SLIIT is one of Sri Lanka’s most well-known educational institutions, covering many different subjects ranging from Engineering to ICT.
The institute has long partnered with Australia’s Curtin University, providing international level education to its students. We recently sat down with the Dean of Learning and Teaching from the Curtin University, Associate Professor Chris Rawson, to know about their partnership with SLIIT and how it benefits the students.
What are the Curtin University degree programs offered at SLIIT?
We have two major areas of focus; these are in Engineering and ICT. In engineering, we have Civil and Construction Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering. In ICT, we have Information Technology (IT), Software Engineering and Computer Systems and Networking.
Tell us a bit more about the partnership Curtin University and SLIIT have?
The Curtin and SLIIT partnership goes back a long way, almost to the beginning of SLIIT as an organisation, so around 18 years, since 2002. We think it’s been a very successful relationship that we have been able to build with SLIIT. The biggest part of it is making sure that the students are able to start their degree at SLIIT, but finish with a Curtin degree. So they spend two years as SLIIT students and later on, they become Curtin students for their last year or their last two years. SO they end up with a Curtin degree at the end of it.
How does the Curtin University program stand out in Sri Lanka?
From our perspective, the big part is that we actually have the students studying in Sri Lanka in a Curtin Degree. That I think is reasonably unique and something we’ve built over a decent period of time.
Does the Curtin program offered here vary from the one offered in Australia?
We have a very developed way that we teach and a certain focus on what we do. I think one of the nice things about our relationship with SLIIT is that we work with SLIIT to make sure that the students that are coming through the Sri Lankan part of the degree are easily transitioned into the Australian part of the degree. This part of the relationship we’ve built with SLIIT over the past few years, to make sure there isn’t a very large difference between what the students experience as SLIIT students and when they become Curtin students.
What recognition do the students get from the Curtin university programs?
So the students would graduate with a bachelor of science or a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) from Curtin University. So they get the benefit of having the Curtin University name as a part of their degree. The engineering is an honours level degree, so it’s a slightly higher level engineering degree, it’s not a three year engineering degree, and it’s a four year engineering degree.
One of the biggest recognitions our students get is the accreditation that they get through their courses, our engineering courses are all accredited by Engineers Australia. The Engineers Australia accreditation is a part of what’s known as the Washington Accord, and the Washington Accord is a globally recognised award, so students are accredited attaining Engineers Australia stage one competencies as professional engineers and they can take that with them to practise in all Washington Accord countries around the world.
For the ICT, those courses are accredited by the Australian Computer Society, and that accreditation is again at a professional level. That level of accreditation is recognised all across Australia.
What is the ranking of Curtin University in the world stage?
Curtin University is ranked number nine in Australia; we are in the top one percent of universities in the world. So we are highly ranked at a national level, as a part of the Times Higher Education, QS and Nature rankings.
When you break it down into subject areas, we have high rankings in many of our areas, including many of the engineering disciplines, so those disciplines are ranked in the top 150 in the world.
Why should a student pick the Curtin University program at SLIIT?
We believe the program allows students’ access to Curtin as a global university. Curtin has about 30% international students, with students drawn from countries all over the world. We hope that some of the students will take their degree and actually study within Australia as well, they have that option. If they choose to take that option up, then they get to come to Perth, study within Australia with Australian students and students from all over the world. So it provides that dual pathway to complete the degree within Sri Lanka, or to complete the degree back in Australia.
Does Curtin allow students to do their post graduate degrees in Australia?
We have Masters Programs in Engineering and some of the ICT disciplines. One thing we are conscious of is making sure students make the right decision around which Masters program they are looking for. So if you come through a Curtin program as an undergraduate in Engineering, you have a qualification as a professional engineer, and we would talk to the students’ one on one and figure out what would be the best choice for a Masters degree beyond that. We have Masters Degrees in Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, Petroleum, Software and Subsea engineering. Within Electrical, we have three different streams, we have Embedded Systems Engineering, Telecommunications and Networking and Emerging power systems.
Do you assist the students to get internships and work experience in Australia?
Yes we do. We think that it is critical especially in the engineering disciplines. It’s a requirement for the graduation from our Masters Programs that there is interaction within the industry, and we work on programs that allow us to help the students to find those internships and placements. We can’t make promises around any of those internships, but we provide the links.
One of the nice things about our programs is that Curtin is very heavily linked with industry, so students benefit from those industry linkages.
Core competencies as well as value additions the students obtain from Curtin University?
Curtin has five core graduate capabilities, and they underline everything that we teach, our students are culturally competent, and they are globally connected. So those two things together mean we try to make our students really work in a global setting. Our students are good communicators, we think that in a future where there would be more team work required, particularly communication with remote locations, and our students are going to be able to communicate, in multiple modes, like online, face to face and social media.
One of the capabilities that is really important to us is that our students are innovative, creative and entrepreneurial. So we try to build that entrepreneurial mindset into our students. Not all of our students are going to be entrepreneurs, but when our students go out into the work place, they going to need to be able to identify opportunities and be able to take advantage of them, that’s really the heart of being an entrepreneur. So we try to build that entrepreneurial mindset to our students.
The fifth graduate capability is that our students are digitally competent, they need to be able to understand the importance of data, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, automation, as these are really changing the way we work in the future. Those five competencies are really at the heart of everything we teach.
As for value addition, things like the industry connectedness are very important. We also have the fact that we have an international campus, and what I personally like about Curtin is all the opportunities offered to the students who come to Curtin, by working with other students outside the classroom. So we have a large organisation called Curtin volunteers for instance, where students can come and engage, in community volunteering. There’s a weekend called the John Curtin Weekend, I think there was over 5,00 students in the last version of it that went 40 different regional centers to work on projects. Students who participate in these sorts of things can also get recognition for it. We have a certificate called the Curtin Extra Certificate, which recognises, on graduation, that the student has done lots of different things to contribute their personal and professional development. It’s important to us that all of our graduates are multi-facetted, where they don’ just stick to their discipline, but where they can work across disciplines, on lots of different areas, on lots of different activities.
What advantages does a student have following the Curtin Program in SLIIT?
I think they have the advantage of the Curtin approach to learning and teaching, which we implemented at SLIIT, but then they get the full program in their final year or final two years. They get the accreditation through the Australian systems, and they get the Australian degree structure.
What are the transferring options available for students at SLIIT?
Students can come to Curtin, Perth at any time if they are in the Curtin pathway. They can get a transfer at the end of their second year, and move to Perth and take up the degree the same way they would do in Sri Lanka. This is with no loss of credit; they go into the same pathway and take the same units they would have here. They can also come to Curtin, Perth after completing their first year at SLIIT.