Higher education in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, higher education is not divided into and . Many Sri Lankan higher education institutions can offer both types of education. This means that for each diploma we have to determine whether it is HBO or WO. Below, we describe the diplomas we often see.

Admission to higher education

The minimum requirements to be admitted to higher education in Sri Lanka: a General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) with at least an Ordinary Pass (S) for 3 subjects and a score of at least 30% for the Common General Test.

There are 2 types of admission procedures:

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

UGC admission procedure

The 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.

Bachelor's degree

Students can obtain 3 types of bachelor's degrees:

  • general bachelor's degree;
  • honours bachelor's degree;
  • special bachelor's degree

  • : 3-5 years:
    • Study programmes for a general degree last 3 years. The exception is the medicine study programme: the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) is a general degree, but the study programme lasts over 5 years.
    • Study programmes for honours and special degree programmes last 4 years.
  • Content: 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: a GCE A/L in 3 subjects + General English + Common General Test and a good Z score. Degree programme departments can also have extra requirements, such as a stream, aptitude tests or certain exam results.
  • Function of the diploma: access to master's programmes or work.
  • Diploma: a bachelor's degree, such as:
    • Bachelor of Arts;
    • Bachelor of Business Administration;
    • Bachelor of Education;
    • Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery;
    • Bachelor of Science.
      Students with good study results for a special bachelor's degree can be awarded an honours classification (1st/2nd class).

We compare an honours bachelor's degree to an HBO bachelor's degree or to 2 years of WO.

Master's degree

  • 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: one of the following diplomas:
    • a bachelor's degree in a related field of study and with good study results
    • an honours bachelor's degree; or in some cases
    • a master's degree.
  • Function of the diploma: access to PhD programmes or work.
  • Diploma: a master's degree, such as:
    • Master of Arts;
    • Master of Business Administration;
    • Master of Education;
    • Master of Philosophy;
    • Master of Science.

The level of a master's degree varies. Please contact us for a credential evaluation.

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 specific programme departments may also set specific requirements for the study results achieved. In some cases, MPhil students can continue on to the PhD programme.
  • Diploma: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).