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Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) project was initiated on the 23rd of February 2018 with the presence of the Prof. Sampath Amaratunge, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura at the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The project is a collaborative funding effort of the World Bank of Washington and the University Grants Commission. During this inaugural meeting Dr. Harsha Aturupane, Lead Economist, World Bank, Prof. P. S. M. Gunaratne, Director, AHEAD, Prof. Arosha Adikaram, Dr. Kumudika Boyagoda and Dr. Romola Rassool addressed the Deans and members of academic staff present at the meeting explaining the proceedings of the project.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sampath Amaratunge stated that this project which extends to a period of five years should be the ‘Buzz’ word of the University for the next five years. He also informed the head table and those who were present the many feats achieved by the university.

“Apart from the seven Faculties at the university we have 17 research centres which are required to present their research progress to the council every year. We have developed our research fund to Rs. 400 million since its inception” the Vice chancellor said.

He further said that the Asian Development Bank has recently granted US $ 500 million grants for the development of the Faculty of Engineering.

Prof. Guneratne, the Director of the AHEAD project stated that the project will be working under a funding of US $ 100 million for the next five years. He stated that this is not the first time that the World Bank has visited the University. There had been two other programmes conducted in the university which brought it countless positive results.

“Due to the success of these programmes, the new project has received more than 50% increase from the most recent HTC programme, which was allocated US $ 40 million,” He said.

Dr.  Harsha Aturupane in his presentation stated that the ultimate result of this project is to uplift the Sri Lankan economy. The AHEAD project’s results area is three-fold:

  • Results area 1: Increasing Access to Higher Education in priority areas for economic development
  • Results area 2: Improving the quality of Higher Education
  • Results area 3: Promoting Research, Development and Innovation.

Through the result area one the project hopes to increase enrolment in Universities, giving priority to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEMS) and ultimately increase the number of PhD qualified university academics

Results area two focuses on improving the quality of higher education by strengthening the quality assurance and accreditation system with modern global trends, implementing the “Sri Lanka Qualifications Framework, blend academic excellence with the promotion of Socio-emotional skills. According to Dr. Athurupane the results area two is further divided three strategic focus groups:

  1. Enable degree programmes to reflect high standards of academic quality (comparable to UMIC and OECD)
  2. Produce graduates with socio-emotional skills to fit into the world of work at various levels
  3. Produce graduates who will participate in the labour market (specially focusing on women as the workforce participation is low)

With reference to the third result area the research area will focus on: academic research, University and industry linkages and innovations for commercialization. The importance of the Humanities creating industry linkages were impressed upon at the meeting. The project through the third result area hopes to see Development Oriented results Research through competitive projects implemented to promote research.

Prof. Arosha Adikaram in her presentation explained the procedures of application and the details of grant allocations. She stated that the proposed scholarship programme for PhDs is offered in collaboration with the University Grants Commission (UGC) and National Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences (NCAS) scholarship schemes. The scholarship will be funding up to three years of the programme for full time PhDs in Overseas universities as well as Full time split-site PhD programmes. The maximum allocation per candidate is Rs. 9 million

The grant winners will receive: programme registration fees, cost of living allowance for the time period living abroad and any other research expense incurred.

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