The minister was addressing scholars who were recipients of scholarship under a corporate social responsibility programme initiated by the Commercial Bank.
Under this CSR programme, 25 students who have been selected to universities, would receive Rs 25,000 each per year until completion of higher education. In addition, a laptop computer each, had been issued to these scholars by the bank.
The students who had obtained the highest "Z score" rank on a district basis from the 2011 Advanced Level examination, have been selected for this "Sarasaviyata Nawa Saviyak" scholarship programme.
Addressing the gathering, the minister said that, it had been reported that the universities were congested. According to sources four or more students were being accommodated in a hostel room where there had been only two students in the past. Around 150,000 candidates out of 300,000 get through their AL examinations annually, but only 22,000 we selected to universities.
Therefore, a large number of students were seeking higher education opportunities each year. These students were unable to be entered to state universities due to congestion.
There should be a mechanism to cater to the demands of these students, especially those who were not financially sound to travel abroad for higher education. Considering this situation, private universities would have to play a vital role in the higher education sector in the country.
The minister further said that a Private University Act was not something new to Sri Lanka, as such an Act had been in practice. Under powers vested in the Higher Education Minister by this Act, the minister could offer the awarding of degrees to any institution. Even though these institutions could not be monitored or regulated by the Higher Education Ministry.
"That was the reason we need a regulatory mechanism to trace certain errant organisations who cheat students offering low quality degrees. Moreover, the Higher Education Ministry recruits more students seeking higher education opportunities in private universities. These students too would receive free education from private universities," Minister Dissanayake said.