Sri Lanka, formerly known as “Ceylon”, is a beautiful island in the Indian Ocean. Measuring 432 kilometres in length and 224 kilometres in width, it has an area of about 65,000 square kilometres and a population of over 21 million people. Referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is situated off the Southeast coast of the Indian peninsula. It is one of the most attractive places on Earth with eight world heritage sites amongst many tourist attractions. “New York Times”, “Lonely Planet” and CNN Travel have identified Sri Lanka as one of the best places to visit. Moreover, Sri Lanka is one of the safest countries in the world to live. Since the period of British rule in the Island from 1815 to 1948, English language has established itself as a medium of education and administration. It is now recognised as an official language. It is no surprise that the higher education institutions offer most of their courses in English medium.
Higher Education in Sri Lanka – Historical Overview
The modern higher education in Sri Lanka could be traced back to the latter part of the 19th century when the British established several higher education institutes. These included the Medical College (1870), Law College (1895), School of Agriculture (1884), Technical College (1893), and the University College (1921). Interestingly, the University College prepared students for the external examinations of the University of London. The first full fledged university was established as University of Ceylon in 1942 emulating the Oxford and Cambridge universities (Oxbridge Model). Since then, higher education has expanded rapidly to include many institutions and programmes retaining its global outlook.
Higher Education in State Sector
Historically, the government has played a central role in the provision of higher education in Sri Lanka. Presently, there are 15 state/ public universities in the country with a total enrolment of 258,000 students on undergraduate programmes and 42,000 students on postgraduate programmes.
Higher Education in Private Sector
With the adoption of a free economic policy by the state in 1978 and the consequent rapid expansion of the private sector, the demand for quality personnel shot up. The demand for quality higher education opportunities created a fertile ground for the emergence of private higher education in Sri Lanka. Successive governments, taking a far-sighted view, have been actively encouraging private investment in higher education. Initially, the private higher education sector expanded mainly through collaborative provision (TNE) with foreign universities. There are more than 50 private higher education institutions that work in collaboration with foreign universities. Over the past 10 years though, an increasing number of private higher education institutions have opted to offer their own degrees with the approval of the University Grants Commission/ Ministry of Higher Education.
International students need a valid Sri Lankan “Residence Visa” to study in Sri Lanka. The “Residence Visa” application process is initiated by the respective higher education institute in Sri Lanka upon the request of the applicant; the respective higher education institute works with the Department of Immigration of Sri Lanka on behalf of the applicant. The Sri Lankan Embassy/High Commission in the students’ home country facilitates this process. Initially, the Sri Lankan Embassy/ High Commission issues a 30-day “Entry Visa”. Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, the respective higher education institute helps the applicant to extend/convert the “Entry Visa” to a one-year “Residence Visa” and, thereafter, to obtain multiple extensions, as necessary.
Sri Lanka is one of the safest countries in the world and is free of domestic or international threats. Sri Lankans, as a people, are friendly, hospitable, kind-hearted, and soft-spoken.
Sri Lanka, centrally located in the Indian Ocean, is well connected, and many airlines operate frequent flights to Colombo from across the world. Sri Lankan, the national airline, too operates frequent flights to and from major cities round the world.
Sri Lankan government hospitals offer free consultations and medical treatment. In addition, many private hospitals provide inhouse and outpatient medical services that are on par with international standards.
Accommodation and Living Expenses
Living expenses in Colombo are comparable to regional countries and much lower than in the Western world. Students could find accommodation in the form of single rooms, annexes, houses, or apartments depending on the need. Sri Lankan higher education institutes would be more than willing to assist foreign students find suitable accommodation.
Sri Lanka is a tropical country with no seasons, and people enjoy comfortable weather throughout the year. However, heavy rains may be experienced during the northeast monsoon (December-March) and the southwest monsoon (June to October).