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Student: A Sri Lankan’s study dream come true

Matthew Welsh talks to Sri Lankan actuarial student Thanuja Krishnaratna, about the SIAS bursary helping her to achieve her goals

05 APR 2012 | MATTHEW WELSH
Can you tell us a bit about your background, Thanuja?
I joined the Institute of Actuaries in 2001 while living in Sri Lanka. I took an actuarial trainee role at Ceylinco Insurance Plc in 2002 and began sitting the exams.
 
In 2004 the company sponsored part of the cost for me to come to the UK to study for an MSc in Actuarial Science at Heriot Watt University. In September last year I returned to the UK to accomplish my objective of qualifying as an actuary. I found that a lack of facilities in Sri Lanka meant preparation for later exams was difficult.

How did you hear about the SIAS bursary?
I was looking for a scholarship to follow the Actuarial Management course in the UK through various sources such as DFID, Commonwealth Scholarships, and the Chevening Scholarship but most of these did not cover actuarial science. I contacted Chris Daykin, a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, regarding my efforts and he directed my application to the Worshipful Companies of Actuaries, who granted me £2,000, and SIAS, who granted me £5,000 towards my tuition fees – I would like to thank them all for their support towards my education. I funded the remainder through an educational loan.

You are studying at Herriot Watt. What do you think of Scotland?
I came to Edinburgh in 2004/2005 when I was first studied actuarial science and I am familiar with Heriot Watt University and the area very well. I particularly like Scotland. It is a very charming, peaceful and relaxing place. The university is situated in a large, beautifully landscaped area and has the perfect facilities and calm atmosphere for studies. I have really enjoyed my time studying here.

How is your course? What has been your favourite part and what is your top exam study tip?

I am doing the PG Diploma in Actuarial Management and taking subjects CA1, ST2, ST5 and CT8. First semester was completed and second semester will end with final exams in early May 2012. My favourite subjects are Life Insurance (ST2) and Actuarial Risk Management (CA1). The best exam tip I have learned is to create mind maps around questions. This can be built through thinking about all stakeholders involved, the types of risk and various departments of a company and building your answer around each point.

Do you have any plans for when you finish the course?
I would like to qualifiy as a life actuary as I have been working in this sector for eight years. My ultimate objective is to serve my country as an actuary. But before returning to Sri Lanka I am keen to work with experienced life actuaries in a country such as the UK or Singapore where the actuarial profession is highly developed. It will help me to obtain the practical experience which is less available in Sri Lanka.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about applying for a bursary to help them with their application?
The SIAS bursary is very helpful for someone from a difficult financial background to fund their studies at a UK university. I believe this is especially true for students from countries where actuarial education is underdeveloped and students struggle with the exams. The bursary is there to help people who have a genuine cause, interest and the capability to work hard to become an actuary.

What is life like for an actuary in Sri Lanka?
There are currently about 35 actuarial students in Sri Lanka, five associates and only one qualified actuary.

To help fill this actuarial educational gap in my country I am currently working closely with the Department of Statistics at the University of Colombo and the UK Actuarial Profession to start a Masters in Actuarial Science programme in Sri Lanka. I hope it will be successful and we can develop the actuarial profession in the country step by step.

In 2008, a few senior actuarial professionals in Sri Lanka got together to form the Actuarial Association of Sri Lanka (AASL) and I served the AASL as secretary from its inception until August 2011.

Thanuja, thank you very much for recounting your experiences.

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It's a great pleasure for me to hear that you are going to start a Masters in Actuarial science in DST in University of Colombo as an undergraduate following Statistcs with Computer science there.

Nipunika Atapattu (03/03/2013 04:47:36)