``We Walk on the Same Corridors of Our University'': Contemporary Reflections of Sinhala--Tamil Relations in Sri Lankan Public Universities


Inter-ethnic relations amongst students in public higher education institutes (HEIs) in Sri Lanka are weak. This deficit deprives students of experiencing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to be productive citizens the country demands. Considering the violent history both Sinhalese and Tamils share, there is a dearth of minority discourse in Sri Lanka. As a consequence, research that explores inter-ethnic dynamics within public HEIs in the island nation is also minimal. Similarly, being mindful of the fragileness of Sri Lanka’s race relations, it is unclear how responsible local authorities should facilitate educational reforms to foster student success. To address this literature gap, the present inquiry conducted a document review to identify contemporary student and instructor perspectives associated with learning in state-run universities. A total of nine newspapers and blog posts by students, journalists, and academics that critically discuss learner experiences in minority-dominant Jaffna University were chosen after a careful evaluation. Using thematic analysis, three key themes were generated. As per the obtained results, inclusiveness and appreciation between Tamils and Sinhalese learners remain a challenge. Moreover, local security forces continue to suppress minority student voices, leadership, and civic engagement. Further, there is a need for governmental interventions to systematically implement DEI policies to improve the quality of learning spheres for students. Overall, this interpretative research lays out key observations associated with race relations in Sri Lankan HEIs.

Keywords: diversity, inclusion, minority groups, interethnic relations, multiculturalism, cultural awareness

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