Autonomy is the key in university governance

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samikhayat
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Location: Negros Oriental State University - Philippines
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Autonomy is the key in university governance

Post by samikhayat » Wed May 24, 2006 1:40 am

H.M.Nissanka Warakaulle the Executive Secretary of Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors in SRI LANKA, wrote enlightening article titled “EXTERNAL INFLUENCES ON UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE “ published in the UNESCO website on 2004-11-12.

I quoted
“Autonomy is the key in university governance. However, autonomy does not mean the university can do what it wants, the way it wants, disregarding the needs of the general public and the country. Any university (may be, other than the private ones) should be mindful of the national needs in whatever it does as it is the tax payer who supports the institution.”

And also he said
The matter of institutional autonomy is very important. It might be essential to recall what the White Paper on Higher Education of 1997 in South Africa had to say about it:
The principle of institutional autonomy refers to a high degree of self-regulation and administrative independence with respect to student admissions, curriculum, methods of teaching and assessment, research, establishment of academic regulations and the internal management of resources generated from private and public sources. Such autonomy is a condition of effective self-government.’


I would like to share this article with the Iraqi educators whom involved in refining the path of Higher Education in Iraq.
You can read it as I post it below or download the article from UNESCO website in MS Word document format
http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/e ... N=201.html
or
http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/f ... kaulle.doc

Regards

Engr. Sami M. Khayat , M.Sc.
Negros Oriental State University
Dumaguete City, 6200
Philippines.
http://www.norsu.edu.ph


EXTERNAL INFLUENCES ON UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE

Autonomy is the key in university governance. However, autonomy does not mean the university can do what it wants, the way it wants, disregarding the needs of the general public and the country. Any university (may be, other than the private ones) should be mindful of the national needs in whatever it does as it is the tax payer who supports the institution.

The matter of institutional autonomy is very important. It might be essential to recall what the White Paper on Higher Education of 1997 in South Africa had to say about it:
‘ The principle of institutional autonomy refers to a high degree of self-regulation and administrative independence with respect to student admissions, curriculum, methods of teaching and assessment, research, establishment of academic regulations and the internal management of resources generated from private and public sources. Such autonomy is a condition of effective self-government.”

In most countries, there is a fine balance between regulations and institutional autonomy. The limitations on the former create the space for the latter to be exercised. In fact, originally, regulations created academic freedom and consequently institutional autonomy.

The preamble to the Constitution of the International Association of Universities stated over fifty years ago that universities have a “high responsibility as guardians of the intellectual life”, and they stand for certain fundamental principles: “The right to pursue knowledge for its own sake and to follow wherever the search for truth may lead” as well as “the tolerance of divergent opinion and freedom from political interference”. Furthermore, the preamble evokes “their obligation as social institutions to promote , through teaching and research, the principle of freedom and justice of human dignity and solidarity” and to “develop material and moral aid on an international level”.

The core values indicated above are, to a large extent still upheld in Western universities: especially the tolerance of divergent opinion; freedom from political interference; the promotion of the principles of freedom and justice, of human dignity and solidarity. In most Asian universities, except perhaps in India, these principles have to a large extent been compromised. Autonomy is still a dream; the pursuit of freedom and justice tends to end at a convenient point. In many Asian universities the agenda of the university is deeply locked into implementation of the national plan which means that the hand of the government is not far away. Moreover, in most Asian universities, sheer numbers militate strongly against the broadening of individual opportunity.

The concept of university, as known and applied in the modern world, is of Western origin, and today’s universities have mostly evolved from medieval European
models and because of their background, universities in their legal and institutional history were related both to church and state. However, this changed significantly over the centuries and by the mid-1900s there had been a distinct shift internationally from elite university education to more mass higher education that saw an increase in the number of universities, the addition of other institutional types in the higher education sector and higher student numbers.

All of this resulted in greater state funding for higher education, which in turn contributed to the changing relationship between the state, higher education and society. Internally, this signaled a shift from the ancient forms of collegial academic rule to the new “managerialism”. While there was a significant shift in the internal power positions of the higher education institutions, this did not impact directly on their institutional autonomy. However, the changes in the external environment, taken together with the internal institutional changes, have had a significant impact on autonomy.

