On Thursday, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the University of Colombo, for the establishment of a Visiting Chair in Social Sciences at the University of Colombo, was signed at the University Senate Hall by the High Commissioner of India, Ashok K. Kantha and Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama, Vice Chancellor of the University.
The MoU, valid for five years and renewable automatically thereafter, would put in place an institutional arrangement under which the University would host a Visiting Professor from India in Social Sciences for up to six months during each academic year.
As per a statement issued by the Indian mission the Visiting Professor would engage in teaching and research and help in mentoring junior staff and researchers, impart training on research methodology, deliver public lectures and perform other functions that are usually performed in an academic or research setting.
In addition, the Visiting Professor would also write a research paper or monograph, which would be published by the University. The selection of the Visiting Professor would be made by the ICCR and the University in joint consultation.
At the signing ceremony, the Vice Chancellor observed that the MoU would contribute to the exchange of expertise on a regular basis between the two countries. A suggestion was also made that a Visiting Chair could be set up on similar lines in the field of science and technology.
In his response, the High Commissioner stated that while India and Sri Lanka were like sisters sharing an excellent relationship, this relationship was not a one-way street and he was sure that India could also count on Sri Lanka’s help whenever it was needed.
He told the audience that the otherwise excellent relationship was however ‘software deficient’ in that, there had been a lack of focus on regional studies and observed that more studies focusing on India and Sri Lanka were needed, particularly, as such studies provided crucial inputs for policymaking. Reiterating his commitment to make education a core area of partnership between India and Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner agreed with the Vice Chancellor that the MoU would enable the University to source academics on a long term basis from India but added that India could learn from Sri Lanka, particularly in primary and secondary education.
He also said the Visiting Chair should be regarded as a stepping stone for a larger project, namely the establishment of a much needed Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies at the University, the idea of which had already been mooted and had been very well received among various stakeholders.