Saturday, November 29, 2008

Universiti Rakyat

Recently, Kedah's GERAKAN Youth has come out with a proposal to create a free university that is open to all Malaysians, regardless of race. It received some attention when the Minister of Higher Education, Khaled Nordin, responded to this proposal with some disdain. I shall comment on the proposal to set up a Universiti Rakyat and then I'll talk about the Minister's response.

This concept of a free university was first proposed by Kedah GERAKAN Youth Chief, Tan Keng Liang. The aims of this university are the following (I lifted this from the facebook group - Universiti Rakyat):

This proposed University is a free university for all Malaysians regardless of race and entrace shall be based on merits. The selection of lecturers in this university shall also be based on merits and without any form of quota. In line with the reduction of the subsidy of petrol and diesel in Malaysia, it is hope that the Malaysian government can use part of the savings from the reduction of the subsidy to establish this University for all Malaysians. This proposal is:-

1. in line with the Malaysia's government effort to promote the development of Human Capital and to exploit the potential of all Malaysian youth;

2. able to give all Malaysian a chance to further their education and expand their capabilities; and

3. able to assist the Malaysian youth to compete with the youth in other countries.

To support this proposal, please sign up at the online petition at www.petitiononline.com/unrakyat

Every Malaysian can do their part for the future of all Malaysians.


There are three basic distinguishing aspects of this university - that it is a public university, that entry is based on meritocracy and that it is free. I agree with the first two aspects while I disagree with the third.

I think that the concept of a public university that bucks the trend in terms of entry 'quotas' would be a good test case of what such a university would look like as opposed to the current public universities - which still have implicit 'quotas' even though the entry process now is supposed to be based on meritocracy (ask anyone who has compared the syllabus and exams of those doing STPM and those doing Matriculation).

Of course, the performance of such a university vis-a-vis other public universities is dependent on other factors in addition to the composition of the students including facilities, resources, faculty, etc...

What I don't agree with is the "FREE" component. Running a university is a very expensive endeavor. I think that we've actually been too aggressive in the expansion of our public universities so much so that I doubt whether we have sufficient resources to teach in and manage all these new public universities that have been popping up left and right. I would prefer that the MOHE moves away in the long term from fully funding all the public universities and allow these universities to pay for part of their runnings costs by either charging slightly higher fees and / or raising money to be put into endowments which can go into the running of a university. Universities worldwide are starting to feel the pinch of increasing costs and competition and if our public universities want to be competitive, they have to find ways of raising more revenue to provide better pay for higher performing faculty and to give them the resources they need to do serious research. As such, I don't think that the model of a "FREE" university works. It just cannot provide the kinds of facilities and faculty that would make this university a half decent one.

Now, let me talk about the minister's response.

This is what he said in a statement published by Berita Harian:

1. cadangan Pemuda Parti Gerakan Negeri Kedah untuk menubuhkan Universiti Rakyat ‘adalah tidak masuk akal dan tidak wajar kerana akademik tidak boleh berkait dengan mana-mana parti politik di negara ini’;

2. “kerajaan memerintah sekarang sudah merangkumi kombinasi pelbagai parti politik, justeru, tidak perlu untuk setiap parti politik di negara ini menubuhkan universiti khas”; dan

3. “kebebasan akademik perlu dipelihara dan tidak boleh dikaitkan dengan agenda politik”.


This is Keng Liang's response (again, lifted from Facebook):

Isu Pertama

Cadangan “Universiti Rakyat” oleh Pemuda Parti Gerakan Negeri Kedah tersebut merupakan suatu cadangan pembentukan universiti percuma bagi semua rakyat Malaysia yang akan ditubuhkan dan ditadbir oleh kerajaan Malaysia dan bukan oleh mana-mana badan politik di negara kita.

Isu Kedua

Seperti yang telah dinyatakan, universiti tersebut akan ditubuh dan ditadbir oleh kerajaan Malaysia bagi semua rakyat Malaysia. Ia bukan suatu universiti khas oleh mana-mana badan politik negara kita.

Isu Ketiga

Pembentukan Universiti Rakyat tidak akan menjejaskan sistem pengajian negara kita yang sedia ada tetapi akan memberi lebih peluang untuk rakyat Malaysia untuk memasuki universiti tempatan “berdasarkan merit”. Rakyat Malaysia tidak wajib untuk memasuki universiti ini tetapi sebagai suatu peluang alternatif untuk mereka. Oleh yang demikian, kebebasan akademik negara kita tidak terjejas.