This impact has been felt by the universities in many countries where the governments have promulgated legislation to control the activities of universities. In Sri Lanka, the governments at various times introduced legislation to limit the powers of the universities in certain areas. In South Africa, this impact is clearly evident where the situation in the external environment during apartheid led to the promulgation of the Extension of University Education Act of 1959,which sought to limit the admission of black students to traditionally white universities. The liberal universities considered this as an attack on institutional autonomy as it was a direct threat to their academic freedom in terms of deciding who should be taught.

Further, the Higher Education Act in South Africa has been amended every year since the appointment of the current Minister in charge of Higher Education in 1999. Whilst in 2000 he amended the Act to limit the borrowing ability of institutions and to provide for the registration of private higher educational institutions, in 2002 the Higher Education Act was amended to provide for the administrative powers of the Minister in the case of mergers and to deal with the composition of councils of higher education institutions. This alone indicates a desire of the government to regulate every event and in this way reduce institutional autonomy and centralize power in the Minister.

Though autonomy has been maintained by universities in the developed world (at least in some countries ), it is not so in respect of the Third World at present. In the developing countries too, at the inception, the universities were autonomous as their counterparts in the developed world, but gradually the autonomy began to erode as a result of various extraneous influences on the university administration, not necessarily or only from the government. We are, of course, aware that the governments in many countries have an influence on the university administration.

The influence of the government on universities takes various forms. While in some countries the influence could be of a strong nature, in others it may be mild and sometimes negligible. When we talk of the influence of the government, we mean mostly the influence on State universities and not on the private universities which have been established in a large number of countries. In the case of most universities, the funding required to maintain and run the universities come from the government coffers. Therefore, one could argue that if the government funds the universities then the government should have a say in what the university does. However, it all depends on how the government does it. If it is in a manner that could stifle the activities of the university, it could be counterproductive, though the government may be trying to have some control over the university.

The government can control the activities of a university in many ways. The most effective way of controlling the activities of a university is through funding. This could be done directly by the Treasury, if it gives the funds directly to the university. Or it could be effected through a third party such as the University Grants Commission (UGC ). In Sri Lanka, up to 2002, the disbursement of funds to the universities was done by the UGC which received a block grant from the Treasury. But in 2002, the Treasury took over the task of allocating funds to the universities direct. As and when the government is inclined to curtail the activities of universities, the easiest way to do so is to restrict the amount of funds doled out. This was very effectively done in Sri Lanka in 2002 and 2003 when the government grant was restricted to an extent that most of the universities could not carry on their academic activities, and some of them had to refrain from taking in the new batches of students that had to be admitted to the universities during this period.

In most countries the criteria for the admission of students are decided by the universities themselves and the prospective students who have the requisite qualifications have to apply direct to the respective university. In certain other countries the admission policy is decided by the government, and the admissions to the universities will be done by a central authority. This is the case in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka the policy on admission of students is decided by the government, so that some students are selected on the basis of merit while others are selected on a
district quota system. The universities or the UGC cannot change this policy, however unreasonable it may be.

The candidates who gain admission on the basis of merit could be from any part of Sri Lanka. Such candidates would have obtained the highest aggregate of marks at the GCE Advanced Level examination, which is the examination for the selection of students to all universities. Depending on the stream in which they studied, ie, Arts, Commerce, etc., the selections on merit would be done to all faculties in all universities on the basis of the choices of such students.

The candidates selected on the district quota system would be on the basis of the cut off marks in respect of each district, which varies from district to district. There are advantages as well as disadvantages in the district quota system. The candidates from remote and under-privileged districts could gain admission to a faculty where there is a stiff competition to enter, even after having 100 marks less than those who have been admitted on merit. The disadvantage would be that some of these students might not be able to cope up with the work, say in a faculty of medicine, and would drop out half way through the course, and a few, may be even before completion of the first year.

But still, no government will be willing to take the initiative to amend this admission criteria, as it is a very volatile political issue. The minority communities, ie, Tamils and Muslims feel that children of their communities living and studying in areas which lack the facilities that the children of schools in developed districts enjoy have to rely on the district quota system to gain entry to the universities. This is the same view held by the majority community, the Sinhalese, living in less developed /remote districts. There being a fair number of districts in this category, the politicians would not dare to change this criteria of selection.

