Education & Training Sector in Sri Lanka

Education & Training Sector in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka maintains a literacy rate of 91% – the second highest within the SAARC region reaches only 60%. With the Government supporting private sector education the market has further growth potential.

Market overview

There is a growth trend for private further and higher education in the Sri Lankan market due to the limited seats (approx. 22,000) available within the 15 state run universities.

According to latest available annual statistics [2010], from the 233,600 students who sat for the local A/Level exams, while 61% were eligible to enter university only 15% of that population were granted entrance. The reality is that of the total number of students who sat the A/Level exams in 2010 only 9% received university entrance.

Furthermore, the Sri Lankan education system has a significant idle period between students commencing A/Levels (6 months) as well as University (1½ years). This has prompted students/parents (who can afford it) to seek private secondary and higher education options.

British education is highly valued and respected in the Sri Lankan market at secondary, tertiary, professional and vocational levels. A quick snapshot of the sector shows that:

  • Except for one, all other private schools teaching international school qualifications follow either University of Cambridge or Edexcel curricula i.e. approximately 8,000 young people obtain UK school qualifications annually via the British Council.

  • The English/Business English programmes currently provided by the British Council are in high demand.

  • Sri Lanka already has more CIMA qualified students than any other country apart from the UK. Other popular vocational/professional qualifications are Edexcel HND, CIM, ACCA, ABE, BCS and City & Guilds. 35,000 Sri Lankans acquired UK professional qualifications through the just the British Council last year.

  • 50% of undergraduate degrees delivered via Sri Lankan private higher education providers are from 27 UK universities.

Though India is a much larger market – regulatory issues with sending remittances back to UK, emphasis on home grown qualifications limits availability of UK qualifications in-country and for the country becoming a hub for international qualifications in general. Therefore, Sri Lanka, as a country which is opening its door to international educational qualifications, is increasingly becoming attractive for students from the South Asian region due to:

  • Tighter immigration controls deterring non-genuine students has posed difficulty for genuine students gaining access to study in the UK. This has made these students search for suitable UK qualifications regionally.

  • Costs, especially living expenses, being similar to their own country or even cheaper due to favourable foreign exchange rates.

  • Cultural similarities making it easier to fit in.

Key opportunities

In their main policy statement for the next ten years the Government of Sri Lanka has identified the need for private sector participation in higher education, further education and vocational training. Interestingly, despite the high cost of fees there has been an increase in demand for international school leaving qualifications.

Therefore, opportunities for British Education & Training providers include:

  • Affiliation with Sri Lankan higher education institutes to deliver programmes in Sri Lanka

  • Establishing a secondary/higher education/training institution in Sri Lanka

  • Opening affordable branch campuses / offshore campuses in Sri Lanka. Plans are currently underway for a UK university to open a branch campus. This will be the first international university to setup a campus in Sri Lanka as well as South Asia.

  • Specific opportunities for degree pathways / top- up degree programmes for professional institutions members

  • Continuous professional development (CPD) programmes

  • English language and communication skills

  • Management training and education

  • Technical and vocational education training (TVET)

Latest export opportunities in Education & Training sector

Latest export opportunities in Sri Lanka

Getting into the market

The Board of Investment (BOI) in Sri Lanka is supportive of British universities hoping to open up branch campuses in Sri Lanka. Land banks are available and guidance is provided for site selection and purchase of land. The Government also offers investors certain tax incentives and duty free facilities for organisations choosing to enter the market via direct investment through BOI facilitation. There are various Sri Lankan private organisations (not necessarily currently operating in the education sector) who are also interested in joint investment in such projects.

Common practice is that foreign education providers allow local providers to offer their programs whereby students can study in Sri Lanka for a part of the degree and complete the remaining part of the degree at the parent foreign institution. Some foreign institutions also allow the entire degree program to be followed in Sri Lanka.

Therefore for British education providers choosing to operate on a franchise model, many established private Sri Lanka educational providers are yet looking to grow their course offering.

More about doing business in Sri Lanka


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

Contact your local international trade team

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events in Education & Training

Latest events in Sri Lanka

Major Events

EDEX Expo 2013

Dates: 20-22 January 2013 at Sirimavo Bandaranaike International Memorial Exhibition Centre, Colombo and 27-28 January 2013 at Kandy City Centre (KCC), Kandy


Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Education & Training
Countries: Sri Lanka
Export Action Plan