Prof. Saman Thilakasiri, Dean, Engineering and Senior Professor, Faculty of Engineering, SLIIT discusses the significant milestone achieved by SLIIT in achieving the conditional recognition granted by the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) for their Civil Engineering degree program. Prof. Thilakasiri, himself a chartered civil engineer and a fellow member of IESL, shares insights into the journey, the importance of the recognition, and the impact of it on the institute and aspiring civil engineers.
Q: Can you elaborate on the significance of SLIIT’s Civil Engineering degree program receiving the conditional IESL recognition?
Receiving conditional recognition from the IESL is a major milestone for the Engineering Faculty and SLIIT. As a non-state higher education institute, we take immense pride in this recognition. We are very proud to receive the conditional recognition from the apex body for professional engineers in Sri Lanka. The recognition process was thorough and rigorous, involving the submission of a comprehensive self-evaluation report (SER) to IESL and a five-member evaluation panel of esteemed engineers from academia and industry, appointed by IESL went through that report. The same panel conducted an on-site visit to verify our compliance with their stringent requirements and to assess our facilities. We are deeply grateful to the IESL for this honour.
Q: What are the criteria that SLIIT successfully addressed to achieve the recognition?
There are four main criteria for the evaluation process with various subcategories under each of them. The first criterion focuses on the academic program, while the second criterion includes staff and students. The third criterion is regarding the faculty’s available facilities, and the fourth evaluates the overall system with the special emphasis on quality assurance system in place. We are proud to have met all the requirements to obtain conditional recognition of the Civil Engineering degree program.
To provide more detail about the staff and students in the Civil Engineering degree program, we have a dedicated team of over 30 full-time academic staff members, with 14 of them holding PhD degrees. They work diligently to uplift the department of Civil Engineering. The Institution of Engineers recognize our adequate staffing levels, and our recruitment practices. The facilities available at the institute and at department levels, the IESL’s evaluation confirmed that our resources are on par with those provided by other recognized universities. These facilities ensure that every individual is well-supported and in Civil Engineering, we have in house seven state of the art laboratory facilities.
Q: Please elaborate on how the recognition will benefit the students and impact their career paths?
One significant benefit for our students is that on graduation, they will hold a degree from a program that is officially recognized. Graduates from this program will not only receive their degree but also have the opportunity to become associate members of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka – the Apex body for Engineering in Sri Lanka. In terms of their career prospects, the recognition allows them to identify themselves as IESL associate members, providing them with a valuable credential. Furthermore, once they attain associate membership, they can continue to pursue the corporate membership and become Chartered Engineers while working in the industry. This offers a clear advantage in their professional development. Before this conditional recognition, we have produced over 200 associate members of the IESL by passing the graduate qualifying exam and have more than 1,000 student members of IESL.
Q: How does obtaining this recognition enhance the quality and stature of the Degree program?
From the incept, we have implemented an Outcome-Based Education (OBE) approach in our Civil Engineering and other degree programs, emphasizing the quality of education. Our faculty is engaged in extracurricular activities, providing students with a wide range of experiences and opportunities. In addition to that, they can participate in more than 20 different types of sports. The recognition from IESL is a testament to our confidence in our students and educational programs. This external validation strengthens our degrees offered within the Faculty of Engineering and the Civil Engineering Department.
Q: Do you intend to seek similar recognition for your other engineering degree programs in the future?
In addition to Civil Engineering, our faculty offers University Grant Commission (UGC) approved several other engineering degree programs, including Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and Materials Engineering. In addition, we offer Quantity Surveying degree program in collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University. We have initiated the recognition process for Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical and Electronics Engineering of degree programs, apart from Civil Engineering. Additionally, our Quantity Surveying degree program is under consideration by Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) accreditation in the UK, and we are awaiting their response.
Q: How has the staff strength contributed to the IESL recognition?
Our faculty boasts of a substantial number of chartered engineers, and some of them actively serve on the Standing Committees of various professional bodies such as IESL, SLAAS, etc. Additionally, our dedicated students have also made meaningful contributions to IESL events, such as the recent Techno 2023 Exhibition organised by IESL. Our Department of Civil Engineering in particular has a highly qualified team of over 30 full time staff members who bring a wealth of expertise to the program. Within our faculty, in total we have more than 100 fulltime academic staff members. Apart from these fulltime staff, we have various industry experts and other university (including foreign) lectures serving as visiting lecturers in selected modules.Q: Can you elaborate on the activities that the Department is engaged in?
Our Civil Engineering students engage in a variety of extracurricular activities. Notable events are the Annual Spaghetti Bridge Competition specifically designed for Civil Engineering undergraduates, SLIIT’S Got Talent, Ganthera and Civil Padura musical events and SLIIT International Conference of Engineering and Technology (SICET). These are in addition to other events offered by the faculty and the institute like, RoboFest, SLIIT walk, Wasantha Muwadora, SLIIT Carols, Kalanethrum, and IFTHA etc. These events are organized and conducted by the students and through them students gain various skills such as teamwork skills, management skills, communication skills etc. These extracurricular activities demonstrate SLIIT’s commitment to providing a well-rounded educational experience to its students.
Q: Can you discuss the faculty’s and students’ contributions to research?
At SLIIT, specifically within the field of Engineering we offer postgraduate degrees up to the PhD level and have a significant number of PhD and MPhil students. All the students of the faculty carry out individual research in their final year and the students can use our extensive in-house laboratory facilities for their research. Additionally, undergraduate students have access to separate study areas and design studios to conduct their final year research projects. Furthermore, there is a dedicated postgraduate research space with over 20 workspaces for full-time postgraduate students. Some students, who have graduated from SLIIT, are pursuing postgraduate studies overseas and have acknowledged the strength and quality of education they received at SLIIT during the IESL evaluations. Due to research publications in indexed journals and conferences around the world by our staff and students, we have also achieved 7th place in the QS Asia University Rankings 2023, among all the higher-education institutes in Sri Lanka, including the state universities. We are the only non-state institute in that Ranking.