The medium of instruction is another important aspect that the universities in Sri Lanka did not and does not have control of, whereas in most other countries it is the university that decides on the medium of instruction. In Sri Lanka, there are three languages used by the main communities; Sinhala is the mother tongue of the majority community, the Sinhalese, Tamil is used by the Tamil and Muslim communities, and English is the language of many people of all communities and is the mother tongue of the Burgher community, the descendants of the Dutch. Soon after a change of government in 1956, on the basis of the election manifesto and the promise given, it was decided to switch over to the Sinhala Language from English as the official language of the country. Thus, the medium of instruction in schools and the universities changed from English to Sinhala or Tamil in the early sixties to keep in line with the decision of the government. But now, after over forty years the governments have realized the folly of this change , and are now gradually reverting to English. This is a tremendous task. The teachers have to be trained first, and only then that the change-over could be of any benefit. Some universities have been able to conduct some courses in English. But, in almost all the universities postgraduate courses are conducted in English.

In the era prior to 1956,the Sri Lankans who studied in the English medium were so competent in the language, as they had access to a greater degree of materials from all over the world , and they were therefore, able to compete with others from any part of the world. So that there was a very large number of Sri Lankans holding very important positions in world organizations and institutions. However, with the switching over to the vernacular in 1956, gradually the situation changed for the worse! Once those who had had some part of their education in the English medium in school, had completed their university career, the others who joined the universities later, may be in and after the mid-sixties, were not in a position to make maximum, or sometimes any, use of the literature available in English. Later on, the situation became worse, where the students were neither competent in English nor in the vernacular!

The quality of tertiary education declined sharply with the instruction in the English medium being replaced with teaching in Sinhala or Tamil since teaching in schools had been conducted already in the vernacular. The student entering the university was often poorly equipped with the background or learning to follow what was taught in the universities because they had not read the information available in English and could not do so even in regard to required reference reading while being an undergraduate. They lagged behind the better English educated students from urban schools.

Another cause for the lowering of the quality of attainment or acquirement in education was the moving out of all foreign teachers with the switch over. Their knowledge and experience never benefited the new vernacular versed undergraduate. Naturally, with the depression in the quality of teaching, most undergraduates were taught inadequately and owing to their inability to read in English they learned less and less. They were of lower standards compared to their predecessors.

The switch over of the medium of instruction had a very adverse effect on the new staff recruited. Unlike in the fifties or sixties, the present day recruits to the staff often fail to achieve their higher degrees which call for assiduous and profound research study. They seek extensions of time and a few still never earn the higher qualifications. Some spend years abroad on scholarships and return as failures.

Another aspect where the influence of the government could be seen is in the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor. If it is done within the system, then it will be sans any extraneous influence. This was so at the beginning when the Universities Act of 1978 was operative. The Court of the university elected the Vice-Chancellor at a special meeting convened for the purpose. The duly elected person is thereafter appointed as the Vice-Chancellor by the Chancellor. In this situation, there was absolutely no influence from outside and the person best suited was appointed to the position.

However, the government amended the Act in 1985 to do away with the Court and the procedure regarding the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor. The repealing of the relevant sections did more harm than good. Added to this was a new section where the President was vested with the power of removing a Vice-Chancellor after consultation with the UGC.

In 1995, the government brought in fresh legislation to restrict the tenure of office of a Vice-Chancellor to two consecutive terms of three years each.

At present, the Vice-Chancellors of all universities in Sri Lanka are appointed by the President of Sri Lanka after following a specified procedure prior to submission of the names recommended to the President for appointment of one of them to the post. In all instances of this nature, the appointee will be a person aligned to the government, or even if such person has no political alignment, he will be deemed to be so, in the eyes of the others, especially the students. The students having an impression that the Vice-Chancellor is a henchman of the government, especially if the government is a party disliked by the majority of the student population, then the Vice-Chancellor can expect only problems throughout his term of office. With the appointment being done by the Head of State, the Vice-Chancellor has to toe the line of the government. Else, he might not get his next term.

There have been a number of instances where the person that the university governing authority expected to be appointed to the post was not appointed, but another from the panel of three was appointed by the President. This happened under two different situations. In some instances, the prospective nominee from the university could be a person who is politically aligned to a party in opposition. Then
the President appoints another from the panel submitted and who is more with the government. Or if no such person is available, a neutral person may be appointed. The other instance would be a situation that arises when the President is from a different political party to that in power in the Parliament. The prospective nominee for the post would be one who is with the governing party. But when the names are submitted to the President, a dark horse would be appointed!

