Way forward for Sri Lankan diplomacy | Daily News

Way forward for Sri Lankan diplomacy

Higher education promotes a common language and understanding that other forms of diplomacy can’t. Higher education typically influences people at a critical time of their life – intellectually and socially. Governments have been using higher education to advance their own international strategies for decades. Most of these strategies involve the exporting of higher education to other nations. However, in recent years, developing nations have also seen the advantage of importing education from well-regarded institutions and higher education sectors. How successful these endeavours have been, however, remains in question.

Considering the global landscape of higher education for more than a century, many governments and government-affiliated organisations in the developed world have invested in programmes that use higher education as a tool for public diplomacy. These programmes served a variety of purposes from facilitating student and faculty exchanges, fostering multi institutional academic partnerships, and expanding understanding (and possibly acceptance) of one culture into others.

Many of the endeavours were identified globally in this context. The United States, United Kingdom and France both allocated funds to bring students from former colonies to study at their colleges and universities. Creation of Alliance Francaise, which was organised in 1883 in France and now operates in many parts of the world helps to achieve their mission of spreading the French culture and language, the British Council, the Fulbright programme of United States are some of the initiatives recognised globally. On the other side of the globe, the Colombo Plan, created in 1950, initiated international cooperation between countries in Southeast Asia and resulted in a rapid build-up of foreign students studying in Australia and New Zealand. The efforts spurred by the Colombo Plan resulted, in 1969, in the creation of IDP Education Australia, charged with providing educational assistance to other nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Student exchange programmes

The most well-known use of higher education in international relations is through student exchange programmes. In the United States, the Fulbright programme, founded in 1946, funds the exchange of students, scholars, and teachers in multiple nations. The US is not the only nation to fund such initiatives. The German DAAD and British Council, for example, also administer similar student exchange programmes. In addition, some nations have specific scholarship programmes that target high achieving international students.

The Australian Development Scholarships programme, which works in cooperation with foreign governments, provides international students with funding to study in an Australian institution. Other programs such as the Chinese Government Scholarships Programme, the United Kingdom’s Chevening Programme, the U.S. Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Programme, and Germany Study Scholarships and Research Grants provide merit -based funding for foreign students to pursue their studies in the respective nations.

Marketing campaigns

Many of the countries at present have embarked on a relatively new endeavour on formal marketing of their higher education sector similar to how Private sector create brands, these nations are pursuing strategies to highlight their educational offerings programmes such as Study in Germany, Study in Australia, and Education UK seek to inform prospective foreign students about the strength of and opportunities within their higher education system. These initiatives also help lower the barriers to access by providing students with the information they need to identify an institution, gain admission (if merited), and negotiate the student visa process. Many of the states take higher education as a state’s responsibility. In the United States, there are multiple marketing campaigns in many of the states such as Study New York, Study Oregon, and Study Maine to attract international students to study within their state.

Sri Lankan cultural centres in foreign missions and in universities

Another public diplomacy strategy used by governments is to sponsor cultural centres in foreign lands, many of which are located at foreign colleges and universities. For example, the Russkiy Mir Foundation, founded in 2007 by the Russian government, is charged with “promoting the Russian language, as Russia's national heritage and a significant aspect of Russian and world culture, and supporting Russian language teaching programmes abroad. The Foundation funds Russian centres located at foreign educational institutions and provides support for the teaching and learning of the Russian language and culture outside of the Russian borders.

The German Goethe Institute operates cultural centres in 25 countries to support the acquisition of the German language and promote international cultural exchange. In addition, China, starting in 2004, began expending significant resources to support the teaching of Chinese language and culture in other countries through their Confucius Institutes. Further, Indian council for cultural relations plays a vital role in attracting foreign students being a South Asian Country and extending a helping hand to many of the students to realise their higher education dreams with a mingle of cultural exchange in their lands which is an excellent initiative.

There are attempts of exporting higher education offerings either by bringing foreign students to study at their institutions or to send their own cultural centres to other nations. Further, governments in recent decade adopted another phenomenon on importing higher education institutions from other nations such as in the Middle East and East Asia, South Asia.

Universities in Canada through its diverse programmes in Canada aim to activate a dynamic community of global leaders across Canada and the world and create lasting impacts through cross-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences. Through their networks, they aim to strengthen university linkages with industry, community and international partners, explore new opportunities, and better position Canadian universities to engage in solutions to complex global development challenges. They identify scholars who show leadership potential and supporting them in acquiring world-ready research experience through a university, in collaboration with a non-profit organisation or industry.

Sri Lanka waste many of its precious time of its public and future generation on strikes, fulfilling union’s political agendas which do not cater the student outcome at all.

The higher education could contribute a lot to the service sector. Sri Lanka could position well in higher education in the global landscape if a collective effort is taken with academics and administrators in a harmonious relationship in every endeavour. With the collaborative efforts with Ministry of foreign affairs and Ministry of Higher Education through public private partnership these strategies in higher education could be well developed in introducing student exchange programmes, the establishment of Sri Lankan cultural centres attached to foreign missions and Sri Lankan universities. It is a high time to raise policy dialogues with the stake holders to position Sri Lankans higher education and its rich heritage globally.

There are internationally demanding programmes in Sri Lankan universities such as quantity surveying of university of Moratuwa where the Sri Lankan potential has been identified in the Middle East due to the efforts made by the Sri Lankan Academia. These rich potentials need recognition and sustainability in the global higher education landscape. Sri Lankan visual and performing arts, indigenous medicine as well as architectural capabilities need to have exchange and need to open up avenues for foreign nations. Renewed commitment from government, smart resource allocation is vital in this regard.

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