions, in Asia the University of Hong-Kong toped as number one followed by University of Tokyo, Pohang University of Science and Technology in Republic of Korea, National University of Singapore and Peking University in China in top five positions. Basically following criteria’s can be considered as important to select best Universities in the world.

• Teaching — the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the final ranking score)
• Research — volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent)
• Citations — research influence (worth 32.5 per cent)
• Industry income — innovation (worth just 2.5 per cent)
• International mix — staff and students (worth 5 per cent)

Here we can observe that 62.5% has been allocated for the research and citation. Research basically measured by using volume, income and reputation. Research citations means a university's research influence — as measured by the number of times its published work is cited by academics — is the largest of the broad rankings categories. But I do not know how many people conscious about these criteria’s in Sri Lanka. That is one part of the problem. In Sri Lanka if you want to participate in a research conference or symposium in abroad you have been given only 40,000LKR for 5 years! This has happened to me in 2008 where one of my papers has been accepted in Calgary, Canada. So the price of the air ticket was 150,000 and I received 40,000 from University. But thanks to the sponsors in Athabasca University I made my journey.

Last year I went to India to make a presentation and I applied for funds from University (we have department fund and head of the department with the consultation of a professor of Management allocated some funds for research ).

Ultimately I have been informed by the Establishment Department (In University we have establishment department which play a same role as HR in the private sector) that I have to apply funds prior to my departure. So my request has been rejected. According to authorities the mistake was on my part. Because I went to represent country spending my own money! This will imply the status of the research culture in this part of the world. So I have to bear the expenses by my own. And again this June 16 to 18, Society of Interdisciplinary Business conducting a research conference in Thailand and one of my papers has been accepted among many international papers. But I communicated to the organizers I could not attend to this because I do not have money! This is not the first time it has happened. And I am not the only person in academia facing similar sort of problems. There are many senior professors, lectures who has papers accepted in reputed journals but having the same proble.But still they are doing research!.

In Sri Lanka we have only 4500 University Lectures. Already 500 University lectures have gone abroad. The equation is changing by every day. Sri Lanka declared the Economic war after defeating the LTTE. Government of Sri Lanka has a vision to make Sri Lanka as the “Wonder of Asia”. Under this vision, converting the country as a knowledge hub is one of the goals. Developing human capital to create and sustain the knowledge hub is the vision of the Higher Education Ministry in Sri Lanka. So what about the role of University lecturer?

Actually they are playing an important role as “Change Agent” in this process. Why University academics asking for more salary? You need to maintain certain standards etc .Still the Senior lecturer with Doctorate in national University is getting a salary of little more than the fuel allowance of the company executive.
This is after 4 years of special degree, two to three years of masters and three to five years of PhD!! This can be considered as another equation which government should understand. To get the eligibility to apply for a vehicle permit now a lecturer needs a 12 year service as against previous 5 years. Further 70 small kids of University dons are still waiting for a national school for grade one admission.1% quota which has been given previously has been halted this time.

In 2009 I participated at one international conference in Kerala(they sponsored me) as a guest lecturer where I met one professor there and he told me that the University academics going from Sri Lanka exceptionally doing well in countries like US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Even he mentioned few names of some Sri Lankans as well. We Sri Lankans have that talent. We won the war by using that.

That’s why most of the University lectures voted for president Rajapaksha. Still People believe we can win the economic war . We are heading to the bright future. The economic development is visible. People in Sri Lanka are eager to contribute towards the economy development of the country. Murali the greatest cricketer ever produced by mother Sri Lanka bowls with that talent. We did miracles in Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa etc. That is our history. Should we let other university lectures go abroad and do miracles there or retain here and get their maximum to develop this country?