Press Release

6th February 2007

Durham University to honour two exceptional Sri Lankans and their post-tsunami work

Durham University is this week celebrating two exceptional people who have played a pivotal role in the post-tsunami recovery efforts in Sri Lanka. It is awarding honorary degrees to the vice-chancellor of one of the country’s leading universities and the executive director of one of the largest non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka.

At a ceremony taking place at the University of Ruhuna in Southern Sri Lanka on Friday 16 February, Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, will confer honorary doctorates in civil law (DCL) on Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, for his unfailing dedication to humanitarian causes and peace initiatives and Professor Ranjith Senaratne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna, for his academic distinction, effective management and visionary development of an international strategy for his institution.

The university is also conferring the honorary degrees in recognition of the individuals’ roles in helping to make ‘Project Sri Lanka’, which brings together students and staff of Durham university with community and regional partners in the North East of England in activities to assist with the reconstruction and regeneration of tsunami-devastated communities in Southern Sri Lanka, an internationally recognised success as an all-inclusive humanitarian, academic and development project.

Durham University’s Professor Joy Palmer-Cooper, Director of Project Sri Lanka explained why she nominated the two graduands: “Dr Ariyaratne is a man of international acclaim and distinction in the medical, development and peace fields. He has worked with us since the establishment of Project Sri Lanka and has been unstinting in his personal support for the project.

“Professor Ranjith Senaratne and the University of Ruhuna have been pivotal in setting up the academic exchanges between our two universities and visits of Durham students to Sri Lanka. He has also supported Durham in securing further funding to help develop exchange programmes which aim to stimulate academic partnership with real practical benefits for local communities in Sri Lanka.”
Over 500 guests have been invited to the ceremony including the vice-chancellors of every Sri Lankan university, government ministers, members of the clergy, parents of Sri Lankan students studying at Durham University and Durham graduates. At the ceremony Professor Joy Palmer-Cooper will present the two honorary graduands followed by an address by Sir Kenneth Calman. There will also be a cultural event following the ceremony. The event will conclude with the national anthem of Sri Lanka.

Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, commented: “Conferring these honorary degrees is a wonderful opportunity to cement our university’s fruitful relationships with these two outstanding individuals and the organisations that they represent. It reinforces the great work that is being done to create an internationally transferable model for the internationalisation of universities.”

In the days following the honorary degree ceremony the Durham University group will attend the opening of Moraketiara School, which has been reconstructed with help from the Alnwick Rotary Club followed by a visit to the newly constructed DUCK school, named after the Durham Charity Kommitee (DUCK), which raised funds for the school’s construction.

Project Sri Lanka is a British Council and HEFCE supported all-inclusive project led by Durham University. It brings together students and staff of the university with community and regional partners in the North East of England in activities to assist with the reconstruction and regeneration of tsunami-devastated communities in Southern Sri Lanka.

Grounded in humanitarian objectives, the project has students at the heart of it and is underpinned by academic research and teaching in a wide range of disciplines which have relevance to understanding natural disasters and dealing with the effects of human tragedy.

ENDS

For further information or photographs please contact:
Durham University Media and Public Affairs Office on + 44 (0)191 334 6075 or email pr.office@durham.ac.uk

Notes to editors

About Durham University

Founded in 1832, Durham University aims to provide internationally recognised research, scholarship and learning within a distinctive collegiate environment. Based on two sites in Durham city and Stockton on Tees in the North East of England it has 15,000 students, employs 3,000 staff, has created 16 spin out companies since 2000 and has an annual turnover of over £130m, making it the equivalent of a top 50 North-East business.  The Sunday Times University Guide for potential students named Durham University as ’University of the Year in 2005.’
The University is collegiate, with colleges providing residential, social and welfare facilities for their student members, and creating a sense of community for staff and students together. For more information see: www.durham.ac.uk and www.durham.ac.uk/projectsrilanka

Biographies

Dr Vinya Shanthidas Ariyaratne

Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, Executive Director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka, has played a leading part in some of Sri Lanka’s most profound examples of peace-making at both local village and national levels. Sarvodaya is the largest non-governmental voluntary people’s organisation on the island of Sri Lanka, founded in 1958, it has won highly prestigious awards including the National Icon Award for the best humanitarian organisation.

As Executive Director of the organisation, Dr Ariyaratne is responsible for the implementation of the island-wide integrated development programme of Sarvodaya, through a network of over 50 district centres and training institutions with a full time staff of over 600. He has been at the forefront of civil sector peace initiatives and has provided the operational leadership to landmark peace events.

By profession, Vinya Ariyaratne is a medical doctor. He holds the degrees of Doctor of Medicine, Master of Public Health, Master of Science, and Doctor of Medicine in Community Medicine. His fields of expertise include primary health care, community development, nutrition, refugee health care, disaster management, environmental health, reproductive health, HIV and AIDS. He has researched and published in a range of national and international public health and development journals, and serves on numerous national and international Boards including the Boards of the National Child Protection Authority and the Panos Institute in London and Panos South Asia. He has served as consultant to the Asia Development Bank, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.

Professor Ranjith Senaratne

Ranjith Senaratne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ruhuna, is a distinguished scholar in the field of agricultural and crop sciences; he has engaged in the effective management and visionary development of his own institution in the post-tsunami context; and in the on-going process of working with Durham University on the development of an internationally recognised humanitarian model for the internationalisation of universities.

In his early career, Ranjith Senaratne was judged to be the most outstanding young biological scientist in Sri Lanka by the Third World Academy of Science in Rome. He has been the recipient of several internationally competitive and highly prestigious awards including the André Mayer Fellowship of the FAO of the United Nations. He has published extensively in scientific journals and delivered addresses in some 70 locations spanning 23 countries of the world. He is also currently Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors in Sri Lanka.

Ranjith Senaratne has aimed to make Ruhuna a borderless, multi-disciplinary university with close community links – a ‘communiversity’ with successful entrepreneurial and outreach dimensions. He has personally embraced Ruhuna’s role in developing a strategy for internationalisation.

Durham University to honour two exceptional Sri Lankans and their post-tsunami work