Address by Tony Reilly, OBE Country Director British Council Sri Lanka
Janet Ford, Head UK Trade and Investment, British High Commission Sri Lanka, friends from the media, colleagues, good morning.
The British Council is UK's international organisation for education and cultural relations. We have been in existence now for over 75 years and have been operating here in Sri Lanka for more than 60 years.
The purpose of the BC is to create international opportunities for, and trust between, the people of the UK and other countries worldwide. By creating international opportunities for people in the UK and around the world, we help meet their aspirations for a better life and a brighter future. And that is what today's launch of the British Council's Education UK Exhibition is all about - creating opportunities, meeting aspirations for a better life and building the next generation of lasting mutually beneficial ties between the UK and Sri Lanka.
Welcome to the official launch of the 18th annual British Council Education UK Exhibition - the largest UK education exhibition in Sri Lanka of its kind. Every year, more than 60 institutes come together at the exhibition to give students and their parents an opportunity to consider a wide range of study options in the UK and in Sri Lanka.
While demand for Higher Education continues to outstrip supply in Sri Lanka, many parents and students are compelled to consider overseas options. Over 8,000 Sri Lankans leave the island every year to pursue their higher education in the UK. The UK remains the preferred destination of choice for Sri Lankan students - in spite of our inclement weather.
The Education UK Exhibition offers prospective students the opportunity to directly interact with UK institutes and select the best study option from a wide range of courses and internationally recognised qualifications offered by UK institutes.
The importance of giving students an opportunity to live and study in the UK goes way beyond simple economic benefits. British Universities thrive on the internationalism of their campuses and classrooms. Overseas students enrich campus life and contribute in all sorts of tangible and intangible ways. Sri Lankan students are much sought after in the UK. Their ability to adapt to life in the UK quickly, their command of English and their excellent academic skills make them highly valued overseas students. From a British Council perspective, a period of study in the UK is often the start of a life-long relationship between our two countries - a relationship based on mutual understanding and we hope mutual respect. The UK benefits hugely from the presence of so many talented young Sri Lankans studying at its world-class higher education institutions.
This year, 72 institutes will be taking part in the exhibition, out of which, 61 of the exhibitors will be travelling to Sri Lanka from the UK.
The overall format of the exhibition will be different to the usual exhibitor stall set-up. Besides the UK exhibitors providing information about the study options available, this year's exhibition will also showcase different industries, such as fashion and design, aeronautical engineering and electronic engineering. We have included this additional segment for students to be better informed and aware about the wide range of subjects that they can opt to study at local institutes that offer UK qualifications.
We have also arranged for students to be able to meet representatives from the UK Border Agency (UKBA), IELTS, awarding bodies of UK qualification providers in Sri Lanka, and some of the successful UK-Sri Lanka educational partner institutions.
As an organisation committed to developing cultural relations between the UK and Sri Lanka, the British Council contributes to the development goals of Sri Lanka by exposing students to UK education. The Minister of Higher Education, S. B. Dissanayake strongly endorses the British Council's objective in promoting UK education to students looking at overseas study options.
Since he could not make it today, I will read out a statement which he wanted me to share with you:
"Our vision is to build Sri Lanka as an Education Hub in Asia. While developing our existing Higher Education system, we have taken steps to invite leading Universities from the UK, US, Australia, India and many other countries to set up campuses in Sri Lanka. The proposed Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council will regulate both public and private Higher Education providers in the future. With these new opportunities, our students will have an increased number of seats and a wider selection of higher education options. Furthermore, this will also attract students from other countries in the region bringing foreign revenue to Sri Lanka. We warmly welcome the UK universities who will be present at the Education UK Exhibition organised by the British Council for the 18th consecutive year. We look forward to meeting with the UK university delegates and explore possibilities of developing partnerships with Sri Lanka. We thank the British Council for organising this event which is a great opportunity for some of our students to pursue their higher education in the UK."
I hope that, as the minister envisions, we will be able to work together to achieve the goal of establishing Sri Lanka as an education hub in Asia in the near future.
I would like to thank you the members of the media for joining us today and I urge you to join us at the British Council in communicating the message of the importance of higher education for the bright future of your beautiful country - at peace.