Management and Science University (MSU), Malaysia and Vidura College - Colombo signs MoU
Sri Lankan students have had limited opportunities for higher education in the past as they were only able to get into the state universities. While some managed to enter the universities, others were left behind in the waiting list. Those who were not able to get a place had to leave shores for higher studies elsewhere or give up further studies but to look for employment. However, with the passage of time, the environment has changed in a manner that many foreign universities have set foot in Sri Lanka to offer courses of studies at a fraction of the cost if they were to go abroad to study in their main campus. For the courses offered by such foreign universities, students can enroll either with GCE OL for foundation courses and later proceed to degree courses or enroll with GCE AL for degree courses. This is a boon to those who are left behind.
At present Sri Lankan students have access to a vast array of opportunities to pursue higher studies. They may either be in State Universities that offer both tuition and accommodation free, in State Universities that charge fees or in private sector institutions of higher learning. The latter has provided ample opportunities for those who have been denied state university education and yet are eager to develop knowledge and skills for higher employability. Foreign universities in Sri Lanka provide opportunities to study in Sri Lanka without going overseas under the care, guidance and supervision of their parents. A salient feature in these courses is that they have been designed to cater to industry requirements, unlike traditional universities that produce men of learning but cannot cater to the industry requirements.
An emerging trend appears to be that the places offered by the State Universities are not taken up by the candidates who are instead attracted by other alternatives over several reasons, especially frequent disruption to the academic matters by outside elements with political interests that lead to frequent closure of Universities. Besides ragging that might be life-threatening at times, results in prolonging the course duration which in turn affects young lives and their aspirations. This has created a new demand for those who are disgusted over the current situation and for those who have been deprived of free higher education in the State system.
In this backdrop, Vidura College - Colombo and the Management and Science University of Malaysia (MSU) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would pave the way primarily for Advanced Level students of VIDURA to pursue higher studies at MSU and to acquire a required qualification in their chosen field of study. Furthermore, students who wish to finish school education on completion of GCE OL, would have the opportunity to enrol for Foundation courses with MSU as an initial step to enter Universities.
MSU Malaysia is one of the top five Private Universities concerning QS world ranking and holds the 217th position in Asia. The Director – Sri Lankan Operations, Sam Peiris explained that “MSU operates in about 15 countries all over the world and nearly 35,000 students study at MSU, Malaysia as well as in the branch campuses. In Sri Lanka, MSU is recognised by the Sri Lanka University Grants Commission as well as the Sri Lanka Medical Council. For over ten years we have been operating in Colombo. We have over 120 courses from foundation programmes up to PhD level in various streams. Currently, 10-12 programmes from Diploma up to PhD level are offered in Colombo. We have partnerships with several other organisations in Sri Lanka. When we talk about education, we are stepping into the 21st Century education which is more like an outcome-based education system.”
“In the current competitive environment, we cannot sustain as a standalone traditional University but need to be more outward looking, an industry-oriented versatile institute of higher learning that promotes knowledge, develops skills and promotes interests in research that creates new knowledge. Therefore, it is necessary we partner with the industry and cater to their pressing needs for qualified and competent professionals. He further said “This is one of the rationales behind our programmes. In Colombo, we have 99% employability wherever you go, maybe in the hospitality, business and health sectors. We have students with excellent performance. Students in Colombo have the advantage of doing their Diploma up to PhD in Colombo or else complete their Diploma or Degree here and then transfer to Malaysia. We work directly with four partner Universities to which students could transfer. This is another advantage of studying at MSU. In addition to that students will also get an internship opportunity with each programme so that they could get a practical knowledge in their field of study. This way they could perform in the industry while they are studying.”
He further said that people perceive that private Universities are costly and are not affordable to an average parent. However, many private universities offer scholarships between 40% to 60% irrespective of the fee structure. Scholarships are available at MSU Malaysia as well. So, “This is another advantage for students to continue their studies with MSU Malaysia. Quality of courses, syllabuses, course materials and lectures are monitored by Malaysian Quality Assurance Authority which is the regulatory body that assures quality standards in educational courses in Malaysia. We are also an ISO certified university. We have many diploma programmes leading to the bachelor’s degree. Currently, we are in the process of discussing on the Diploma in Teaching leading to Bachelor of Science in Teaching.”
Speaking to Sunday Times, Indu R Sumanasekara, General Manager of Shikshana Educational Investments and Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, the managing company of VIDURA COLLEGE - COLOMBO, said that the school has been in operation for nearly 20 years in Colombo. “However, two years ago it was decided to offer our services outside Colombo. We have already established three branches in Kalutara, Maharagama and Kelaniya and arrangements are being made to open a branch soon in Kurunegala as well. The Parent school operates from Nawala with over 4000 students. Everyone sits for the local syllabus in English medium, and we teach all nine subjects in the English medium for O/Ls. We also have A/Ls in all three streams. We expect that our students would continue their studies after completing Advanced Level at an accredited institution that offers quality courses of studies. We believe that MSU Malaysia would be an excellent option that caters to such a requirement. Learning at an International University would provide much-needed exposure for our students. Their courses are regularly updated and upgraded to be in line with new knowledge and requirements of the industry. We will be able to safeguard our students from the political activities that disrupt the academic life in State Universities. Our partnership with MSU Malaysia is a step forward in this direction. The Management and Science Institute (MSI) is their branch in Sri Lanka, and we will divert our students through them.
