As a significant stride towards shaping the future of higher education, The Sri Lanka Association of Non-State Higher Education Institutes (SLANSHEI) hosted the National Higher Education Conference focusing on the significant contribution by TNE (Transnational Education) to Higher education in Sri Lanka on November 28, 2023, at the Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo. SLANSHEI was established in 2016 through the initiative of a few leading private higher education institutes to address the needs and provide leadership to the non-state higher education sector in the country.
Its strategic plan focuses on aspects vital to the non-state higher education sector such as expansion, improving the quality and standards, attracting increasing numbers of foreign students, enhancing the research profile and research output, and promoting internationalization. The inauguration of the National Higher Education Conference was marked by the ceremonial lighting of the traditional oil lamp. The event was graced by the distinguished presence of the Chief Guest, Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha - Minister of Education, His Excellency Andrew Patrick – The British High Commissioner, along with dignitaries such as Mr. Orlando Edwards - Director British Council, Mr. Paul Eeles – CEO, Skills & Education Group, Dr. Anita Hayes from Keele University, Professor Sampath Amaratunge - Chairman of UGC-Sri Lanka, and Dr. Dayan Rajapakse, the President of SLANSHEI, as well as key local and foreign contributors to the conference.
The conference commenced with the address of the President of SLANSHEI, Dr. Dayan Rajapakse with an insightful speech, highlighting the indispensable role TNEs play in enhancing the quality and diversity of higher education offerings in the country. Dr. Rajapakse’s address underscored SLANSHEI’s commitment to fostering partnerships that transcend geographical boundaries. Following Dr. Rajapakse’s address, Mr. Orlando Edwards, the Country Director of the British Council, took the stage to share his perspectives on the role of international collaboration in advancing the quality and global standing of Sri Lanka’s higher education system.
The much-anticipated highlight of the conference was the keynote address delivered by the Chief Guest, Hon. Minister of Education Dr. Susil Premajayantha. His speech resonated with the audience, emphasizing the government’s unwavering dedication to fostering an environment conducive to academic excellence. Minister Premajayantha articulated the policies and initiatives aimed at steering Sri Lanka’s higher education sector towards international standards. The first keynote address by was by Dr. Aneta Hayes, Chair of the Evaluation & Monitoring Group for Universities UK International (UUKi) which advises the UK higher education sector on TNE matters.
Dr. Hayes emphasized that TNE is part of a university’s role in society and contributes in numerous ways to achieving the Millennium development goals. She emphasized the need for quality and equity in transnational relationships and gave an example for the co-development, co-delivery, and co-accreditation of TNE curricula. The second keynote was by Dr. Athula Pitigala-Arachchi, an academic with significant contributions to both state and non-state higher education. He is currently the CEO of SLIIT International. Dr. Pitigala-Arachchi emphasized that TNE education is a permanent feature in the global as well as Sri Lankan education landscape; a reality.
He concluded that with suitable measures and frameworks put in place by the state, it will continue to grow to be a force in higher education helping to meet the ever-increasing demand for quality higher education, reducing capital outflow and brain drain, attracting foreign students and generating foreign exchange, and catalyzing the development of Sri Lanka as an education hub. The National Conference on Higher Education was a full-day programme, facilitated peer-to-peer exchange, networking, and collaboration.
The aim of the conference was to present the key contributions made by TNE to higher education in Sri Lanka, to bring together all stakeholders of TNE education - academics and scholars from key TNE partner universities, Sri Lankan academics from both state and non-state sectors, and key personnel from quality assurance agencies in Sri Lanka to elicit their views, experiences, and visions for the future of TNE and to promote a robust and inclusive quality assurance and accreditation mechanism in Sri Lanka The conference consisted of a presentation and two-panel discussions. In summary, the National Higher Education Conference served as a platform to celebrate and recognize the profound impact of TNEs in shaping the educational landscape of Sri Lanka. The event highlighted the necessity of continued collaboration between local and international entities to ensure a robust and globally competitive higher education sector.