Vision for the Development of the University of Ruhuna

Proposed University Development

There is a need for independent development of each faculty together with a comprehensive and cohesive development policy for the University of Ruhuna. While being constantly mindful of the national status of the University of Ruhuna and therefore catering to the national human resource development needs and priorities, I wish to see the University of Ruhuna serving a very special role in the regional development of 'Ruhuna'. Therefore, while maintaining its national stature, I wish to emphasise below, some development activities for the University of Ruhuna that has a distinct bias towards southern regional development. The present national leadership is also giving special focus and emphasis to development of the southern region of Sri Lanka as seen by the greatly increased development activity in the south with the proposed southern highway and international airport. I consider this a 'serendipitous' development for the University of Ruhuna.

I propose to institute an over-arching Planning & Implementation Committee of specialists and experts in the University of Ruhuna to activate not only the Corporate Plan in its current formation, but also work on a proposal for the university to contribute to the formulation of a regional development plan. This which will include the establishment of a strong nexus between the University of Ruhuna and the state agencies involved with southern development as well as the agriculturists, agribusiness, industrialists, regional health authorities and the private-sector business community in the region. This is to enable the University of Ruhuna to be an integral part of the development process in the South that will go to meet the economic, social and health needs of the people of the region.

The south is an area that is predominantly agriculture-based. Therefore, development in agriculture must remain the bedrock of southern economic development. The University of Ruhuna has to give leadership in know how in this area. The priorities in this area for service and research will be established through a special committee that will include the Dean/Agriculture and senior academics of the faculty. New initiatives in agri-based investments, agricultural technology, water management and other areas will be facilitated and strengthened. To do this effectively, all academic staff must work together as a team responding to a single call - the call of the nation, the region and the university.

I propose to discuss the priorities of the Engineering faculty with the Dean and staff of the faculty and encourage the development of applied research in engineering fields of special significance to the South. I also propose to facilitate development of programmes by the engineering faculty staff that would be of direct relevance to the projected Southern Development Programme as well as in areas that have been given lesser priority in the traditional Faculties of Engineering such as marine engineering and environmental engineering.

With the establishment of the new Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Science & Technology a few months ago, there is a great need to develop new initiatives in that area. The new faculty has a few `teething' problems that need to be resolved. Being a coastal university with several fisheries harbours in the region and the resources from the sea increasingly taking greater importance of the future development o Sri Lanka, fisheries and marine sciences will be of critical importance. This will be the critical area for the University of Ruhuna to take a lead nationally in its intellectual, academic and research contribution to national development. The first priority is to obtain the required funding for the faculty building project and clearing the path to obtain full ownership of the allocated land.

The 'Humanities' continue to be an integral part of academic endeavour. They are important and necessary in the making of a complete human being. I wish to encourage the development of the 'creative arts' - particularly those that are of historical and cultural importance to 'Ruhuna'. The University of Ruhuna must remain the epicentre of a cultural regeneration that is a necessary concomitant to Southern Development. The Arts & the Social sciences - languages, philosophy, economics, sociology, history, anthropology and archaeology need to be developed with the initiatives to be taken by all sectors of the H&SS faculty academics. This is particularly important in the context of the recent upsurge in development activities in the South. The Humanities & Social Science faculties in Sri Lanka face particular challenges with regard to the "employability" of their graduates. This has lead to an increasing tendency to re-orient their courses in response to the 'market forces' that determine 'employability'. While being mindful of these dimensions in the development of education in a "knowledge-based" society, I will ensure that the degree programmes in the humanities that are essential to the sustenance of values and philosophies which is part of our national heritage are continued and developed in the University of Ruhuna. These disciplines include Sinhala, Buddhist and Pali studies, History and Archaeology.

