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GERAK Says Public University System In Crisis, Made Worse By Covid-19, But Have Suggestions To Fix It

GERAK Says Public University System In Crisis, Made Worse By Covid-19, But Have Suggestions To Fix It

Malaysian Academics Movement (GERAK) claims the MOHE and university management haven’t done enough to alleviate the issue.

Azizul Rahman Ismail

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It took 16 months, from March 2020, when the MCO was implemented, to July 2021 for the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) to make the decision to reduce university fees by 35%. 

This, said the Malaysian Academics Movement (GERAK), is just one example of how the MOHE and university management dropped the ball when it comes to addressing the crisis facing the private university system during the pandemic. 

GERAK adds that ad-hoc, confusing and inconsistent decisions by the MOHE and by university management, sub-standard online facilities; and lack of preparedness to take classes online are just some of the other issues faced by the teachers and students.

The movement, which consists of academicians from universities across Malaysia, claims that the current university education system is largely designed to meet political agendas and the questionable requirements of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) and Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN).

At the same time, various equally questionable university and publication ranking systems are forced upon academics to ensure “quality”.

The Suggestions

In response to the issues, GERAK proposed short-term health and safety measures that would allow all students and staff to return to campuses and to resume their studies, and live safely and with as little mental stress as possible while doing so.

To Return To Class

Here are some of the basic measures they say are needed before institutions announce the dates of when classes will resume:

  • Provide full publicly-funded vaccination of all academic, administrative and support staff on campus.
  • Provide full publicly-funded vaccination of all registered university/tertiary-level students.
  • Set up active and efficient COVID-19 Test and Trace systems in all campuses;
  • Provide proper and efficient ICT support for students and staff. This would include hardware, software, and internet support.
  • Prepare SOPs for in-class lectures/tutorials, library, study rooms, hostel life, food courts, sports facilities, and other campus activities.
  • Provide the option for students to defer a semester/year.
  • Allow a choice of both in-class and virtual attendance at lectures/tutorials.
  • Set up a lecture and resource database via university server or cloud services that allow students to access lectures, assignments and learning resources at their convenience.
  • Prepare SOPs for revised methods of assessment to replace in-person exams;
  • Set up in-campus quarantine hostels for students to allow them to follow classes using university facilities in case they contract COVID-19.
  • Provide competent and accessible mental health services for students and staff via in-campus and online consultations.
  • Set up a COVID-19 fund to assist students and staff with COVID-related emergencies.
  • Prepare transparent disclosure and mitigation measures of COVID cases on campus.

To Alleviate Stress

Specifically for private sector universities and university colleges, and MOHE, GERAK suggests the following:

  • Provide already registered students from the M40 and B40 economic cohorts with a tuition fee subsidy until they complete their studies.
  • Grant income tax exemption for private colleges engaged in genuine educational efforts and link those tax exemptions to the number of merit-based scholarships granted to registered students.
  • Impose a ceiling cap on tuition fees for all courses in private sector universities and university colleges for the next three years.
  • Grant income tax incentives to all private sector universities and university colleges to upgrade their educational technology and staff wages and welfare.
  • Facilitate fee waivers and seamless visa applications for all foreign students who would like to study in Malaysia.
  • Transfer students from dubious private higher education institutions to public vocational colleges.

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