Gayantha Karunatilleka

MP Karunatilleke fails test on student-to-staff ratios


Although the number of academic staff is dwindling [in recent months], the annual intake of students at universities has doubled since 2017

NewsFirst | October 19, 2023



Fact Check

In a parliamentary speech, MP Karunatilleke made two claims concerning state universities: (1) the academic staff is dwindling, and (2) the annual intake (admission) of students has doubled since 2017. If both these claims are accurate, it would mean a radical decline in the number of staff per student admitted – that is, the student intake-to-staff ratio would have more than doubled since 2017.

To evaluate these claims, consulted the Sri Lanka University Statistics (SLUS) reports using the latest available data from 2012 to 2022 provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which was set up by Universities Act No. 16 of 1978.

As of 2023, there are a total of 17 universities in Sri Lanka under the purview of the UGC; including two that were added in 2020 (the Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurvedic Institute and the University of Vavuniya). Apart from the Open University, the other 16 provide information on both academic staff and student intake. The analysis is based on that data (see Additional note).

Claim 1: There was a 21% increase in academic staff in five years from 2017-2022 to a total of 9,356. Therefore, the claim that academic staff is “dwindling” is incorrect. In fact, for the 10 years from 2012 to 2022, academic staff has doubled—increased by 101%.

Claim 2: There was a 43% increase in the annual university student intake in five years from 2017 to 2022, to a total of 42,519. Therefore, the claim that university student intake has doubled is also incorrect. Even for the 10 years from 2012 to 2022, student intake has not doubled—it increased by only 52%, much less than the percentage increase in academic staff.

The student intake-to-staff ratio has fluctuated between 3.63 and 6.00 over the last decade (lower numbers are better). In 2022, it was 4.54, which is close to the average.

Exhibit 1 also shows that the student intake-to-staff ratio hasn’t doubled since 2017, as implied by the MP’s claims. It increased by just 18%.

Student intake has not doubled since 2017 (5 years) and increased only c. 50% even since 2012 (10 years); academic staff didn’t dwindle but increased by 21% since 2017 and doubled since 2012. That makes both MP’s claims hugely incorrect.

Therefore, we classify the MP’s statement as FALSE.

*’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, will revisit the assessment.

Exhibit 1: Student intake and academic staff


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