Conversational Difficulties, Cognitive Distortions, and Leadership Efficacy of Minority Students in Sri Lankan Public Universities

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Naren D. Selvaratnam, Ooi Boon Keat, Jacquline Tham


The politicized nature of Sri Lankan public universities negatively influences the leadership self-efficacy of Tamil-speaking minority (TSM) students. Similarly, the language barrier between Sinhalese and TSM students makes pursuing leadership in public higher education institutes (HEIs) cumbersome for TSM learners. Although substantial contemporary research is available about the government’s ethnocentric role in enacting majoritarian policies and the consequent reluctance among minority students to lead within campuses, research that exclusively focuses on the key cognitive patterns associated with the efficaciousness of the individual learner is sparse. To fill this dearth in literature, the present study aspired to explore and explain how conversational deficits produce distorted thinking that alters the leadership self-efficacy of TSM students in public universities. The exploratory study utilized interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and chose a purposive sample of 14 minority students. Seven learners participated in one-on-one interviews and the remainder took part in two focus group discussions. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and data was analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings indicated a variety of maladaptive thoughts and dysfunctional attitudes about leadership commonly held by minority students. Moreover, a noticeable proportion of informants regarded unfavorable cognitive patterns as an outcome of the language barrier. Although most participants, as expected, implied doubts about the integrity of university administration, some still anticipated the assistance of campus management to bring more representation to TSM students within campuses. Overall, the study provided psychological insights to elucidate minority experiences within public universities in Sri Lanka. Through such comprehension, the university regulators could improve the existing administrative processes, student welfare mechanisms, and the learning environment to create favorable outcomes for minority students to display leadership.

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Naren D. Selvaratnam, Ooi Boon Keat, Jacquline Tham. (2023). Conversational Difficulties, Cognitive Distortions, and Leadership Efficacy of Minority Students in Sri Lankan Public Universities. Journal for ReAttach Therapy and Developmental Diversities, 6(10s), 395–408. Retrieved from