Friday, January 25, 2013

Turning Hardy Tec into a University – frought with danger - kalpanakaranna

The 2013 Dayata Kirula PR exhibition of the Government’s media campaign to promote its agenda, to be held at the Hardy Advanced Technological Institute (HATI) in Ampara has been postponed till March 23rd as the scheduled opening date of 4th February did not seem practical. It appears that the floods that hit the Digamadulla District delayed the preparation work and therefore all the private organizations and govt. departments that were also showcasing their individual prowess have had to put up with the revised arrangements.

It has also been disclosed that in keeping with the wishes of the founder of Hardy, HATI will be converted into a University with full degree awarding status soon after the event. 

Just as what happened when the Katubedda Institute of Technology was converted into the University of Moratuwa, a similar set of problems is now bound to raise its ugly head, and a match for future student agitation. It must be remembered that the initial Institute of Technology at Moratuwa now referred to as IT and students identified as NDT, or National Diploma in Technology have just had a battle with the University of Moratuwa Engineering Faculty students who were sitting their final exams. This is to do with the rivalry between undergraduates and diploma students. The latter appears to outnumber the former, but have a huge grudge as the Engineering Students get a more marketable degree and they don’t.

The answer to this clash appears to be the Govt. suggested move of NDT to a new location in Diyagama, Homagama, to a 20 Acre facility where the diplomas can be awarded and therefore no friction with the Undergraduates can surface. Due to a lack of funds allocated to Education this will be a few years in coming to fruition and we are bound to see more clashes between the two in months to come.

Similar sources of friction have surfaced with the University Physiotherapy degree holders and the School of Physiotherapy Diploma Holders, and a similar one with Radiography Diploma and Degree holders. It is this whole diploma vs degree holder debate in Sri Lanka that is getting out of hand and is causing immense friction that I wish to cover in this article. We need both and it is a good idea if one can graduate from one to another if need be, just as is done by NIBM students who begin with a diploma and then graduate to courses, finally with degree awarded by a foreign university, though all the coursework and exams are done in Sri Lanka.
In the case of Hardy, the heading in the article, I wish to point out that there exists a problem already at Hardy where local students who follow basic courses of subjects are facing step motherly treatment over the more intensive and higher level HNDT courses that get better resources. The numbers of local students are greater and they resent the way Hardy has relegated them to second class status.

The classification of this into a university will necessarily create greater animosity amongst the students that fear them being relegated further due to undergraduates receiving the best facilities and treatment, and perhaps being kicked out completely

In advance or in anticipation of this issue, I am writing this to alert the authorities who are planning to convert Hardy into a University to tread carefully, after consulting all stakeholders, especially the existing students by convincing them that this is the best way forward and that the place is ready to obtain this prestigious status.

I recommend that the degree courses are split into modules as is now very common, where there are Diploma receiving modules after one year or two and only after these are completed will students graduate on ability to the degree status. Therefore when considering students for University entrance, the standards are lowered as it pertains to a diploma course, and those who are found suitable only after two years to be permitted to follow the degree course. There will be some issue on the cost of the courses as students will want them to be free too. However in order to limit excess application a reasonable fee must be charged, even though it will still be heavily subsidized and much less expensive that private sector courses. This will ensure that only serious students follow course of their wish with a specific career in mind. This will ensure that ALL students at diploma and degree level follow courses and obtain qualifications that directly assist in them obtaining employment both in Sri Lanka and overseas, and prevents envy as all know they have a chance on ability to get higher if they perform at the Diploma levels.

The full degree to which places will be restricted will be a 4 year course, To that extent the University will be split with more diploma students. There is nothing wrong with that. Many Universities overseas offer the same kind of split. Building block education is the future, and I sincerely hope that Hardy can fill a great void in that region, by offering certificates at one year, diplomas at two, degrees at 4 and perhaps post graduate qualifications to those who have two years relevant work experience after degrees for a further 2 years for a masters course split with work experience and thesis. Now how about that for an idea to raise the employable qualifications in the East for Sinhala and Tamil speaking students!

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