Keng Liang is spot on in terms of his replies. His proposal is not to set up a GERAKAN Universiti Rakyat. His proposal is to set up a taxpayer's funded public university.

But there's a reason as to why the minister associated this proposal with a political party wanting to have its own university. The reason is that GERAKAN was given a license to operate its own university - Wawasan Open University. I won't comment on the Wawasan Open University since I was working in a GERAKAN linked think tank while this university was being set up (no, I didn't give any input on the establishment of this university). As such, it was instinctive for the Minister to associate a call to set up a university by a political party to equate this with a political party wanting its 'own' university.

I think Keng Liang's proposal is motivated by good intentions. The current system is unfair in that it pushes out a lot of non-Malays who would otherwise have qualified to attend the public universities. But many non-Malays also voluntarily 'opt-out' of the public university system since there are now many alternatives in private colleges (even though it comes at a higher cost).

My preference would be to focus on improving the quality of our public universities and perhaps improving the entry process into our public universities rather than setting up a new university that is free and meritocratic.

In any case, the possibility of such a university being established by the government is almost nil.

80 comments:

Anonymous said...

A free uni is a good idea and this would stop capitalistic and money grabbing unis like CSU from down under in getting their hands of monies from poor naive students. It would also mean that expensive fees charged by people who are suppose to HELP but don't really HELP to stop charging these fees for substandard degree experience.

Tiara said...

It shows just how sad we are when a university like this only exists as a proposal rather than being the default. Why is a race-blind public-funded university such a novel thing in Malaysia?

Shawn Tan said...

I agree that the focus should be on improving quality. I've already lost track of all the universities and college universities in Malaysia. There is no point in churning out a whole lot of graduates, who only saturate the market and end up unemployed anyway.

Another idea would be to establish a similar university (as in free and fair) that only provides taught masters courses. This university will be much cheaper to run and can help by giving our graduates a chance for further education. Bias can be reduced by admitting students with first degrees already.

Just my 2 sen.

Anonymous said...

Agree. We should focus on restoring our university quality rather than keep on building more ad more university.

Derek said...

I was under the impression that Wawasan Open Univ is already known as the People's Univ as it takes it student without the necessary academic qualifications and gives them the opportunity to obtain a degree.

What did I miss out here?

msleepyhead said...

With the MOHE busy with official duties like officiating the launch of a new logo for some college, one wonders if they have time for some serious work.

A concerned Malaysian said...

i think the free university which entry is based on merits ("University Rakyat") is a good proposal because the good student would in any event deserve scholarship. Otherwise, these students have to apply for a place in the local Uni (if they r not restricted by quota) and also apply for the scholarship (if there is any left for non-Bumi).

Anonymous said...

Wawasan Open University is a stupid political link university by Gerakan.....what people need is a government funded university(whether free or subsidy is ok)...anyway, I agree with the Universiti Rakyat thing and it should be run by the malaysian government for Rakyat Malaysia

Anonymous said...

Surely they could come up with a better name than "University Rakyat"? Wawasan Open University is even worse.

Ex-Gerakan member said...

I think that this idea of University Rakyat is a good idea....whether it is free or not is another issue....at least it gives more opportunity to Malaysian to enter university....i.e. non-bumiputra. It is very rare i see Gerakan member come out with good idea...but this time, I agree with a gerakan proposal from this Mr. Tan. BTW I don't think name is important. The concept is more important. university rakyat, etc...or university malaysia....whatever!

Anonymous said...

I think the VC of the university rakyat should be rafeah salim as she had stellar achievements

Anonymous said...

the VC must be someone with stellar achievements and the lecturers must be chosen based on merits.
I agree with the proposal from Tan Keng Liang.....no point have a good facility with bad lecturers!!! Then you have lousy students

Anonymous said...

Seomething I read in NST online today.....perhaps, University Rakyat should also teach foreign languages and mother tongue.


Kedah Gerakan Youth head Tan Keng Liang, in opposing Mukh-riz's statement, said he agreed that pupils in national schools should be given the opportunity to study their mother tongues and other languages.

"This would equip our youth to interact globally, as well as better promote the cultures of the various races."

Anonymous said...

what Mr Tan said about national schools is right.....there is no point talking about closing vernacular school as there is no other alternative for people then to learn their mother tongue. The government should let people study mother tongue and other languages in national school. BTW i hope that other stupid politician stop critisizing Mukhriz without thinking.....at least he says that people can be allowed to study other languages in national school.....as was rightly pointed out by that Tan Keng Liang of Kedah Gerakan!

unknown said...

u r right.....people should be allowed to study other languages in national school!

Zaki said...