In many countries, where there is a number of universities, the government sometimes establishes a central authority to overlook the affairs of the universities. In most cases this type of authority does not have a stringent overview of the universities, as their function may be only to disburse the funds amongst the universities. Once this is attended to, the functions of the authority ends there. Then there are such authorities which would have a greater say. In Sri Lanka, we have had a National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) from 1966 to 1972 which overlooked the working of the universities. The objects of the NCHE were
1) the apportionment of funds and control of expenditure on higher education,
2) the maintenance of academic standards in higher educational institutes, 3) the administration of such institutes, 4) the co-ordination of higher education with the needs of the nation for social, cultural and economic development, and 5) and any other such matters as the Minister may refer to that Council for its advice. The Minister, in his capacity as such, was responsible for the general direction of higher education and the administration of the Act. He was able to issue to the NCHE such general written directions as deemed necessary to enable him to discharge effectively his responsibility for higher education. He had the power to order all or any of the activities, or the administration of any higher educational institute to be investigated and reported upon by the NCHE. He was able to authorize a university to postpone the commencement of carrying out its objects if he was satisfied that the university was not in a position to do so from the date of its establishment.

The powers of the NCHE seemed to have been designed to control the activities of the universities allowing them leeway only in respect of a very few activities. Its powers were-
a) to inquire into or investigate, from time to time, the financial needs of Higher Educational Institutes,
b) to prepare quadrennial budgets for the maintenance and development, or any other general or special purpose,
c) to make recommendations, from time to time, to the Minister as to the nature and amount of grants to be given to each university,
d) to determine the total number of students who shall be admitted to each university and the apportionment of that number to the different courses of study in that Institute,
e) to regulate, in respect of each university
i) the departments of study which shall be provided and followed,
ii) the conditions relating to the housing and accommodation of students
and staff,
iii) the fees to be paid to examiners, invigilators or other persons
for the purpose of examinations,
iv) the fees to be charged for the courses of study, examinations, etc.,
v) the numbers and qualifications of students for the award of
scholarships, exhibitions and bursaries, and
vi) the general organization of examinations

In 1972 the new Universities Act (No. 1 of 1972 ) did away with the NCHE and also amalgamated all existing universities into one single university with the “Senate House” at the apex. Anyone looking at the new organization would have obviously thought that the university was autonomous and had a free hand in everything. But in reality it was not so. The Minister in charge of Education, through an Assistant
Secretary in his Ministry, controlled all activities of the university. This was possible because the Act was never in force, as throughout its entire period, it was “transitional”. Even with regard to the appointment of personnel to the university, the influence of the Ministry official was evident, at least in some instances. Most importantly, the Vice-Chancellor was appointed by the Minister and he had the power to remove him. Fortunately the power of removal was never exercised by the Minister as the Vice-Chancellors never provoked him to do so during their tenure of office.

The governing authority of the university was the Board of Governors, which, if it functioned in terms of the provisions of the Act as intended, had powers to make recommendations to the Minister as to the nature and amount of grants out of public funds required by the Campuses and Faculties, prepare triennial budgets for the maintenance and development of the university, to allocate and disburse funds to the Campuses, to establish a Central Agency for Admissions to regulate and co-ordinate all admissions, to appoint teachers and officers, amongst others. The Board of Governors was not in a position to exercise any of these powers as the provisions of the Act were never enforced. The Board, therefore, acted as an Advisory Board of Governors, with the Vice-Chancellor carrying out its functions and duties single handedly, though the Board of Governors met quite regularly. This however did not mean that the Vice-Chancellor had a free hand in conducting the affairs of the University, for he had to have regular consultations with the Minister relating to the affairs of the university. Of course, the Minister very rarely had consultations as he had delegated this function to an Assistant Secretary in his Ministry.

The Minister wielded powers, other than the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, 1) to effect the closure of a Campus or a Faculty if the work or administration of such Campus or Faculty had been seriously dislocated and the university authorities had failed to restore normal conditions, 2) to suspend the operation of any of the provisions of the Act or any appropriate Instrument, and 3) to appoint a person to exercise, discharge or perform in lieu of any officer, Authority or other body of the university, any power, function or duty.

The most striking clause in respect of the Minister’s powers was the one which categorically stated that “any decision made, any action taken or any Order made by the Minister under this sub-section shall not be called in question in any Court of law whether by way of writ, mandate or otherwise”.
In 1979, with the enactment of a new Act of Parliament, a new controlling authority was set up to overlook the universities , which were decentralized again. The University Grants Commission (UGC ), unlike its counterparts in other countries, not only disbursed the government grant amongst the universities, but also formulated schemes of recruitment for all cadre positions in the universities, and sent out instructions on various matters pertaining to university administration in the form of circulars, and the universities had to abide by these instructions.

