Establishment of Social Work Study at the University of Colombo

Project type: development

Beginning: 01.02.2005

End: 31.03.2014

Funding: Faculty of Social Work, University of Ljubljana


Collaborating organisations:

Coordinator: University of Ljubljana

Leader: Bogdan Lešnik


Dilrukshi Abeysinghe

Gabi Čačinovič Vogrinčič

Lena Dominelli

Vito Flaker

Subhangi Herath

Ramanie Jayatilake

Vesna Leskošek

Nina Mešl

Milko Poštrak

Anula Rathnayake

Jelka Škerjanc

Lea Šugman Bohinc

Mojca Urek

Petra Videmšek

Jagath Wellawatte

Darja Zaviršek

Romana Zidar

in drugi / and others

Posebna zahvala / Special thanks

Aisha Lyanaarachchi

K.G. Mahesh Tharanga

Other milestones:

2008 - first enrolments to the social work stream

2013 - social work study at the University of Colombo is self-sustained

international education in social work; practice placements; intercultural space; response to the 2004 tsunami 


As a response to the tsunami disaster that hit Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004, the Faculty of Social Work, University of Ljubljana (UL) has assisted the Sociology Department, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo (UC) to establish social work education.

Cooperation between the two universities began in February 2005 with a preliminary research of the social consequences of the tsunami, conducted by a group of UC students and teachers with the project leader, and continued with an action project by students and teachers from both universities on the southern coast of Sri Lanka in August 2005.

The project encompassed three concurrent sets of actions. One covers the formalities of cooperation between the two universities. Another concerns students' activities: joint actions, practice placements for UL students in Sri Lanka, supervised by UC faculty, and vice versa. The third is the implementation of a social work study programme at the UC. This set consisted of the development of a curriculum during visits of UC teachers at the UL; intensive courses at the UC taught by visiting teachers from the UL; and doctoral study at the UL of two former UC lecturers/instructors who assumed teaching positions at the UC upon completion of their studies. 

An undergraduate study programme of social work was introduced at the UC in 2008 as a stream, offered for three years within four-year sociological studies, and accepting up to 20 students per year. Students are graduating from sociology - social work stream until the conditions are met for a degree in social work.

Courses of the programme

The project formally ended in the academic year 2013-2014, with undergraduate social work study established at the UC and fully taught by Sri Lankan teachers. Some planned actions took longer to complete (until 2015). Collaboration continues.



  • Subhangi M.K. Herath (2017), Indian Ocean tsunami and its influence on the resurgence of social work as an academic discipline in Sri Lanka. European Journal of Social Work, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 42-53.
  • Bogdan Lešnik & Mojca Urek (2010), Traps of humanitarian aid: observations from a village community in Sri Lanka. European journal of social work, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Race and ethnic relations), pp. 271—282.
  • Mojca Urek & Bogdan Lešnik (2010), Tsunami project: a case of a collaborative project between two universities. In: Lučka Kajfež-Bogataj, Karl H. Müller, Ivan Svetlik & Niko Toš (Eds.), Modern RISC-societies: towards a new paradigm for societal evolution. Vienna: Edition Echoraum (pp. 373—387).
  • Darja Zaviršek & Subhangi M. K. Herath (2010), 'I want to have my future, I have a Dialogue': social work in Sri Lanka between neo-capitalism and human rights. Social work education, Vol. 29, No. 8, pp. 831—842.
  • Subhangi Herath & Bogdan Lešnik (2008), Internally displaced persons: implications for the development of social work in Sri Lanka. In: Shula Ramon (Ed.), Social work in the context of political conflict. London: Venture Press (pp. 77—97).



1. Formalities

  • April 2005: A Letter of Intent is signed by the UL in the UC.
  • November 2008: A three-year plan is adopted. Curriculum is set off.
  • April 2011: UC Vice-Chancellor Prof. K. S. Hirimburegama visits UL Rector Prof. R. S. Pejovnik. They sign a new general MoU with a detailed Annex about this particular project.

2. Students' activities

  • February 2005: 14 students and a teacher from the UC and the project leader together carry out an ad-hoc tsunami-related research on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
  • August 2005: 16 students and a teacher from the UC and 6 students and 2 teachers from the UL meet for joint research of the social cosequences of the tsunami on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
  • December 2006: 14 students and a teacher from the UC come for a month-long study visit to Slovenia.
  • 2008-2013: 22 one-month practice placements of UL students in Sri Lanka are arranged.

3. Social work study at the UC

(a) Visiting teachers from the UC to the UL (curriculum development and participation in the teaching process)

  • March-May 2008: Ramanie Jayatilake, Subhangi Herath
  • April-July 2010: Subhangi Herath
  • October-December 2012: Ramanie Jayatilake
  • March-June 2013: Subhangi Herath, Chandani Liyanage
  • February 2014-June 2015: Subhangi Herath

(b) Visiting teachers from the UL to the UC (and the courses they taught)

  • December 2008-February 2009: Vito Flaker (Introduction to social work)
  • June-August 2009: Mojca Urek (Community mental health)
  • February 2010: Darja Zaviršek (Theories and methods of social work)
  • July-August 2010: Jelka Škerjanc (Community social work, Introduction to social work)
  • February 2011: Gabi Čačinovič Vogrinčič, Lea Šugman Bohinc (Collaborative social work) 
  • July 2011: Milko Poštrak (Theories and methods of social work, Social work with groups at risk of exclusion)
  • January-February 2012: Mojca Urek (Community mental health, Community social work)
  • February-March 2012: Vito Flaker (Introduction to social work, Community social work)
  • May 2012: Petra Videmšek (Theories and methods of social work)
  • May-June 2012: Nina Mešl (Collaborative social work)
  • January-February 2013: Bogdan Lešnik (Introduction to social work, Counselling)
  • February 2013: Vito Flaker (Introduction to social work, Community mental health)
  • July 2013: Jelka Škerjanc (Social work with groups at risk of exclusion)
  • July-August 2013: Mojca Urek (Community mental health) 
  • January-March 2014: Bogdan Lešnik (Counselling)

(c) Completion of study 

Undergraduate social work stream at the UC:

  • 2011: 10 graduates
  • 2012: 9 graduates 
  • 2013: 17 graduates 

Doctoral programme of social work at the UL:

  • June 2013: Dilrukshi Abeysinghe successfully defended her doctoral thesis 'Towards a culturally competent, community-based approach in mental health in Sri Lanka: a challenge for social work' (supervisor: Darja Zaviršek).
  • September 2015: Anula Rathnayake successfully defended her doctoral thesis 'Mental health and family in Sri Lanka: family intervention and the significance of family support for people with mental health problems' (supervisor: Gabi Čačinovič Vogrinčič).