“As the MSU, we are one of the top universities in Asia, and we have courses from medicine to engineering, business and IT,” said Prof. Dr. Ali Khatibi, Dean - Business and Social Sciences, Graduate School of Management. “We have four international campuses in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and China and we offer the degree and postgraduate programmes in fourteen different countries. We are looking at enhancing the human capital with good values and ethics. We are proud to say that we are the number one in Malaysia regarding the employment rate which is about 98.6% from the time of graduation. We are also identified by the UK concerning industry-embedded education. In every industry, we can see that MSU students are shining. We are looking at bringing quality education and enhancing the higher education from Vidura College - Colombo to MSU. What we are looking at is industry-embedded education, and in turn, future graduates could contribute to the economy. For a country to develop you need a skilled human capital. So that with this understanding we are enhancing educational opportunities and hoping to see more students graduating and supporting the government agenda. The courses will be provided here, but if the students want to go abroad, they could do that as well. However, we encourage them to complete their studies here so that there won’t be an outflow of foreign exchange.”
D.G. Sumanasekera, Principal, Vidura College – Colombo says, “We see that children find it difficult to pursue their higher studies in Sri Lanka amidst political forces misleading disgruntled youth to interfere with the operation of state universities. Our students studying in the English medium have no option but to travel to other countries to find and develop career interests. VIDURA which was started 20 years ago with our Universities as the best destination for our students, now feels just the opposite. We look for a peaceful destination abroad. Therefore, we thought this is a good opportunity to save our students from the dilemma of choosing our own or peaceful greener pastures abroad if we partner with MSU. There are technological and medical fields which are not available in Sri Lanka. The medical field has a high demand and some of our medical students who aspire to be doctors get into other medical fields where technology plays a part. We see a bright future through this partnership. Our industries are inadequate to give the backing to our interns. Without an expanding industry, we cannot prosper. We have encouraged students to look around even beyond our shores. The parent also plays a role here. Since we are a conservative society we would want our children to be with us but by encouraging parents to send their children abroad, they may enjoy opportunities to get newer experiences which they will bring back to the mother country.”
Somabandhu Kodikara, Principal (Primary) of Vidura College - Colombo says “VIDURA is a unique school, and we offer the national curriculum in English medium, unlike other International schools. Our students only have the opportunity to enter our universities in Sri Lanka. But this new opportunity paves the way for our students to get not only into the tertiary educational Institutes but also foundation courses, degree courses, postgraduate courses and they can even go up to the doctoral level. This is the first time we are partnering with a foreign body, and we believe that this would be beneficial to our students. For us, every child matters and we look at the future of our students. If a student wants to do a degree they can do so after their GCE (A/L)s or if a student wants to enrol in a foundation course, they can do so after their GCE (O/L)s. So after their O/Ls or A/Ls, a student would transfer to MSI and follow the courses offered at MSU. Vidura is a service-oriented school devoid of little commercial or Institutional interests.
Dr. Ranjith Cabral, Chairman, Shikshana Educational Investments and Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, the managing company of Vidura College- Colombo, first commented in a lighter vein that VIDURA enters into a partnership with a Malaysian Institute only now whereas he was born in Malaysia seven decades ago but he is a Sri Lankan in every word and deed. I believe in private quality education which the government cannot afford and cater to. Everybody cannot go to the West or Australia. On the other hand, when our children go to those countries, they never return. However, with this partnership, we should be able to retain them and direct their skills towards national development. We have talented students and lecturers, but we do not have the infrastructure and that’s there in Malaysia. There are various options available but MSU is open, and they understand the issues in Sri Lanka, and it is easy to work with them and help to narrow the gap we currently have in the education. I also foresee this will help to enhance the postgraduate education in the country, too. We have the responsibility to cater to those who are shut out of the state universities. State universities are also facing difficulties and need complete transformation. As responsible citizens, we cannot wait until the Government provides everything free at the expense of taxpayers’ money. However, with private education, we will be able to develop a culture. This way, students in state universities will understand the value of state education and the culture. I am confident that this relationship will make a difference in the lives of the students.”
In his comments, Dr. Suranga Silva, the Academic Adviser for PhD Programmes at the MSU stated that this is a good start. “The Vidura College is a private school, and MSU is one of the best foreign universities established in Sri Lanka. Education is the most important aspect in any country. According to the Human Resource Index, the best universities in a country are an indicator of whether that country is developed or not. The education industry has become more open. Because of the MoU signed between MSU and Vidura College - Colombo it will be a good opportunity for students to experience education at an international level. Education must be practical and application- oriented. The private sector is industry - driven, and with the exact educational requirements, students will be able to prosper in their respective fields.”