By having schemes of recruitment for appointment of staff and uniform salary scales for all employees formulated by the UGC, it ensured that the universities have to abide by these. This has been done to ensure that the better teachers are not enticed by universities by offering higher positions and better salaries. In fact, transfer of academic staff from one university to another was debarred by this Act, so that they could move from one university to another only if selected to a position on application when advertised. The transfers of non-academic staff were handled by the UGC. These transfers were effected mostly at the request of the employees. But in some instances, they could be effected on disciplinary grounds. The university that got a bad egg had to be saddled with such employee until his retirement! There have been instances where senior administrative staff transferred in this manner have created endless problems to the university to which he has been transferred.

The government was able to control the activities of any university by way of the grant. This was done to an extent in the years 2002 and 2003, when the funds given to the universities were not according to their needs , but as decided by the Treasury. To add to this cut in the grant, the Treasury imposed an embargo on appointment of staff to certain positions in the cadre; so that the universities faced a real crisis as they were not in a position to carry on their day to day functions, could not admit new students, could not continue some courses and had to undergo other hardships. But fortunately for the University System, this position was rectified with the change in government in 2004.

With the restriction in funding, another aspect of the universities which was very adversely affected was the research of university teachers. As the funds from the Treasury were insufficient to siphon off for research, only teachers who were able to obtain funds from sources other than the government were able to engage in research. Thus, the very important aspect of research had to be curtailed in Sri Lankan universities for the first time. As a result of this restriction in funding, there were instances where the universities had to dip into their research grants received from foreign donors, to pay the salaries of employees.

An external influence on universities could also take place in an indirect manner. This is through the outside members on the governing authorities in universities. In Sri Lanka, there is one such member more than the number of members from within the university on the governing authority. These members are appointed by the UGC, but usually they are the persons recommended by the Minister, so that they are more or less obliged towards the governing party. This would obviously mean that they would see to it that the university administration toes the line of the government. There have been instances where the affairs of the governing authority have not been able to be carried out because the appointed members and the ex-officio members had been at loggerheads, when neither party was willing to give in.

The influence of the Minister on university administration has also been seen in a few instances. One such incident was when the Minister revoked an order issued by the Vice-Chancellor of a university to suspend some students on the basis of findings at a disciplinary inquiry. The Minster had resorted to this course of action because the students who had received the punishment were members of a pro-government student group. The outcome of this decision of the Minister was that the Vice-Chancellor resigned.

Then a far worse situation arose in another university. After a clash between two factions of students which resulted in the death of one student, the university had to be closed for a fairly long period of time. After all security arrangements were made to create a congenial environment, the university was reopened. However, one group of students insisted on the Vice-Chancellor being removed. Unfortunately for the Vice-Chancellor, he was an appointee from the government in power, and from the very beginning he never saw eye to eye with the President who was from another political party. This situation took an unexpected turn when a senior teacher joined the bandwagon and commenced a fast unto death demanding the removal of the Vice-Chancellor. Later, more staff joined, and the President, conceding to the demand, removed the Vice-Chancellor. Subsequently it was revealed that the teacher who started the ball rolling , had been served with a charge sheet by the Vice-Chancellor for an alleged examination misconduct!

Whereas earlier the universities in Sri Lanka had a free hand in the appointment of persons to all positions in the universities, with the setting up of the UGC this changed. Now the universities were able to appoint all academic staff, all non-academic personnel and the Registrar and Bursar, but the appointment of all other administrative officers was vested with the UGC by the Act itself. This meant that the universities had to accept any person sent to fill a vacancy in a university whether the universities were happy with the persons so appointed or not. From the time these appointments were made, some Vice-Chancellors were complaining of the incompetence of these appointees.

In addition to these restrictions, in the year 2000 the universities were forced to adopt an entirely different procedure with regard to the appointment of non-academic staff to certain lower grades. The persons to be appointed to these positions had to be selected from lists of names sent by the Minister. Here too the universities had no choice, except when all persons sent were found to be unsuitable when the university concerned could select persons by an open advertisement.

