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Brain Drain Plagues Sri Lankan Higher Education – 900 University Lecturers Depart in 2023

In a concerning exodus, approximately 900 university lecturers exited Sri Lanka in 2023, dealing a significant blow to the higher education system, as reported by the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) in Colombo.

Sri Lankan universities, hosting around 155,000 students, require about 13,000 academics for optimal functionality. However, with only 6,500 lecturers presently employed in public universities, the vacancy rate stands at a staggering 50%, according to Sri Lanka’s University Grants Commission.

The departure of educators is attributed to a confluence of factors, including the country grappling with its worst economic crisis and deepest recession since gaining independence in 1948. A Central Bank of Sri Lanka report reveals negative economic growth of -7.4% in 2022 and -3.8% in 2023, prompting fiscal measures such as a controversial new income tax structure.

Introduced due to decreased government revenues, the tax structure has faced criticism from professionals, including doctors and university teachers who now face higher taxes. University lecturers have actively participated in recent tax protests alongside other professionals.

How many Lecturers left Sri Lanka in 2022, 2023 & 2024 years?

FUTA spokesperson Charudaththe Illangasinghe disclosed that over 300 university lecturers left Sri Lanka in 2022, and the number surged to nearly 900 in 2023. An additional 1,000 teachers are currently on leave abroad, with many contemplating resignation, further depleting the academic workforce.

Illangasinghe foresees an increase in migration if economic challenges persist in 2024, estimating that at least 10% of current university teachers may opt to leave the country.

A 2023 FUTA survey of 2,000 university teachers indicated that 25% expressed an intention to leave, citing tax policies and soaring inflation as primary reasons. While the government recently approved a 25% increase in study allowances for university teachers, Illangasinghe stressed that the overall increment falls short of meeting collective needs.

The brain drain is taking a toll on universities, leading to severe funding and human resource crises. FUTA emphasized challenges arising from a significant brain drain and government policies limiting the recruitment of permanent staff. Despite a rise in annual student intake, academic staff numbers have not increased, resulting in an imbalanced student-teacher ratio, lecture cancellations, and exam marking delays.

The issue extends beyond university teachers, as professionals like doctors, nurses, scientists, and IT experts are also migrating overseas in search of employment opportunities. The impact of this ongoing trend raises critical concerns about the future of Sri Lanka’s higher education system and the broader professional landscape.

Inputs from – UniversityWorldNews

Photo – File Photo (Parliement.lk )

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