Opening of private medical faculties
By introducing the Z score criteria, the authorities ensured
reserving of a reasonable quota of the places available in the local
university system for the students from the educationally backward
districts. However, the fact remains that in the medical field; annually
the doors are shut for 9,000 odd students who have minimum stipulated
qualifications to enter the medical faculties.
Further, while a large number of students who have poorer A /L
results gain entry annually to medical faculties, many students who have
better A/L results (such as two As and one B) are denied admission.
Those who are denied are not necessary from the affluent families. They
are sons and daughters of the lower middle class (government servants,
teachers, university academics themselves and other professionals).
I know of a number of such persons who have not been successful in
admitting their children (who studied in the national schools in
Colombo, Kandy, Galle and Matara etc.) to local Medical and Engineering
faculties due Z score based selection system. As a result, in
desperation, they have been forced to send their children to foreign
universities. At very recent television discussion on the same subject,
it was revealed that a daughter of a prominent Cabinet Minister (who
himself is a well educated professional) too had been sent to a Medical
Faculty in Bangladesh. I am also a parent who has gone through the same
When my son indicated his wish to become a doctor while he was
attending Ananda College, Colombo (which was my alma mater too), I tried
to persuade him to move to a school in Gampaha district (where we
reside), but unfortunately he was adamant to remain in Ananda College
saying that he will somehow obtain the three As. However in the end he
ended up with two A passes and one B pass with a Z score of 1.94 or
something. The cut off level for Colombo was a few points above and he
did not get a place.
First option open then to him was to try the A/Ls for a second time.
I discussed this with several knowledgeable persons but in the end the
conclusion was ‘how could you guarantee that my son will get three ‘A’s
in the second attempt?’ Then we went for the second option and visited
several agencies who arrange placements in foreign universities. I also
obtained a copy of the booklet published by the SLMC on the courses
recognized by them.
However, nobody could guarantee of a time frame that my son could
pass ACT 16 even if he completed the medical degree in one of the
universities recognized by the SLMC. Hence, after considering Russia,
Bangladesh, Nepal, India and China, we finally explored the possibility
of sending him to Australia where we were advised that obtaining of
employment will not be difficult. Next hurdle was to show adequate
liquid assets to the Embassy to obtain the VISA. This was done with
great difficulty after submitting a number of documents: my assets, my
wife’s assets, assets of my wife’s unmarried sister and the letters of
commitment of all three of us.
Direct entry to a medical faculty in Australia was found to cost
about 4.5 million per year for course fees alone: for five years, the
total of tuition fees came to about LKR 25 million. This amount was
totally beyond our reach. The facilitators then proposed that my son
could initially enroll for a three year Bio Science degree and once it
was completed, he would be eligible to apply for residency. Then he
could pay at the residents’ rate which was half of the International
rate. We settled for that option and sent him there. But when he
completed the three-year course and applied for the residency he found
that he was short of five marks or something. Then he was advised to top
up with a Bio Science Honors to obtain the balance marks. He completed
it in the following year and obtained a first class.
Unfortunately, by that time the residency rules had undergone changes
and the authorities asked for two years work experience, to consider
giving residency. Then he applied for several jobs with a view of
fulfilling this requirement and returned home due to expiry of his
To fund for his four year course, I spent all my earnings/savings
during that period barring a meagre amount spent for family expenses. I
also sold my car. Disposed of some shares I had bought at the IPO of the
SLT. In all I spent about LKR 10 million for his four years in
While he was going through an indecisive period back at home last
December, a party from Monash University Malaysia branch came to
interview some prospective applicants. I came to know about this event
and attended it with my son. There I got an opportunity to talk to the
Medical Professor who had come. After I explained my son’s predicament,
he agreed to interview to him and after a rigorous interview, he went
back and sent a placement for my son in the Sunway Campus.
Course fees per semester in the Sunway Campus are LKR 1.86 million.
With the proceeds of the sale of some old rubber trees of a small land
belonging to my wife and after borrowing some money from her sister, we
managed to pay the first semester fees for his studies in Malaysia.
Before the second Semester was due, we wanted to sell that land. But due
to involvement of several brokers, it did not materialize. In the end,
my wife was forced to sell her car and pay the second Semester fees.
These days we are frantically trying to sell the said land since we
will need another LKR 1.9 million by December for the third Semester
payment. By the time he completes the five year medical degree in
Malaysia, about LKR 20 million worth of foreign exchange would be
drained out from the country. Together with the money drained out for
the Bio Science course in Australia, it would be LKR 30 million.
Why I wrote all these details about the agony we are going through to
fulfill our son’s wish is to give an indication of the impact to a child
and his/her family, of a difference between one ‘A’ pass and a ‘B’ pass
of the A/L could do. I am sure that our son and we are not the only
family in Sri Lanka going through similar ordeal. There will be
thousands of families of teachers, engineers, accountants, doctors,
university academics and the like who are with us in the same boat. I
know of a former UGC chairman who was in the same position, while he was
still holding that position.
According to UGC sources, about 10, 000 students are currently
studying in foreign universities. If each of them spend on average LKR
2.5 million per year, about LKR 25 billion is annually drains out of the
Most of those children who go for higher studies abroad will never
come to serve the country after securing employment in those countries.
These huge losses could not be easily written off.
According to UGC and the Higher Education Minister, they aim at
setting up of private universities of high standards for local students
as well as for the students from other Asian countries. By allowing the
setting up of these institutions, by way of Taxes etc. the government
should be able to rake in sufficient funds for the upgrading of
government universities. For example, the medical faculties of Rajarata
and Eastern Universities are said to be functioning without Teaching
Hospitals. The GMOA that is calling shots at the standards of Malabe
medical faculty is silent about such vital shortcomings. From what they
are doing and the way they are acting, I find a great similarity to that
of the Lanka Private Bus Owner’s Association and their vociferous
president Gemunu Wijeratna.
I believe that the very same doctors who are in the GMOA clamouring
for the abolition of private medical faculties will face the same
problem if and when their children sit for the A Levels from the schools
in Colombo, Kandy, Galle or Matara or Kalutara eventually.
It is my opinion that the root cause of the manifold objections
raised against the setting up of private universities is due to the fear
of the children and the parents of rural areas (who are benefitted by
the free education and Z Score selection system) that it will pave the
way for those who pass out from the private universities to grab the
limited number of vacancies available in the government service.
Let the authorities verify this fact by having frank discussions with
If it is proved correct (I strongly believe that it will), let the
government bring legislation that those who pass out from the private
medical faculties will not be entitled for appointments in the
recruitment grade of the government service. If that assurance is given,
I am sure the GMOA will not agitate about the quality of those medical
graduates. That aspect could be left to be settled between the SLMC and
the authorities of those medical faculties.
Instead of going through the humiliation of seeking of positions in
the government service, let the private medical graduates go abroad and
practice their chosen profession send some money for the betterment of
medical faculties in the local universities.
Let the rural poor serve their kith and kin by securing employment in
the government service. It will be good if the GMOA in the same spirit
could prevent their members in the government service patronizing the
private hospitals where patients are often forced to pay exorbitant
charges against their will. Instead they should devote more time and
energy to get the services in the government hospitals upgraded to be
able to provide a real 24 hour services as per the wish of the