Another strange form of influence on the university, which may be peculiar only to Sri Lanka, is that from the politically aligned trade unions of university employees. While the agitation of trade unions on various matters could be within the university, there have been instances where the parent unions try to influence the university administration on various matters , especially in respect of disciplinary actions against their members. Of course, though this may not be that serious an influence, in some instances it could develop into a major issue.

Similar to the employees’ trade unions, the students too have their unions affiliated to the political parties of the country or as an inter-university federation. Either way, they make every effort to influence the administration of a university by resorting to protests at public places or holding media conferences to try to convince the public that administration of that university is at fault.

External influences on universities can, sometimes, take an entirely different perspective. In early 2004, two private universities in India petitioned the Delhi High Court to quash the Federal University Grants Commission (Establishment and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities ) Regulations 2003. The two universities were Dr. CV Raman University and the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) which were established by professional bodies under recent state legislation in Chattigarh and Uttaranchal respectively. In filing the petition, these two universities had argued that their status under state law is legitimate, and as they do not receive any funding through the UGC, they should not be subject to its rulings. The Court was informed that the UGC wanted to “control” the private universities and not merely assure quality.

Essentially, the UGC Regulations require private universities to conform to the same standards of teaching and learning, infrastructure, facilities and governance that apply to public universities. The UGC may inspect any private university and if any deficiencies are not resolved, it could demand that the university cease to offer higher education awards.

No Indian State had exercised its (implied) right to establish private universities prior to Chattisgarh’s Private Universities Act of 2002. Hence no Indian higher education institute had recourse to university title other than through federal arrangements under the UGC Act of 1956. This Act does not specifically give the UGC the power to revoke university title or degree-awarding powers. However, there is reference to “approval” of all degrees by the UGC, and this has generally
been the contention over the years. Therefore, it could be assumed that the 2003 regulations are an attempt to use the text of the 1956 Act to retain proscriptive
action. The UGC cannot demand that private universities relinquish university title, it is asserting that its founding Act gives it the right to oversee the direction and quality of all universities in India, be they public or private, state or federally constituted.

The task for the UGC is to assure minimum standards across the board and a regulatory burden commensurate with private status. For the State, an important advantage of private higher education is the reduced drain on public funds, but equally advantageous may be reduced public oversight. The details of the relationship between private higher education and the state in a particular country is refined over time, and it is hoped that the legal battle the private universities and the UGC will yield positive results. This “control” by the UGC is not a matter of interest to India only. The 2003 regulations specifically state that the rules also apply to any private university offering courses of study in conjunction with foreign universities.
The external influences on universities in other countries, especially in the developed world, may not be to that extent it is prevalent in Sri Lanka, but still there will be a certain amount of influence from outside. For example, in certain cases this influence may be in the form of grants to engage in research projects for the benefit of the donor, and the influence could be in a very subtle manner. So that, however
much universities try to ward off influence from outside, it cannot be prevented completely.

As a result of increased investment in universities by the commercial sector, public suspicion has been raised over the consequences of university- industry links. Co-operative research with industry raises the question of whether such investments will influence and change both the institutional climate and the individual values and attitudes of the researchers. However, in Canada, a study of 500 graduate engineering students funded by government and industry revealed no differences in the way they chose their research project, their rate of publication, their perception of “applied” and “basic” research, and their feeling of academic freedom.

With increasing globalisation and competition, the erosion of public budgets, and a changing socio-economic environment, universities in many countries are facing a complex challenge of successfully changing without sacrificing their academic freedom or compromising their fundamental research and teaching missions.

Standing at the cross- roads of research, education and innovation, universities are strategically placed to influence the scientific and technological future of society. Yet they face many challenges in the course of their mission. Global competition, the marketing of knowledge, shrinking notions of space and time, along with changes in the nature of intellectual work generated by advances in the information and communication technologies, as well as the accelerated pace of knowledge acquisition, are rapidly transforming research and education.

Whatever external influences that may be directed towards them, the universities have frequently been regarded as key institutions in the process of social change and development. The most explicit role they have been allocated is the production of highly skilled labour and research output to meet perceived economic needs. But, during periods of social transformation, universities may help in encouraging and facilitating new cultural values, and in helping to build new institutions of civil society. The roles played by universities in these modernization projects could be largely autonomous or set firmly within state plans and control mechanisms.


H.M.Nissanka Warakaulle
Executive Secretary
Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors
57, Ramakrishna Road
Colombo 6
SRI LANKA

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