The 35th AGM of Alumni Association of the University of Colombo
The 35th Annual General Meeting of the Alumni Association of the University of Colombo was held recently at the College House, University of Colombo.
The Chief Guest was Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister of Finance. The AGM was also attended by the Vice Chancellor Senior Prof Lakshman Dissanayake, Past presidents of the Association, Academics and Members.
Hon. Eran Wickramaratne in his Keynote Address congratulated the Alumni Association and the University of Colombo for the efforts made towards the development of the undergraduates and the University. Whilst the University should be proud of what has been accomplished, he posed the question whether the Sri Lankan Universities were geared for the future in another 20 years. He said, whilst the future is hard to predict, one can try to understand the same through science.
Reflecting on his experience working at the Citi Bank Hon. Wickramaratne said that the bank at the time was ahead of everyone in terms of technology which gave them a competitive edge over others. 30 years ago, no one anticipated that the internet will change the daily lives of everyone. Similarly, it is hard to anticipate the changes that will take place in another 20 or 30 years. Future of employment will change rapidly. As per research, 50% of US jobs are at risk from technological advances. Artificial Intelligence and machines will take over a number of routine human jobs in the future. He questioned whether Universities in Sri Lanka have considered what would be the future in 20 to 30 years. When a student embarks on a degree at a cost, will that degree provide him with a job or will that degree help him to differentiate himself from the rest, to enable him to secure good employment.
The Hon. Minister highlighted some of the challenges that are faced by the Universities today, in teaching students in the modern era. Whilst students are continuously engaged in tweeting and blogging, they have lost the ability to listen comprehensively, absorb, summarize and evaluate. The ability to think and analyse are skills that will differentiate a student amidst technology. He further said that whilst on the one hand, there is tremendous emphasize for E learning, it is necessary to encourage academic face to face dialog.
The University system had evolved over the years. Prior to the 1950s University education was the domain of the upper classes globally. Thereafter, women and minority ethnic groups entered universities and then universities provided global access. Whilst this is a progress in terms of development and access, we do see a new threat currently where those who have a university degree block the pathway of others to receive university education. Education is a universal right and therefore should be accessible to all.
Hon. Wickramaratne concluded that universities must plan on how they could lead the way to the future by creating multi-disciplined curricula that break the silos between departments and between universities and industries, creating a balance between online and traditional learning models. He reemphasized the need to invest in technology and provide a life experience to the undergraduates by creating a campus based university culture.
Mr. Rajeev Amarasuriya President of the Alumni Association in his address highlighted the key activities that were carried out by the Association during the last year. In the three-year plan set out for the Association in the previous year, three focus areas were Student Welfare Activities, Member Development Activities and the Young Alumni, driven by three Standing Committees. He noted that the Student Welfare Projects have been carried out and Mentoring Programs, Leadership and Personality Development Programs and English language programs have been conducted with the support of the Alumni Partners. He greatly appreciated the contributions made by the Alumni Partners by way of monetary and other contributions. The president informed that he has been able to extend the ties of the Association to North America and New South Wales, Australia through the Alumni branches in those respective countries.
Mr. Amarasuriya also briefed the Association of the largest project which has now been undertaken by the Association, which is to construct a fully-fledged professional swimming pool for the University. The design for this Swimming Pool Complex has been designed by KWA Architects and its Principal Partner Mr. Thilak Koththigoda. The 50 Meter Swimming Pool will be constructed at the corner of Thurstan Road and Reid Avenue.
Speaking at the AGM, the Vice-Chancellor Senior Professor Lakshman Dissanayake said that the University of Colombo had consistently been ranked as the top university in Sri Lanka, and was gradually climbing higher in reputed international indices such as the Times Higher Ranking Index. He noted that this was due to the collective effort of students, academic staff, administrative staff and the Alumni. He noted that the infrastructure to promote learning and innovation was constantly being upgraded. Not only have new faculties and buildings come into being, but even the existing buildings and facilities have been upgraded. The beautification process of the College House and the faculties is just one step in this direction. He was confident that all these measures would help to raise the standard of the University of Colombo even more.
Commenting on the activities of the Alumni Association, the Vice Chancellor remarked that he was very pleased to see the Association engaging in many activities aimed at enhancing the quality of the undergraduate experience. He was particularly gratified to note that the Association had come forward and provided leadership for the swimming pool project. As the only state university in Colombo, it is important for the University to have its own pool, in order to hone the skills of its swimmers, many of whom are extremely talented.
A special item on the agenda was the recognition of the new Partners of the Alumni Association, Seylan Bank, LOLC Group, Nations Trust Bank PLC, Deutsche Bank and 3CS. These private sector corporates have contributed in financial and non-financial means to help the association achieve its student development and welfare goals.
The Executive Committee for the year 2017/2018 comprises :- Mr. Rajeev Amarasuriya (President), Senior Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake (Ex Officio Vice President), Ms. Suranjani Wickremaratna (Vice President), Ms. Ruwandhi Thanthrige (Secretary), Dr. Naazima Kamardeen (Asst Secretary), Mr. Jithendra Gunathilake (Treasurer), Mr. J M S Bandara (Asst Secretary), Ms. Mahesha Amarasuriya (Editor), Mr. Ajith Jayawardena (Asst. Editor) and the Committee members being Mr. M.K. Gnanasekera, Mr. Milton Arandara, Mr. K.D.R. Siriwardena, Mr. Isuru Thilakawardena, Mr. G. Wijemanne, Mr. Nayantha Wijesundera, Ms. Dayani Panagoda, Mr. Milad Mubarak, Mr. Senarath Attanayake and Mr. P.P.T. Mohideen.
The Past Presidents as Advisors would be Mr. Tissa Devendra, Mr. J. Charitha Ratwatte, Mr. Thilak Karunaratne, Mrs. Ramanee Amarasuriya and Mr. P.W. Senaratne.