Achieving the Zenith of Education: Human Rights Based Transformation of Higher Education in Sri Lanka

In: Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law
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  • 1 ll.b. (Hons) (University of Colombo). Lecturer (temporary), Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and Researcher, Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka,

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As a country that has ratified core international human rights treaties, Sri Lanka has an international obligation to ensure that its higher education sector meets the standards set out in those treaties. However, due to a lack of normative recognition accorded at constitutional, legislative and policy levels, attempts at conformity with the aforementioned standards have been ad hoc and reactive. Consequently, whereas quality assurance mechanisms pertaining to state institutions are still in formative stages, private educational institutions have sprung up in the country without any effective scrutiny as to quality. The main method of challenging the standards of private institutions has been to reject the graduates from the said institutions.

This article explores the parameters of higher education as a state obligation under international human rights law, whereby the state is required simultaneously to be a provider of higher education and a facilitator of other providers to ensure that availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of higher education are upheld. Establishment of a mechanism equipped to make human rights based transformations to the higher education sector of Sri Lanka is suggested to redress the deficiencies in setting standards for private higher educational institutions by the state.