History of the Stream

Although the Department of Sociology expected to combine sociological theory and practice, the development of sociological studies followed a path more aligned to social anthropological and almost totally abandoned its initial aims to contribute to social welfare which would be the ultimate goal of social work. However, some members of the department were highly concerned about the social changes occurring in the country for decades which needed not only sociological explanation and analysis but also required theoretically informed intervention, which is the task of the discipline of Social Work. The situation intensified as the Indian Ocean Tsunami in December 2004 physically, economically and socially debilitated the country while already being severely affected by the ethnic conflict during the last three decades. The dearth of well trained social workers in the country was tangible during the time. However, the country did not have the capacity to produce adequate numbers of social workers due to the fact that none of the 15 universities in the country provided a degree programme in Social Work other than the National Institute of Social Development (Formerly, the School of Social Work) which was given the degree-granting status in 2005.

In early 2005, a team from the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Social Work led by two senior professors engaged in a joint action research project with the Department of Sociology, initiated by Mr Jagath Wellawatta, a senior lecturer in the department, in a Tsunami affected village in the South. This led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities for academic collaboration in the field of Social Work. In 2006, twelve students from the department accompanied by a senior lecturer visited Slovenia to participate in a month-long intensive training programme in Social Work in March 2008, Prof Ramanie Jayatilaka and Prof Subhangi Herath from the Department visited the University of Ljubljana for a three month period on an invitation as visiting scholars. During this period the final decisions were made to introduce social work as a stream of study within the special degree programme in sociology for a limited number of students as an initial step as the programme involves extensive practical training and close supervision and the relevant course outlines were developed in collaboration. The Department of Sociology is privileged to receive the consent of seven senior and highly reputed members from the Faculty of Social Work of the University of Ljubljana, who have contributed immensely to the development of Social Work in Slovenia to come to the University of Colombo to teach and conduct the courses in the initial three years until the first batch of students complete their degrees. It was agreed that the Department should also take measures to train its own academics in the field. In order to achieve this goal, the Faculty of Ljubljana agreed to offer two studentships for two doctoral students and the Department nominees for these two positions have been accepted by the University of Ljubljana, and the initiation of its first batch of students have been completed. Both the Department of Sociology and the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Work are searching for funding to further facilitate the doctoral studies programme. As a beginning, one course in Social Work per semester was introduced from November 2008.



Both senior and junior academics from the Department of Sociology have joined the Slovenian team to implement the programme. The programme, however, receives the contribution of all members via the courses they offer in the special degree programme which will be a part of the Social Work Stream. A number of organizations engaged in different areas of Social Work from the vicinity of Colombo facilitate practical placements.


Practical Placement Scheme

A unique factor in this stream is that in addition to coursework and firm theoretical grounding, there is an emphasis on practical work. The students learn to work as volunteers at a community level. They are expected to complete approximately 50 hours for a semester of three months. The first batch of students has worked in institutions for mentally ill service users, community mental health organizations, elders’ homes and psychiatric wards. They have used the theoretical framework and concepts of normalization, empowerment, risk analysis, recovery etc in their practical work. The work they have done as volunteers and part-time social workers have ranged from spending time with the service users, finding jobs for them, organizing events for them, conducting dancing classes and other activities that have sought to create a change in the lives of those they encounter.


Field Trips 

In addition to the practical placement schemes, the students have participated in diverse field trips to Children’s Homes, Drug Rehabilitation Centres, Community Mental Health Awareness Programmes and Mental Rehabilitation Hospitals. Through this, they have gained a wide knowledge of the different methods used in Social Work and also the different needs that exist.


Miscellaneous Activities

The students have also interacted with and housed Slovenian undergraduates from the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Work during their period of study in Colombo. They have taken these students to different community projects and in the process found out more about International Social Work practices and methods. Two students from the University of Durham, Great Britain also visited the University and during their interaction with them, the students from Colombo were able to learn more about Social Work practice and approaches in Britain.


Coordinator of the Study Stream

Dr Dilrukshi Abeysinghe
Department of Sociology
University of Colombo
Colombo 3
Sri Lanka


Telephone: +94 (0) 112500452
Email: dilrukshiabeysinghe@soc.cmb.ac.lk