Several students in Sri Lanka qualify for tertiary education but they are unable to secure a place in higher learning institutions in the country. Successive governments in the country have provided free primary and secondary education in all level, but they have not made free education available for students who qualify for tertiary education (Ministry of Education Sri Lanka, 2004, p. 3). For this reason, the number of people who get tertiary education in Sri Lanka has been lower than in other regional countries (Gibney 2013). In addition the free education policy in Sri Lanka contributes to low quality of education in the country. High school graduates who are unable to secure places in local institutions join institutions of higher learning in foreign countries. This however has negative social and economic impacts on Sri Lanka (Shaw, 2010, p. 242). Private higher education providers are now financing many tertiary education programmes in Sri Lanka in order to help raise the number of students who attain university education. It is anticipated that private education will bring about significant impacts on the education system in Sri Lanka (Tisdell, 2000, p. 670).
The current state of higher education system in Sri Lanka is still too low to meet the demands of the contemporary world. Sri Lanka has experienced high unemployment rates among undergraduates in the recent past and this is attributed to the state of higher education system (Jayawardena, 2012, p. 4). The main reason behind the high unemployment rates among undergraduates is a mismatch of higher education programs and competencies that the private sector is looking for. The available institutions of higher learning use outdated curricula and they mostly design their programs without consulting the private sector. In order to transform the social and economic conditions in Sri Lanka, the higher education system must be changed by designing effective private education system in the country (Aturupane, 2012, p. 49).
In order to expand university education in Sri Lanka, the private sector has two major options. First, the private sector can promote development local private universities. Second, it can support establishment of foreign universities in Sri Lanka. According to Ganedogage, and Rambaldi (2010), there are limited numbers of qualified students who are able to secure seats in public universities in Sri Lanka. With private education systems in the country, many students from high school will be able gain admission to the private universities. In addition, private universities will offer educational programs that match students’ qualifications and they admit students to their preferred programs. As a result, many high school graduates in Sri Lanka will opt for private universities over free public universities. As Balasooriya, Alam and Coghill, (2008, p. 70) points out, private universities will have selection for more job-oriented and practical programs than public universities, and this is likely to provide a wide range of programs for students to choose from.
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