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The development of the higher education sector is of central importance to enable Sri Lanka to make the transition from a Lower-Middle Income Country (LMIC) to an Upper Middle-Income Country (UMIC). Recognizing this, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the World Bank have agreed to support the higher education sector through a Bank funded Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) operation.

The Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) operation is organized in two components.

1. The first is a Program Component that supports the national Higher Education Development Program.
2. The second is a Systems Strengthening, Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Component that will assist the GoSL to strengthen the higher education sector and achieve the objectives of the AHEAD Program Component. This second will also cover monitoring and evaluation, policy analysis, program coordination and communication.

The implementing agency is the Ministry of Higher Education and Highways (MHEH). The University Grants Commission (UGC) will coordinate the activities of the universities. There will be an Operations Monitoring and Support Team (OMST) which will coordinate and support all AHEAD activities between the MHEH, UGC, and the universities.

The three Results Areas the AHEAD Operation will focus on are:

1. Increasing enrollment in higher education with special emphasis on study programs required for an aspiring upper-middle-income economy
2. Broadening and deepening modern teaching and learning approaches that combine academic excellence with high-quality socio-emotional skills
3. Promoting a vibrant research and innovation culture that can support economic development, especially the growth of higher-value industries and services