Sri Lanka’s controversial Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill has intensified the discussions about the future of education in Sri Lanka. In addition, the questions on the militarization of education have also been raised.
“The attempt to bring KNDU Bill is not an isolated incident in the process of the militarization of higher education but one step in the long-running militarization agenda of the State of post-war Sri Lanka. There have been various attempts by the government to militarize higher education in the past as well,” said in a recent article published by Ground Views.
Here are excerpts from the article:
Will higher education militarize through this bill?
As mentioned above, this bill suggests a parallel institutional structure outside the UGC that operates under the purview of a Board of Governors.
The Board of Governors of the KDU is appointed by the Minister of Defence and will consist of nine members. This includes the Secretary and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, one nominee each from UGC and Treasury, Chief of Defence Staff, the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, who is a military officer. According to this format, at least five of the nine members are from the military. If the Secretary is also from the military (currently he is a retired general from Sri Lanka Army) only three of the nine Governors will be outside the military. The Board of Governors will have wide ranging powers to determine entry qualifications, the minimum qualification of academic and non-academic staff, establish quality assurance mechanisms, to decide and establish affiliated institutions to award degrees. It can appoint standing committees for subject disciplines and for determining academic ethical standards. All these powers are currently held by the UGC and applied with standard regulations equally among all State universities.
The bill empowers KNDU to admit both local and foreign fee-paying students, therefore it will function on a profit basis like any other private university; however the standard of education provided is not determined by the UGC. When it comes to civil education, the military shall not have the power to determine the standard of education for civil students attending a State university. Such a move would result in thousands of substandard graduates being produced by a State university that is no longer regulated and these graduates may become involved in the country’s civil administration system.