Business Management and Finance play a very significant role in the context of globalisation. The University of Ruhuna will continue to expand its contribution to human resource development in this area. I would take further steps in developing the university-industry and university-entrepreneur linkages that already exist and strengthen them. This will encourage the industrial and commercial sectors to provide in-service training to our students and increasing their employability. Here too a matter of the highest priority is the implementation of the building project.

Several steps have already been taken to make the Faculty of Medicine a centre of excellence in selected fields. Andrology, in-vitro fertilisation, human reproductive biology, filarial research, cardiology, bone densitometry and studies on osteoporosis are some areas that the faculty has taken a national lead. While I wish to further strengthen this endeavour, we need to develop other areas of health service and medical research. I propose to further activate the initiative that has already been taken to develop a proposal for an ultra-modern regional laboratory catering to the health and medical needs of the Southern population. I will also support and encourage all initiatives taken in the direction of curricular reform that ensures improvements in teaching/learning methodologies and most importantly, establishment of a behavioural stream in the undergraduate medical curriculum.

In the Faculty of Science, I shall facilitate the development of cybernetics and information technology. New areas such as climatology, research into indigenous herbal products including traditional medicines and programmes for the protection of fauna and flora in the region needs to be re-activated together with multi-disciplinary efforts in environmental research. I will encourage the Faculty of Science in initiating these new endeavours.

I have taken special interest in staff development and was the Founder Director of the Staff Development Centre (SDC) of the University of Ruhuna. I established the Certificate Course in Professional Development in Higher Education (CCPDHE) in the university which was approved by the UGC as the accredited qualification that should be acquired by Probationary Lecturers for confirmation in their posts. I will take further initiatives to create opportunities for academic, administrative and non-academic staff to assist them in acquisition of appropriate skills that are required for career development. The available human resources in the university will be used to organise regular `in-house' workshops, seminars and conferences to upgrade knowledge and skills of all categories of staff - particularly for administrative staff. This is essential to increase the efficiency of the university administration.

I will carry to its logical conclusion, the initiative already undertaken to establish a Faculty of Law at the University of Ruhuna. It will be established taking into consideration the new developments in many legal specialties. These include International Law, Environmental Law, Law of the Sea, Intellectual Property Law, new dimensions in Land Law and Commercial (e-Commerce) Law, Internet Law, Fundamental and Human Rights legislation etc.

I will encourage expansion of courses for external degrees in the university. I have had, and continue to have, certain concerns in the standards and quality assurance of these programmes. I will take necessary steps to ensure that the certificate, diploma and degree courses on offer from the University of Ruhuna will maintain acceptable quality so that certification from the University of Ruhuna will be worthy of its name.

At a time when the State Universities are facing fierce competition from private sector degree awarding institutions and foreign universities operating "off-shore" educational institutions in Sri Lanka, and the `free education system' that was established over 60 years ago is facing threats from the education `marketplace', it is the duty of Heads of state universities to do their utmost to ensure that the State universities will maintain their leadership in tertiary education in Sri Lanka. I will take initiatives to face these challenges and maintain the status of the University of Ruhuna and further elevate it not only to retain its due place, but also be a leader in the region.

Having cited some highlights of what I envisage to do in the areas of institutional and academic development, I wish to reiterate that I propose to:

  • Abide by the eight concepts of `good governance' - (i) Participation, (ii) Rule of law, (iii) Transparency, (iv) Responsiveness, (v) Consensus-oriented, (vi) Equity and inclusiveness, (vii) Effectiveness and (viii) Efficiency and Accountability - in administration of the university;

  • Implement a rational and 'user-friendly' procedures for a more efficient administrative and financial management system;

  • Establish an environment that engenders academic freedom with responsibility;

  • Practice democratic and consensual management and executive practices;

  • Establish an environment within the University of Ruhuna for the free expression of diverse opinions without fear or favour or threats and intimidation - both for university staff and for students.

Finally, I wish to ensure all members of the university community that I will undertake to offer the University of Ruhuna an honest, accountable, transparent and non-partisan leadership during my tenure.

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