Project helps modernize Sri Lankan university

June 15, 2006, volume 36, no. 4
By Diane Luckow

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It may be 2006, but  the majority of business processes and record keeping at the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) is done with pencils, vouchers and adding machines.

Not for long, though. An 18-month, $1.39 million SFU capacity enhancement consulting project to modernize and streamline administrative processes and to improve technologies for delivering distance education at Sri Lanka's largest university is half way to completion.

SFU project team leader Charles Joyner, director of SFU's office of international development, returned to the Burnaby campus recently for a brief respite. He says staff at the Sri Lankan university are welcoming the change. “In surveys for training purposes, 100 per cent said they would be willing to take  computer training,” he says. “We're working with people who are dedicated and keen to develop.”

So far, he says, six SFU specialists have implemented a training system, outlined hardware and software requirements for a new management information system and introduced new ideas for modifying financial procedures. Now, says Joyner, “the challenge is to modify OUSL policies to accommodate the changes. That can sometimes be an obstacle in these projects.”

He says it is the first time SFU has taken the lead in an institutional development project funded by the Asian Development Bank. “We've taken the approach that this is an institute-to-institute partnership. We're developing collegial relations between the two institutions. It's not just another consulting contract.” Bolstering this commitment are reciprocal visits between the two universities' senior management.

Recently, Mario Pinto, SFU's VP-research, travelled to Sri Lanka and SFU has twice hosted the Sri Lankan university's vice-chancellor.

“We're raising SFU's profile internationally in Sri Lanka, at the Asian Development Bank and among universities in Australia, Europe and the United States involved in international development,” says Joyner. “There's a whole world of development initiatives out there.”

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