The Sri Lankan government is to establish three new universities to increase the student intake to 15,000 per year.
They will be at Anuradhapura, Ampara and Ratnapura. New faculties are also to open at several universities and a college of ayuveda (indigenous medicine) has been affiliated to the University of Kelaniya.
The government has also spent Rs500 million (Pounds 6,090,000) on doubling student accommodation. The upper limit of family incomes for eligibility of Mahapola scholarships (for university students) has been raised from Rs48,000 to Rs90,000, increasing the number of scholarship holders.
The island's university system is in a state of deep crisis with the fundamental problems neglected for a long time and unless solutions are found urgently destablisation, frustration and chaos in society will result, Wiswa Warnapala, deputy minister of higher education said.
Meanwhile the controversial affiliated university colleges set up by the previous government are on the way out. There are at present 11 of them with barely 3,000 students.
According to present proposals three colleges in the north and three in the south west will be "amalgated" with two of the proposed universities. The diplomas issued by the colleges lack eligibility for employment either in the private or pubic sector.
Undergraduates are unable to complete a degree before their th year, Professor Warnapala said. He said that the National Education Commission was formulating a policy to make free education cost-effective and productive. Some of the main flaws were lack of hostels, a three-year backlog in admissions, closure of universities on flimsy grounds, lack of discipline and lack of co-ordination.
During the past few years no university faculty had been able to function according to a scheduled calendar and dates, the minister said. There had been strikes and interruption of academic programmes on flimsy grounds. The ragging at universities has degenerated into human torture and has caused serious concern among the public.