Ministry set to tighten noose on profit-first private colleges

Minister Maszlee waiting for detailed report from Higher Education Dept

By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The Ministry of Education (MoE) is preparing a comprehensive report that would ascertain the status of private colleges that are run with profits as their main priority instead of striving for academic excellence.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (picture) told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that he is still waiting for the report before he could decide on the next course of action.

He said the report is currently being compiled and finalised by the Higher Education Department.

“I have to wait for the report that will be prepared by the department. I have not received any updates so far,” Dr Maszlee said after launching the Educational Professionalism seminar for young teachers in Klang, Selangor, last week.

However, no deadline for the report to be completed was mentioned. An earlier report by TMR stated that the ministry is conducting an investigation on the issue based on complaints by the public on unhealthy practices of some private higher learning institutions (IPTS) that seemed to have profits as their main priority, which might have also flouted the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996.

In the TMR report, industry sources revealed that several private colleges failed to comply with certain provisions within the Act.

According to the sources, the private institutions in questions were more like “shells companies without any employee” as the staff’s official bank accounts and the Employees Provident Fund’s registrations are not registered to the colleges or universities.

Instead, the details are placed with the holding companies that own the institutions. As a result, the university’s management or senate, which is supposed to be chaired by the VC, is seen more as a front for the holding company which call the shots on various levels.

The Higher Education Department told TMR in a recent email reply that any IPTS operations must be handled entirely by the senate without any involvement of the parent companies, including staffing, academic affairs management and its day-to-day running.

However, as the regulator, the department has no intention to micromanage the IPTS governance as long as it is in accordance with their constitutions.

Another industry source recently informed TMR that some universities are not upholding their own constitutions as granted by the ministry.

The source claimed that the universities are told to adhere to the “Limit of Authority” issued by the holding companies in carrying out their duties and procedures.

“The constitution is like the heart of the IPTS. Without it, any company can register and run universities or colleges without the purview of the MoE,” said the source.

The source added that the issue had been discussed on several platforms such as meetings and conferences, but to no avail.

As of February, there are about 478 private education tertiary institutions operating in the country.

Last year, the ministry (formerly known as the ministry of higher education) terminated 33 IPTS for not adhering to the standard requirement. The colleges that were terminated were considered ill-managed and financially unsustainable.

In December, a news report revealed that between 2016 and 2017, about 336 private colleges offered to be audited by the ministry. However, according to former Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, only 276 colleges fulfilled the audit criteria.

In January, the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association received complaints from students alleging that one of the IPTS operating in the northern region had slashed their National Higher Education Fund’s aids. According to the news report, the institution had also sliced 50% of the students’ zakat funds that were granted to them.

That prompted the Higher Education Department to warn the IPTS’ senate body to ensure that all stipulated law must be upheld accordingly.

“IPTS that are found with irregularities in their operations would be required to take corrective actions.

“If they are found to have committed offences under the Act, punitive actions according to the Act will be taken against them,” the statement from the department read.