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 Unions vow to prevent fee-paying medical students squeezing out others

Unions vow to prevent fee-paying medical students squeezing out others

2013 May 28

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

Student unions attached to medical faculties country-wide vow to intensify protests against the University Grants Commission’s decision to open undergraduate medical courses to fee-paying Lankan students with foreign qualifications. “There have been previous enrolments of children of Sri Lankan diplomatic personnel and foreign diplomatic personnel here as well as students from SAARC countries – we have no objection to that.

“But the 2011/2012 enrolment criteria mentions Sri Lankan applicants who are not children of diplomatic personnel. This suggests that any Sri Lankan student who has completed London A/L here or abroad can apply to enter local universities,” said Najith Indika, convener of Medical Faculty Students Action Committee.

He said that previously the university medical colleges’ enrolment of students with foreign qualifications was up to 4.5 per cent of the total intake, but this was increasing with new selection groups, including children of expatriates and foreign applicants who were not from SAARC countries and not children of diplomatic personnel working here.

“There are thousands of students here who have been denied the opportunity to take up a medical degree due to slight differences in the Z-score. They do not have any opportunity. It is important to expand the university system, providing opportunity to high-scorers at local Advanced Level examinations,” he said.

He said that in the requirements criteria, the UGC states that candidates who have satisfied the requirements for admission at a foreign examination equivalent to the local GCE A/L examination will be considered for university medical courses if they have sat the examinations locally within a period of six months from the date of their return to Sri Lanka after completion of a continuous period of two and a half years of studies abroad.

This year, about 37 have been chosen to follow medical degrees here in Sri Jayawardenapura, Rajarata, Ragama and Karapitiya medical faculties. Ten students who were sent to Peradeniya University have been declined by the university.The Rajarata University initially refused to admit these students but later backtracked.

The Vice Chancellor of University of Peradeniya, Prof. Athula Senaratne said that following student agitations, the Faculty Board of the Faculty of Medicine decided to not enrol students this year. “The Dean of the medical faculty has decided to decline the enrolling of the students and the UGC has made arrangements to post them to other universities. We will appoint a selection committee including all deans of all faculties to analyse the qualifications and will consider student enrolment next year,” he said.

According to the UGC, students who qualified to follow local degrees will have to pay $US12,000 annually (Rs.7.5 million for five years) for a Medical and Dental Sciences degree while the fee for Para Medical degree costs $US10,000 annually. The spokesman for the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa said that there should be transparency in the enrolment process.

“We are not clear whether they are children of expats or diplomats. The UGC takes the final decision and send the names to universities. University faculty boards are helpless and are forced to take these students. This will definitely affect the quality of medical education,” he said.

Recently protests were held near the Saliyapura Medical Faculty of the Rajarata University, Colombo University’s Medical Faculty and Ragama Medical Faculty. Attempts made to contact both the Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr.Sunil Jayantha Nawaratne and Chairman of the University Grants Commission Prof. Kshanika Hiriburegama failed.

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