Sunday, April 22, 2012


An Integrated Health, Natural, Engineering, Social and Management Sciences Approach to Development Practice.

One thing about education in Sri Lanka is that most of us don’t know why we study what we study. It’s not really education for edification, but qualification; for that extra certificate to push you that extra bit higher in the corporate ladder. Most often, the problem is that what we learn really has nothing to do with the life we live or the society we live in. This is where the Masters of Development Practice (MDP) offered at the University of Peradeniya is different.

The purpose of the program is to address the lack of critical linkages between the natural, social and health sciences and management that program developers saw in other development-related post-graduate courses offered in Sri Lanka. What the instructors want the MDP graduates to take away is not just a piece of paper and lots of theory by rote, but a working knowledge of what development theory looks like in real life and how to address the core issues of development.

Students will not only be able to undertake projects that require an integrated perspective and effectively lead multidisciplinary teams; but also learn use up-to-date spatial analysis and data analysis methods and tools; design, monitor and evaluate projects while paying attention to sustainability, economic, environmental and social aspects; and develop integrated policy solutions that are scientifically, politically and contextually grounded.

Obviously, this is not work for the faint-hearted. “Their standards are very high” shares MDP student Samantha Lindsay, 44 year-old External Relations Officer at Asian Development Bank. She juggles a demanding job in Colombo during the week with this “challenging” course at Peradeniya over the weekend, but is “very happy” with the outcome. Samantha is “sceptical” of graduate courses that blossom daily and chose the MDP at Peradeniya because she believes she can “trust” the government universities.

Kaushalya Kathireson, 24, just rounding up her first semester in the program, also feels the work is tough. She works as a copywriter for JWT, but her extensive interest in development and volunteerism gives her the passion to pursue the course with enthusiasm, despite the high demands. “It’s not discipline-specific, but a holistic approach to coming up with solutions” she explains. Kaushalya likes having a “global” curriculum not only because it gives her the opportunity to compare that with the local development situation, but also because it pushes her to “go deeper” into the issue of development practice as a whole.

The global perspective of the course is facilitated partly by support of the MacArthur foundation ( – “supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world”) and is solidified in the Global Classroom: a cross-border, interactive web-based course hosted in New York by Columbia University. The program thus links up students, practitioners, scholars, leaders and communities in over 20 MDP programs in 16 countries, making it internationally well-recognized.

Leoma van Dort, 25, applicant to the MDP and Research Assistant at the University of Peradeniya is excited about the doors the course will open up for her, and the possibilities of studying abroad through exchange programs. Development has been a passion with her, and she looks forward to gaining the kind of practical knowledge that will make her valuable to society and potential employers.

The 2-year course that has been developed by academics from across the eight faculties of the University of Peradeniya as well others, includes a 3-month internship in a leading development practice organization including program partners FECT, CEPA, Gemidiriya, Mahaweli Authoriya, Practical Action (South Asia), Malidives Ministry of Environment, UNDP, Ministry of Disaster Management and SLT Manpower Solutions. It not only gives its students access to the teaching and learning resources of the best-endowed university in Sri Lanka but also to those of other institutions from within the country, as well as from overseas. These include Data Analysis and GIS computer labs and audio-visual equipped classrooms.

While all this makes the program sound nicely packaged and just another post-grad program, what makes the difference is the genuine interest all concerned parties take in the learning and teaching experience. Behind the curriculum are passionate teachers reputed for their sincerity and in the classroom, students who are seriously committed and enthusiastic. The kind of environment in which one might in fact, acquire an education.


  • · 2-year course
  • · 3 months internship
  • · 68 credits
  • · Classes on weekends and public holidays at the University of Peradeniya
  • · English medium


  • · Undergraduate degree (or equivalent) or a diploma with relevant work experience
  • · English language proficiency

More info: