This media statement is issued by a joint alliance of unions of the Open University of Sri Lanka representing all academic, non-academic and student communitiesof the university.
We express ourstrong opposition and alarm at the arbitrary rejection of the Vice Chancellor shortlist of the university by the Presidential Secretariat. As the term of the current Vice Chancellor ends on 23rd June2021 the university began the processfor identifying and selecting a successor almost 6 months ago. This process took place under the new Circular No 02/2020issued by the University Grants Commissionon 04thMay 2020.It is under this circular that all current Vice Chancellor selections in state universities is taking place. This is a nationally advertised competitive selection process during which candidates are screened by two independent panels. One panel consists offive members drawn from the academic community, state administration and the private sector. The applicants shortlisted by this panelsubsequentlymake presentations in front of the University Council –the supreme body entrusted with the governance of the university under the 1978 Universities’ Act –and thereafter the Council nominates three names to the UGC which in turn sends thesenames to the President to make afinal selection. However, in this casethe Presidential Secretariathas created confusion and crisis by informing the university through the UGC that all three names are rejected and that the position needs to be re-advertised. The relevant section in the Universities Actof 1978regarding the appointment of the Vice Chancellor givesno provision for such a rejection.This arbitrary act by the presidential secretariat sets an extremely dangerous precedent for the university system as a whole.
The joint trade union alliance believes that the system in place and the system under which the nomination list was selected needs to prevail. Our position is that government needs to honour its own rulesintroduced last year and that the autonomous function of universities is ensured.Arbitraryexecutive interference with this system can lead to a chaotic situation where systems and processes of governance become irrelevant.We urge the government to appoint a suitable person from among the list already sent by the council of the OUSL without wasting precious resources and time of the university by re-advertising,the position. In a time of global crisis created by the Covid-19 virus the OUSL should be able to serve its student population without spending its energy on issues of this nature.
Prof. Anton Piyarathne
President/ Open University
Teacher’s Association –OUTA
Trade Union Federation-OUSL
President/ Open University