Professionals for agriculture sector development by UvaWellassa University | Sunday Observer

Professionals for agriculture sector development by UvaWellassa University

2 May, 2021

The Uva Wellassa University, which is surrounded by a salubrious-mountainous environment, is located at a three km distance along the Badulla-Passara Road. The University was established in the year 2005 and the first student intake was in 2006. The Uva Wellassa University is known to be the 14th National University in Sri Lanka and it has four academic faculties at the moment offering 13 demand-driven degree programs. However, it is expected to further extend the University to provide more opportunities in higher education.

Since the inception, the University wanted to keep a unique destination for its journey. Hence, a profound vision was created and it is; “to be the centre of excellence for value addition to the local resources base”. The mission of the university is “to produce well-rounded, employable, technocratic and entrepreneurial graduates equipped with knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes to make an outstanding contribution to the national and global development whilst working as a one to provide world class education with a strong emphasis on value addition to the national resources”.

The university always hopes to provide graduates who could directly or indirectly contribute to the development of the national economy. Therefore, in developing curricular, the two concepts: (a) value addition to the ocal resources base and (b) promoting entrepreneurship have been inculcated in all degree programs. In addition, with the aim of producing professional graduates who meet the requirements of the industry, the undergraduates are provided with ‘Essential Skills ‘ and ‘Broad General Education’ as core curricular courses together with other disciplinary based courses. Given this design of the curricular, there is a high demand for our graduates in the industry. The present employability rate is around 80 per cent on average.

During the past 15 years, four Vice Chancellors have provided their service to the University. Dr. Chandra Embuldeniya inaugurated the Vice Chancellorship of the Uva Wellassa University in 2006 and thereafter, Prof. Ranjith Premalal de Silva and Dr. Gamani Chandrasena took over the responsibility, subsequently. At present, Prof. Jayantha Lal Ratnasekera provides the leadership for the university, as the Vice Chancellor. The status that the university holds at present due to the contribution of these Vice Chancellors is commendable. Also, the commitment provided by all other family members of UvaWellassa University (UWU Family) is appreciated.

Compared to other national Universities, Uva Wellassa University has its own unique features and practices, and more importantly, these practices have a significant influence on the development of the university. For example, the university has a centralised resources utilisation system and therefore, all most all physical resources and services are equally shared by all faculties.

The medium of delivery of all programs is English and within the core curricular, ‘Essential Skills Development’ and ‘Broad General Education;’ have been embedded. There are no posters, banners or cut-outs in the university premises and hence the students are appreciated for their support provided in maintaining such an environment. Certain services of the university have been outsourced and therefore, effective and quality services are always provided. These good practices have a direct and positive influence in the productivity and efficiency of the university drawing the attention of the outsiders.

Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture

The Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture is one of the three faculties which were established at the inception of the university. Since then, the faculty is driven for producing agriculturalists who could make a significant contribution to the agriculture sector by adding value to the products and services of the sector. Up to 2020, the Deanship of the faculty was held by Prof. E.N.M. Jayasekara (Acting), Prof. Nimal Perera (Acting). Dr. G. Chandrasena and Prof. (Mrs.) S.C. Jayamanne and their service and commitment helped bring the faculty forward.

All curricular and teaching and learning activities of the faculty are developed and promoted within the vision of the university but giving the focus to the agriculture and allied sectors. The mission of the faculty is “to excel in teaching and learning, research and outreach activities in undergraduate, postgraduate and extramural programs emphasising value addition to the agricultural and allied resources through scientific and emerging technological approaches” The faculty has recognised livestock (farm animals), agricultural crops and aquatic resources as the basic agriculture and allied assets of the country.

Thus, by providing scientific and technology based education, the faculty expects to contribute to value addition in agricultural resources. Meanwhile, as the university promotes entrepreneurship, the faculty has focused the same covering agriculture and related areas provided at least a few of the students should be entrepreneurs after graduation. By providing a conducive environment for teaching and learning, development of attitudes and skills of the students, in addition to providing knowledge, is merely expected.

The faculty produces around 250 graduates annually to the agriculture sector of the country. Our expectation is that these graduates should have the capability to provide necessary leadership for taking agricultural sector forward.

Departments and degree programs

The Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture has two academic departments namely the Department of Animal Science and the Department of Export Agriculture. These departments were established with the purpose of providing a specialised education on animal production and agricultural crops which could be promoted to earn foreign exchange. Thus, it is intended to produce unique graduates in these fields considering it as a timely need for developing the sector. Producing professionals in these two fields is essential as agriculture is a key area which represents a vital fraction of the national economy.

It is believed that to enhance the contribution of agriculture in national economy, undoubtedly value addition to agricultural produce should be promoted. The two departments of the faculty mainly focus their research activities in this theme. Annually, both staff and studentsresearch give a remarkable output and some of which is commercially viable while the others add new knowledge to the sector.

At present, the faculty offers five unique and specialised degree programs.. All in all, these program;’s value addition to particular agricultural resources, development of entrepreneurship, development of essential skills and providing broad general education have been considered as key components of the curricular basically to produce agriculturists with competence for the betterment of the sector and in turn the country. The aforesaid five degree programs of the faculty are: (i) Bachelor of Animal Science Honours/Bachelor of Science Honours in Animal Production and Food Technology (revised name), (ii) Bachelor of Science Honours in Export Agriculture, (iii) Bachelor of Science Honours in Tea Technology and Value Addition, (iv) Bachelor of Science Honours in Aquatic Resources Technology and (v) Bachelor of Science Honours in Palm & Latex Technology and Value Addition.

All five degree programs are four year degree programs and all teaching,learning activities are conducted in the English medium. As per the Sri Lanka Qualification Framework (SLQF), all five degree programs are placed at the Level 6.

The faculty expects all its undergraduates to obtain hands-on-experience in the particular filed that they study and therefore,,all undergraduates have to undergo a ‘Field Training’ and an ‘Industrial Training’, in addition to conducting ‘Research Projects’ under provided supervisors and the theme. These compulsory components of the curricular have equipped our graduates with practical experience and exposure during their stay at the university. Thus, they develop their competence to do any assigned duty after recruiting to a suitable job in the field.

Postgraduate opportunities and External Programs

The Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture has commenced Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree programs which could be completed by research. Accordingly, MPhil degree programs are offered under five Boards of Studies, namely, (i) Agriculture Production and Processing, (ii) Agricultural Economics, Extension and Agribusiness Management, (iii) Agriculture and Fisheries and (iv) Food Science and Technology. All these MPhil programs are two year full time programs and the faculy expects to introduce some new master programs in the near future.

As external programs, Plant Tissue Culture, Floral Decoration and Dry Flower Production and Agribusiness Management are conducted currently, as short courses on demand, by the Faculty.

Graduation ceremony 2020/2021

At the 10th Convocation of the UvaWellassa University, which is scheduled to be held on May 3 and 4, 2021, overall, 541 graduands will receive bachelor’s degrees covering 11 disciplines of three faculties. For the first time, three MPhil degrees will also be conferred at this ceremony. Accordingly, 217 from the Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture, 201 from the Faculty of Applied Sciences and 123 from the Faculty of Management will graduate at this Convocation. Among 217 graduands belong to the Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture, the number of specialised graduations of the five degree programs are as follows.

(1) Bachelor of Animal Science – 45

(2) Bachelor of Science in Export Agriculture– 48

(3) Bachelor of Science in Tea Technology and Value Addi tion – 38

(4) Bachelor of Science in Aquatic Resources Technology – 50

(5) Bachelor of Science in Palm and Latex Technology and Value Addition – 36

Among these graduands, the best performances are recognised and awarded with gold medals such as the Vice Chancellor’s Award for the Best Performance (in each degree program), Mahinda Katugaha Gold Medal for the Highest Achiever from the Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture,Mahinda Katugaha Gold Medal for the Highest Achiever from the Student Population of Uva Province/Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture, Asha Weerasooriya Memorial Gold Medal for the Highest Achiever from the Department of Animal Science, and Asha Weerasooriya Memorial Gold Medal for the Highest Achiever from the Department of Export Agriculture. Faculty takes this opportunity to wish them success in their future endeavours.

Future Expectations

With regard to the eight Agriculture Faculties of the country, the Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture is the youngest faculty; however, the faculty has been able to make some achievements during the past 15 years. By utilising human and other resources available, the faculty expects to provide a better service to the country in the future. So far, the faculty has 25 PhD degree holders in different disciplines of agriculture and allied areas and around 15 new PhDs are being followed. Therefore, the faculty will be richer with human resources over time. Altogether, 67 academic staff members including six professors contribute to the development of the faculty and in turn the agriculture sector of the country.

During the time spent, the academic staff members of the faculty have recognised for their performance in many forums. Accordingly, some staff members received the President’s Award for their research performance in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Besides, more than 50 awards have been received at some other national and international forums appreciating their excellence in research. In 2015 and 2016, the Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture was recognised to be the top among all agricultural faculties on research publications made per head basis.

The Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture is developing its laboratories (23 laboratories at present) in the state-of-art to promote its teaching and research activities and to provide a better service and outcome for the country. Thus, our intension is to enhance the productivity of the agricultural sector by placing our graduates in appropriate spaces. Respecting the three pillars of service of the university: (i) Teaching and Mentoring, (ii) Research (focusing value addition to local resources base) and (iii) Community Services Activities/Cooperate Social Responsibilities, the faculty expects to extend its service for a better future of the country by providing more opportunities for undergraduates, postgraduate and extramural levels.

Overall, we expect our graduates to be leaders in adding value to the agriculture sector and in turn developing the national economy for a flourishing future for the country.