The University Grants Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka and the World Bank have joined forces to advance higher education operations in the South Asia Region (SAR). This partnership was further solidified under the banner of “Regional Cooperation for Higher Education Development: Options for the South Asia Region”, a joint 2-day event and forum, which was held on the 6th and 7th of June 2023 in Colombo, at the Taj Samudra Hotel. This collaborative initiative was aimed at fostering knowledge exchange, exploring collaboration opportunities, and showcasing recent advancements in higher education.
The initiative brought together distinguished delegates from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Key representatives from the World Bank too were present to contribute their expertise and insights. A special dinner was also hosted during the event, where the keynote lecture was delivered by The Hon. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Education in Sri Lanka.
The 2-day event successfully achieved its objective of bringing together leaders from the South Asia Region (SAR), and officials from the UGC and the Ministry of Education to explore collaboration opportunities. It provided a platform for fruitful discussions on further enhancing cooperation in higher education. The presentation of the World Bank report on “Regional Cooperation for Higher Education Development: Options for the South Asia Region”, which was the key focus of the event, offered valuable insights and recommendations for the advancement of higher education in the region.
Ample opportunities for peer-to-peer exchanges, networking, and engagement with the press were provided during the 2-day event. The agenda included panel discussions featuring renowned experts such as Dr Nina Arnhold, Global Lead for Tertiary Education at the World Bank, and Professor Seeram Ramakrishna, Co-Director of the NUS Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative, among others.
The welcome addresses were delivered by Professor Sampath Amaratunga, Chairman of UGC Sri Lanka, and Chiyo Kanda, Country Manager of the World Bank. Important presentations were also made by Cecile Fruman, Director of Regional Integration and Engagement at the World Bank, and Dr Jamil Salmi, Global Tertiary Education Expert, while the sessions were moderated by Harsha Aturupane, Lead Economist at the World Bank, and Keiko Inoue, Manager at the World Bank.
Subsequent to the conclusion of the sessions on the 2nd day, the delegates were treated to an extensive in-person visit to the University of Colombo, to better understand recent higher education developments in Sri Lanka, supported by the World Bank’s Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) Operation. These developments have brought about significant innovations, particularly in areas such as enrolment expansion, teaching, learning, assessment, and research and development.
This collaboration between the UGC and the World Bank underscores their shared commitment to advancing higher education in the South Asian region. Fostering regional cooperation, promoting best practices, and facilitating knowledge sharing, this initiative strives to drive sustainable development and address the evolving needs of the Region’s higher education sector.