By Rathindra Kuruwita
Sri Lankan universities need about 11,900 academics to function optimally, but, however, only 6,300 lecturers were available by the beginning of the year, Prof. Barana Jayawardana, Department of Animal Science, University of Peradeniya, and the head of the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA), said.
Prof. Jayawardena added that the number could be as low as 5,900 now, given the exodus of lecturers during the past few months.
In 2017, there were about 30,000 students in state universities. By 2022, the number has increased to about 43,000. This is about a 50 percent increase in the student population, he said.
“However, the number of lecturers have reduced. Usually, we take in students who have a first or second upper class as probationary lecturers. They must get their postgraduate degree within eight years and to be made a senior lecturer at a university. Those who complete PhDs at top universities often leave the country. These are people between the ages of 35 and 40, and they become demotivated because of the status of the country, the opportunity cost, and the high taxes that have made life hard here,” he said.
Professor Jayawardana added that probationary lecturers, who have had opportunities to leave the country for higher education, are also leaving in large numbers. They often resign from their jobs at the university and leave.
“To retain the job, while they study abroad, the probationary lecturers have to sign a bond with the university. You need two guarantors for the bond, too. This has become a large bond because of the devaluation of the rupee, and it is hard to find people to be guarantors. The bond can range from five to 10 million. So the probationary lecturers forget about retaining the job, quit, and leave,” he said.