I don't understand why we are obsessed about opening up more and more universities. Working at IIUM (a fairly established institution) for the last five years, I know that local universities are struggling in finding candidates to fill-up teaching positions. In the last few years, new universities have opened up in Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis, and in addition the status upgrade of colleges and college-universities across the country. The number of students are increasing but the number of teaching staffs have not. Often, what happens is universities and colleges will hire just about anyone who applies, which include those with average academic achievements at the undergraduate level.

All in all, I agree with you that we should focus on improving the quality of local universities. As far as giving opportunities to as many people as possible to get advanced education, we can open community colleges across the country that offer diploma and advance diploma programmes. Costly endeavour? Well, why not expand and open-up the existing network of UiTM campuses?

lacey said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Kate
http://educationonline-101.com

Anonymous said...

Silly idea.

Education is not about giving everyone a degree.

Without a job at the end of graduation, that degree is just a piece of thrash paper. That is why NUS is now World top 30 and Asia top 4, while our UM cannot even get into 200!

Anonymous said...

I think this university rakyat is a good idea because it gives free education to qualified Malaysian based on merits. And it doesn't waste our government money to people who is not qualified and based on certain quota.

Adrian Hoe said...

Yes. Totally agree with you.

Education in Malaysia has become silly. Education is not about giving everyone a degree but that's what most people and the government think it is.

Politicians should not involve in education. Let the academicians to do the job, the education should be independent from politics and government intervention. Otherwise, the education will be as hilarious as the politics.

Anonymous said...

My Dear Encik Zaki,
There are more than enough suitable candidates to fill the teaching posts in the universities in Malaysia. The problem is some or all the universities are fearful of certain selected group of candidates to become teaching staff as that would be detrimental to the existing staff and deadwoods who are so happy and secure in their own dormant environment of Rihat & Duduk.

Ask any UNMO if this is not so?
They are even fearful of having other races as VCs....hehe

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with Tan Keng Liang when he said that the proposed University Rakyat should be run by the government and not linked to any political party. Education should be independent from politics. The Higher Education minister just got all the facts wrong!!!

A gerakan member said...

I wonder whether Gerakan Youth Kedah is going to get kick by the Gerakan National Youth for proposing this university rakyat?

Anonymous said...

Dear gerakan member,
why should gerakan national youth kick gerakan youth kedah?

Anonymous said...

I think what the Gerakan Youth of Kedah's proposal for University Rakyat is good for Malaysian. It should be run by the government.

Anonymous said...

I think good student must be given place to study in local university regardless of their race.....as long as they are malaysian. So, University Rakyat is a good idea.....giving good students more chances to enter local university!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah....i agree with anonymous....but make sure that the lecturers in University Rakyat should be good lecturers. Don't simply place no standard lecturers to teach good students!!!!

fake degree holder said...

University Rakyat will help to reduce Malaysians from buying fake degrees. Why need to buy fake degrees when you can study and get a recognize degree from University Rakyat at reasonable price.
Wawasan Open University bachelor degree is not cheap. It cost about RM19K.

Anonymous said...

All degrees are not cheap....except those local university which have quota for Bumiputra only. So, we need something like University Rakyat to be fair to all of us!!!!

Anonymous said...

BTW government should stop wasting money on existing local university that do not perform and produce good students......especially those accepting the student from matriculation.....which is well below the standard of STPM or A-Levels!!! University rakyat should not accept matriculation student from MARA, etc

local Malaysia U grad said...

We Malaysians should STOP subcribing to creating more Universities or ways to get into Universities.

We should be looking at how to get our Universities into WORLD RECOGNITION.

Otherwise our graduates can always only find jobs in Malaysia, or become unemployed!

I feel so good being looked down when I go overseas!

Those stupid policies make me really envy my friends who had guts enough to borrow money and go NUS.

Annoyed Malaysian Youth said...

I think the reason why our local university is so lousy is because it is open to people who are not qualified to be there in the first place.....and they are taught by people who are not even qualified to be teachers in secondary schools!
The idea of university rakyat is good if its entrace should be strictly based on merits and the lecturers must also be chosen based on merits!!!

Anonymous said...

I hope that the University Rakyat can be implemented soon as all qualified people are suffering now .....no all smart students are rich people!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy boy said...

UMNO Ministers need to use their brains before making comments...otherwise they will look silly like Deputy Higher Education Minister Idris Harun!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Happy Boy.....they only talk without substance!!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should open up our job market to foreign University grads educated outside Malaysia. This will make our own local Uni wake up and realise their students cannot get jobs, and their student number start dropping.

