As I assume duties as Vice Chancellor, University of Sri Jayewardenepura I wish to dedicate myself to its vision, prosper lives through education and its mission, develop globally competent citizens through our education for a sustainable future, drawing inspirations from our cultural heritage and wisdom, emanating from its age old motto “Vijja Uppatatham Setta”, Among all that arise, knowledge is the greatest.
University of Sri Jayewardenepura is one of the foremost national universities and has been a home to me in many aspects. It is a seat of education that demands devotion and have earned the quiet respect of many. Located in the administrative capital of Sri Lanka. It is built on Buddhist traditions and values that can be traced to its origins, the Vidyodaya Pirivena (seat of oriental learning) and later the Vidyodaya University, nurtured by erudite scholar monks of the calibre of Most Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala and Welivitiye Soratha Theros. As such, we are bound by the ideals of tolerance, equality and fair-play and we are committed to develop holistic graduates who would be always attempt to strike a balance among profits (material wellbeing), people (welfare of others) and the planet (sustainability of nature).
I am no stranger to positions of leadership especially in relation to The University of Sri Jayewardenepura. I am not boastful when I say that I am one of the most experienced administrators of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura having been the Dean of two Faculties spanning to ten years of devotion.
I received firsthand experience regarding the demands of the role of Vice-Chancellor, when I was appointed as the Acting Vice-Chancellor by the UGC upon my predecessor being appointed as the Chairman of the UGC. The University of Sri Jayewardenepura is indeed a seat of excellence that produces the most effective leaders.
New frontiers of Education and Ensuring Academic Quality
I take my seat as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura during a time when the country and the world is facing a Pandemic. The first of its kind in the recent past. While the Pandemic has caused many issues within the nation and the field of education, I see it as an opportunity.
I am reminded Arundathi Roy an esteemed writer of politics and social issues who stated very recently and it was instantly absorbed and reiterated by many: “the pandemic is portal” and it is indeed. It is a portal for new beginnings, new introductions and revamping of old systems to suit the modern needs.
Being involved in the fields of education and higher education sometimes as a facilitator and a leader, I have first-hand experience regarding the changing of the landscape of education. Pandemic has forced us as a country to adapt to a new era of digital reimagining.
The University is now equipped to handle the needs and demands of online education. We have taken action to rethink our measures of education, be more focused on the needs of students who are also tackling change with positivity.
During my time as the Acting Vice-Chancellor, I took measures to revamp the curricula in order to handle online instruction. The University’s Center of IT worked tirelessly with me to provide the staff with excellent platform support and to facilitate the university with equipment that will make the transition smooth.
During my time as the Vice-Chancellor I hope to improve online education further and to provide opportunities to complete online degrees to those interested. This I am sure will be attractive to students who live afar and are unable to receive a quality education due to various barriers.
During my time as the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences, I took measures to introduce several new departments including the Department of Computer Science, Department of Statistics, Department of Sports Science and the Department of Polymer Science and was also responsible for the commencing of two new four-year degree programs: BSc. in Sports Science and Management and BSc. (Honours) in Applied Sciences.
I am a firm believer in expanding the university academically. Being an alumnus of the Second Faculty ever established within the University as per the vision of the most Venerable Welivitiye Sri Soratha Thero, I feel it’s my duty to explore new frontiers of Education. I am also of the opinion that there is no necessity to ‘re-invent the wheel’ as they say. A quality of a good leader is to take forward the best of those who preceded him/her and leave a generation of new leaders that will take up the mantel when my time at the seat comes to an end.
Therefore, as per the initiation of my predecessor I have taken it upon myself to see to the introduction of the Faculty of Urban agriculture and Bio-resources and the Postgraduate institute of Allied Health Science to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
In my mission to explore new frontiers of education I have also taken initiative to establish a Faculty of Dental Science and a Faculty of Information Technology. I hope to complete the establishment of these new faculties and institutes within the next three years.
Promotion of Research
Research and innovation are the driving force of any developing nation. The University is currently home to over 25 nationally important research centres under the Research Council and over 50 new ventures with over 10 patents registered under the Invention Innovation and Venture Creation Council (IIVCC).
During my time as the Dean of the faculty of Applied Sciences I was responsible of increasing the research output of the Faculty by nearly 300%. This is my vision for the University in my capacity as the Vice-Chancellor. The University is currently one of the fastest growing Universities in-terms of research, however it’s out-put can be improved.
I hope to increase the interest of the academic body towards research and innovation. An unfortunate calamity of this nation is that though admirable research is done, they are only limited to the journals. The next step of taking them to the public or the production stage is not considered and sometimes even frowned upon. Thereby, my focus will be on encouraging academics and students to take their research and ideas to the public. This is the only way to drive our nation towards a more developed tomorrow.
Conducive Environment to Study
The full potential of students could be only released if they allowed to work in a conducive environment. A number of infrastructure and facility development projects that have either been commenced or in pipeline will cater to this burning need of students.
The opening of the State-of-the-art Faculty complex of the Faculty of Technology and the opening of the Faculty complex of the Faculty of Engineering which is scheduled to be completed in 2022, the university has put its best efforts to provide students with quality infrastructure that will aid them in creating the mind-set necessary to educate themselves and face the job environments that they will be part off.
I share the view of my predecessor that the environment plays a huge role in the moulding of the students mentality, therefore, I hope to keep-up the momentum of infrastructural development while tasking measures to develop the mindfulness centre and the cultural centre, which I hope will be the centre of student activities.
Prowess in Sports Activities and other extra-curricular activities
The University of Sri Jayewardenepura boasts of over three years of Championship in the Sri Lanka University Games (SLUG) and have received many international awards with students even taking part in the Olympic Games.
The University has also gained recognition in its many-extra curricula activities, in areas such as debating speaking, social work etc. I hope in my tenure I will be able to further encourage these activities.
A university education is not just education and academia, it is a training towards leading a successful life. A person cannot lead a full life if he is not well versed in culture, experienced in art and endowed with management and team working skills. This is the purpose of sports and extra-curricular activities.
In my experience a versatile graduate is one that has experienced University life to its full potential, not just in academia, even though it is a major part of education.
Being the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura is a divine glory bestowed to only a few, and it is my privilege to take up the mantle of leading this esteemed institution towards development and glory
Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage