Higher airfares, accommodation uncertainties await undergrads

Students should decide on whether to stay at home or campus after knowing the mode of learning

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ graphic by MZUKRI

THE process of returning to campus might not be as smooth for many students of higher learning institutions as they are expected to face costly airfares as well as accommodation issues once universities reopen in October.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu student representative council (SRC) executive committee (exco) of academic and international Afif Mohd Sohaimi said it would also be more prudent for students to hold off any decision for the time being and not rush into making any accommodation arrangement as the mode of learning in the new normal is still being discussed by the universities.

He said the process includes getting input from lecturers and students to determine the best mode of most effective learning programmes once everything is back in motion.

“Students should decide on whether to stay at home or campus after knowing the mode of learning,” Afif told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Afif said it is also advisable for students from East Malaysia to book their flights in September because airfares are expected to be cheaper in the next two months compared to current prices.

Last month, Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad announced that universities could be fully reopened in October with full student intake.

Noraini said the Cabinet had agreed to allow four more categories of students to come back to campus in stages starting July, in addition to the five groups that had earlier been given permission.

The first five groups of students had returned in May, utilising online teaching and learning programmes.

Higher learning institutions have also been granted the flexibility to decide the appropriate mode of learning, including online classes, according to the requirement of each course.

University Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Melaka SRC welfare and social service exco Muhammad Haziq Mohd Nor Hishamudin said the standard operating procedures at the university level are also underway and discussions are still ongoing whether to allow students to return to campus all at once or progressively.

He said UiTM Melaka recently issued a circular which stated the university’s plan to utilise 100% of its residential colleges to house students on campus compared to between 70% and 80% pre-Covid-19.

“The university is going to use 100% of its residential colleges to assist students who have financial problems with accommodation issues.

“There were about 1,000 students who lived off-campus and they might be burdened by rental issues,” Muhammad Haziq told TMR.

He said while the period between now and October would be sufficient for students to arrange their return, universities are also finding ways to ease the burden of the students.

UiTM and its student council are in talks with Malaysia Airlines Bhd on discounted flight tickets for students from Sabah and Sarawak, a scheme similar to the one used to send stranded students home during the initial stage of the Movement Control Order.

A student pilot in Johor, Ahmad Luqman Azhar, 22, told TMR that the decision to reopen all universities in October was rather short-noticed as the previous directive allowed e-learning to be conducted until Dec 31, 2020.

“There were students who had terminated their leases in anticipation that schools will only recall students next year, in line with the earlier announcement.

“When universities reopen in October, students need to get in touch with landlords and find new housing in a hurry, and that would cause further confusion.”

Ahmad Luqman’s return to campus is rather costly as he had to fork out more than RM200 to fly from Alor Setar, Kedah, to Subang, way higher than pre-Covid-19 when tickets could be bought at below RM100.