Students can obtain the following degrees at Sri Lankan higher education institutions:


Institutions can offer 3 different types of bachelor's programmes:

  • general degree
  • honours degree
  • special degree

Students with good study results for a special degree programme can be awarded an honours classification (1st/2nd class). See also the chapter entitled Assessment systems.

  • Duration: 3-5 years. Degree programmes for a general degree last 3 years. The exception is the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme. This is a general degree programme lasting over 5 years. Honours programmes and special degree programmes last 4 years.
  • Content: a bachelor's programme can be profession-oriented or a combination of theory and practice. In addition to attending lectures, students also complete practicals and possibly an internship. They do not write a thesis.
  • Admission requirements: the GCE A/L in 3 subjects + General English + Common General Test and a good Z score. Degree programme departments can also have additional requirements, such as a stream, aptitude tests or certain exam results. See Admission to higher education.
  • Diploma: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery.

We compare the Honours Bachelor to an HBO bachelor's degree or to 2 years of research-oriented higher education (WO).


  • Duration: 1-2 years.
  • Content: a Master of Arts or Master of Science degree programme involves students attending lectures and in some cases also practical training (internship). Writing a thesis is not compulsory. This type of programme is referred to as a 'taught programme' and can be a combination of theoretical and practice-oriented education. In addition, there are master's programmes that focus on research (research programmes) and that do involve students writing theses. Such degree programmes often result in a Master of Philosophy degree being awarded.
  • Admission requirements: a relevant bachelor's degree with good study results, or an honours bachelor's degree, and in some cases a master's degree.
  • Diploma: Master, Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, Master of Philosophy.

The level of a Master varies. Please contact us for an evaluation of this diploma.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

  • Duration: 3 years.
  • Content: usually attending lectures, as well as writing and defending a doctoral dissertation.
  • Admission requirements: a master's degree or a bachelor's degree, while degree programme departments may also set specific requirements for the results achieved. In some cases, MPhil students can continue on to the PhD programme.
  • Diploma: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

External degrees and extension courses

Candidates who have not been admitted to a regular degree programme have other options. Both public and private institutions provide the opportunity to earn what are known as external degrees or to take extension courses. These programmes are often practice-oriented. The admission requirements differ between institutions and often differ from the normal admission requirements. The UGC maintains a list of recognised external degrees and extension courses.

Types of higher education institutions

There are various types of public higher education institutions:

In addition to public higher education institutions, there are private higher education institutions, which are often referred to as institute, college, campus or school. In some cases, a private higher education institution may also be a university. Recognised degree programmes at private higher education institutions are usually profession-oriented.

Education at public higher education institutions

Public higher education institutions offer both research-oriented higher education and higher professional education. The exception is the Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technical Education (SLIATE), which only offers higher professional education.

Education at the Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education (SLIATE)

The Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education (SLIATE) only offers higher professional education and no research-oriented higher education. The SLIATE is under the direct control of the Ministry of Higher Education. SLIATE comprises 11 Advanced Technological Institutes (ATI) and 8 ATI Sections. As a result, there is a SLIATE institution in every province.

SLIATE institutions offer full-time and part-time degree programmes. The duration of these varies, lasting 2 or 3 years, for example. The admission requirement is often a GCE A/L.

Admission to higher education

The minimum requirements to be admitted to higher education in Sri Lanka:

There are 2 types of admission procedures:

  • University Grants Commission admission procedure; and
  • admission procedure from institutions that do not fall under the scope of the UGC.

University Grants Commission admission procedure

The University Grants Commission (UGC) is in charge of admission to public institutions that are funded by the state. The UGC does not regulate admission to other public institutions, such as the SLIATE institutions, private institutions or the Open University of Sri Lanka.

The UGC selects prospective students based on their Z score. This score is a value between -3 and +3 that indicates how a pupil's results relate to the exam results of all pupils that year. On its website, the UGC annually publishes the required minimum Z score for the degree programmes at the universities. The selection procedure is a strict one. Institutions ultimately only admit a small percentage of the GCE A level pupils.

Admission procedure from institutions that do not fall under the scope of the UGC

Higher education institutions that do not fall under the scope of the UGC have their own admission procedure. Candidates choosing to be admitted via the UGC may no longer apply to an admission procedure at an institution that does not fall under the scope of the UGC.