May 17, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Federation of University Teachers' Associations (FUTA) has denounced the arrests of 18 university students by the police yesterday for protesting against a measure to reduce the course duration of the Allied Health Science Degree programme.
The academics said the arrests will only escalate the situation instead of reaching a solution to their problem.
The students of the Allied Health Science (AHS) Degree programme have been staging protests against the government's decision to reduce the length of the programme from four years to three years.
FUTA President, Dr. Chandraguptha Thenuwara speaking to Daily Mirror has said that intimidating students is not the response to the authorities' failure to address student grievances.
He said the students' demand not to compromise the quality of the program by reducing the course length is fair and the students have been trying to reach the authorities on this issue for months with no success.
Students of the AHS programme at Rajarata University have staged a sit-in protest requesting the extension of the program for over 75 days.
According to the convener of the Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) Najith Indika, the students are currently facing the termination of the Allied Health Sciences Degree at the Peradeniya University and the suspension of Rajarata University students who staged sit-in protests over the course duration.
Dr. Thenuwara said student groups in other universities are also facing major concerns besides the quality of their academic courses. They demand the government to increase the Mahapola Scholarship, which has not increased since 2006, and provide sufficient hostel accommodation for female students on campus.
He said the students' demands are justified issues and urged the authorities to release the arrested students immediately and reconsider their approach to resolving student grievances.
"We request the responsible authorities to put a stop to the harassment and arbitrary arrests of the undergraduates and instead, resort to negotiations and discussions with the students," the FUTA president has said.