Then they will start to do work.

Anonymous said...

Yes, most local university graduate are still dreaming.....especially those who are not qualified to be in the university in the first place.

Ganesh said...

I think there must be some bench mark or some international standard set for people who want to enter local university......especially matriculation college must set a higher standard!

Anonymous said...

Time for Ministry of Higher Education to look into the University Rakyat proposal!!!

Anonymous said...

It is definitely time for a change to bring something that benefit the Malaysian!!!

Mr Taxpayer said...

I support the university rakyat proposal! Use the taxpayers money properly.

Victor said...

I think the government should use the money they make from sale of petrol to help give good educatoin to poor people in Malaysia....one University rakyat is not enough....need at least 10

Anonymous said...

Victor, i think lets start with one university rakyat first......if the BN government can't even give one university rakyat, then let us consider other alternative government!

Anonymous said...

Victor, Malaysia is a net importer of petrol. We are bleeding money buying oil. There are no earnings from selling oil.

I disagree with University Rakyat. It only serves to give the current Universities a good excuse to continue with random racial quotas and screwing with good public funds.

We should make the current Universities become impartial, or deny them public funding. Instead of starting something new when the old setup screws up, we should clean up the house instead. We are wasting public funds building new infrastructure when the current ones are not even ultilised properly. This is a waste of public funds. Let us not be conned into it.

Ask for impartial admission in our current Universities. Ask for accountability.

Do not just throw away our taxpayers' money into another "multimedia corridor" type of mega projects which will end the way it ends. Give money to rich contractors with no results.

Do not give in to hype and hot air by politicians with no backbone and cannot fight for impartiality.

Anonymous said...

"Instead of starting something new when the old setup screws up, we should clean up the house instead."

Just to say, do you know that Saudi Arabia was in debt about 8-9 years ago. Because they were building splendid castles, then abandoning the castles when they dis like parts of the standards, by building new ones.

If oil rich Saudi can be in debt by building new castles every time they don't like their old ones, won't Malaysia be even worse if we do the same?

Victor said...

do you know that malaysia is making money from selling oil higher than the world price???
check the facts rights before commenting like a fool.
do you also know that there is not enough place in local university? what's wrong in building new ones since it is difficult to change the old system???

Anonymous said...

victor, there is no point arguing cause the government will not admit they are making money from the rakyat

James said...

i agree with that!

Yogesh said...

i welcome the creation of university rakyat!:)

Anonymous said...

do you also know that there is not enough place in local university?

Not enough place? By what calculations? By calculating that 100% of our students must have degree, so that our degrees become toilet paper?
Or some random 50%, 30% etc?
Or by factual estimation of what sectors need how many graduates with what proper qualifications?

Not enough indeed.

University Rakyat is an excuse for continual screwed up of our current system.

poor chinese student said...

do not be selfish. You are the lucky rich chinese that can afford overseas or private higher learning education. How abaout the poor chinese/indian students?
Do they not deserve a higher education too.
Our local degree will not be toilet papers. when 100% of our students have degree. It can generate a higher skill work forces in Malaysia and eventually attract more FDI into our country.
University Rakyat will do good to all Malaysians.

Anonymous said...

How abaout the poor chinese/indian students?

Exactly why we should ask for accountability in current Universities. Provide opportunities for quality and acredited studies for all regardless of status.

If 100% of people get degree, I ask you, as employer, you will have a sudden surplus of degree holders, what will you do? Lower salaries. Because you can just employ anyone!

And if you want good example, look no further than Australia and UK.

Edith Cowan, RMIT, Jame Cook, Swinburne, Curtin, etc were issuing only Diplomas until Australia went on this education money spin. They "upgraded" these into Universities. These institutes don't have sufficient PhD and Masters staff members to teach, and you see the kind of quality they give.

In UK, same thing. Diploma issuing institutes were "upgraded" into Universities to "give opportunities to students wanting to pursue a degree".

What happened?

Oxford etc renamed their degrees to Masters. That is why when you see a UK University offering a 4 year Masters course, it means it is a geniune good University. Because "degree" has become the new word for "Diploma".

Why you want a degree which gives you a salary of RM500 or even unemployment?

It is not you get degree or not, but the degree good or not that matters!

So University Rakyat will not meet standards because we already not enough qualified teachers! Plus it will be excuse for current Universities to continue their rubbish because "You can go University Rakyat"!

100% student get degree, can. Provided 100% of the degree courses got standard, PLUS the students also got standard.

Boleh? Boleh tak boleh!

Anonymous said...

