Sri Lanka Scraps Private Medical College amid Protests


Sri Lanka announced Sunday the closure of a private medical college at the center of a long-running controversy over teaching standards.

Government doctors and students at state-run medical colleges had for months been striking over allegedly subpar standards at the South Asia Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM).

Places for aspiring doctors in state-run colleges are scarce and fiercely competitive, and Sri Lanka's medical fraternity feared the island's only private college was undermining the profession.

"The government hopes that this decision will end the SAITM controversy," the government's Information Department said in a statement.

"It is hoped that all stake holders will abide by this decision."

Uniform standards for state-run medical colleges will be rolled out within the month by the Health Ministry, the statement said.

Hundreds of students already enrolled in the private college will be transferred to a new facility and eligible to graduate as doctors.

The private college was established in 2008 to cater for students who did not make the strict quota for state-run facilities. 

It was closely associated with Mahinda Rajapakse, the strongman president who oversaw the final days of Sri Lanka's 37-year civil war which ended in 2009.

After he was defeated at the ballot box in 2015, Sri Lanka's largest doctors union started calling for the college to be closed, claiming teaching standards were poor.

There was no immediate comment from the Government Medical Officers Association on the government’s decision to dissolve the college.

Students in state-run medical universities had also been boycotting classes for more than a year in opposition to the private college. 

Thousands of students apply for medical studies every year but just a small percentage gain a coveted spot.

Private colleges for students keen to study in other professional fields exist in Sri Lanka without controversy.

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