This is exact words tabled in proposal? Because got grammar mistakes!

2. able to give all Malaysians a chance to further their education and expand their capabilities; and

3. able to assist the Malaysian youths to compete with the youths in other countries.

Or is the Gerakan want only give Universiti to satu orang only?

i no standard said...

poor chinese student, you are the selfish one. you want government spend a lot of money just so you can get degree. you do not care the degree will make the rest of malaysia degrees look bad because no standard.

it is not rich or poor, it is enouggh standard or not.

chiewlan said...

I am conducting a research for my thesis as part of the requirement for my Bachelor of Economics (Human Resource Economics). The title of this thesis is “Unemployment Among Graduates”.

In my research, the respondents will include graduates who are not working yet, 3 months after their convocation.

Any of your friend not working yet, 3 months after their convocation? If yes, can u give me their email address or email their mail address to me (chinchiewlan85@yahoo.com) Cos I need their help to be my respondent in filling up the questionnaire.

Currently, I faced a severe problem. I can’t get any respondent who are not working yet, 3 months after their convocation. Hopefully you can help me.

Your co-operation is much appreciated. Your response will be use for the preparation of thesis only and the information will be kept confidential. Thanks…

Anonymous said...

I think University Rakyat only gives people a chance to continue their studies and does not guarantee their degree if they do not perform well. Besides that, i read that the proposal states that entrance should be based on merits...... correct me if I am wrong

Anonymous said...

btw I think that those against the University Rakyat proposal are just selfish people who cannot tolerate to see other Malaysian able to enter university. What's wrong with helping poor Malaysian to enter local university? What's wrong with creating more place in local university for Malaysian?

Got Standard said...

I No Standard,
you really got no standard.... cannot understand simple english. ENTRANCE OF UNIVERSITY RAKYAT is based on merits (meaning that based on results). In other words, only people got standard can enter.

Concerned Malaysian said...

if Penang DAP can give RM100 subsidy for water, why can't the BN federal government give free university? why people only complain when the proposal benefits malaysian? PUT YOUR POLITICAL DIFFERENCE AND EGO ASIDE

Anonymous said...

leave Penang DAP away from this topic.

Derrick said...

I agree that University Rakyat should be formed to help the smart poor students enter local uni.

Anonymous said...

Time for a change in Malaysia.....one last chance for equality to all malaysian!

Anonymous said...

btw what language do you think Science and Mathematic be taught in school?

Anonymous said...

Why so many people want new Universiti for POOR students? Then continue with "by merits"?

So is poor a merit?

Anonymous said...

Poor is definitely not a merit.....hahaha

Anonymous said...

I agree that University Rakyat should be formed to help the smart poor students enter local uni.

Poor is a merit. everyone should stop working now ad give birth to 20 kids to qualify for Universiti Rakyat.

Congratulations on supporting people become more poor.

Poor and Poor said...

The "poor student" say rich people send their kids oversea. So local Universiti will have space for poor student right? Because rich people kids not here to compete.

If student is smart, oversea Universiti will give scholarship to get them in.

If student is poor financially, this get into good Universiti is not issue.

But if student is poor academically, then go where also got issue.

So Universiti Rakyat no have reason to set up. Except to give toilet paper degree to academically poor, no standard people who like to use financially poor to obtain sympathy.

Even Poorer said...

I don't think oversea university give scholarship so easily to us....very little only. And Non-Bumiputra always cannot enter local university even get good results.....

Even Poorer said...

i always see every year people complain cannot get into university even get good result.....i suspect there is a quota system. Does anyone think there is really a quota system for bumiputra in local university????

Even Poorer said...

I think UNIVERSITY RAKYAT is a good idea as it helps the poor and smart students.

Anonymous said...

i agree with "Even Poorer". We should build university rakyat and make sure only those with good results can enter.

Even Poorer said...

I heard that Universiti Malaya want to reduce the intake for undergraduate.....there is not even enough space for us and they want to reduce it....really stupid!

malaysian student said...

time to open up University malaya for all malaysian....no more quota

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is defintely time to open up.....agree fully with Malaysian Student!!!

Anonymous said...

UM not a good place to study

Anonymous said...

UM is the premier Uni in Malaysia. Unless University Rakyat is set up and then, takeover from it!!!

Anonymous said...

I support University Rakyat....for all malaysian...no more quota! Entrance based on good results only!

University Rakyat Supporter said...

I agree too! Support University Rakyat

A concerned Malaysian said...

University Rakyat vs. Universiti Malaya?

Anonymous said...

Which one is better.....
University Rakyat or Universiti Malaya?