Another bad year ahead for private colleges and universities

The govt needs to formulate a resilient policy that could ease enrolment of local and international students, says expert


PRIVATE higher educational institutions (PHEIs), which have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, are bracing for yet another bad year as a result of delayed major examinations and devastating drop in new enrolments for the upcoming sessions.

Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (MAPCU) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said the government needs to formulate a resilient policy that could ease enrolment of local and international students which could ensure the survival of most of the PHEIs.

He said such a policy would be a more effective long-term solution to the predicaments faced by most PHEIs as they do not expect any financial aid or bailout by the government.

For a start, Parmjit said MAPCU had requested the Higher Education Ministry to allow private universities and colleges to enrol affected students using the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) trial results.

“The government has done this — allowing enrolment based on trial results — for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, or known as IGCSE. So, if this can be done for an international exam, why not for our own?

“If the government does not allow this, then, there would be zero revenue next year. Private institutions are already suffering with no international student intake this year. For some, international students contribute up to 50% of their revenue,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

The Education Ministry recently announced new dates for several major examinations for secondary students that have been delayed several times.

SPM, Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia and Sijil Vokasional Malaysia will only take place from Feb 22, 2021, while Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia will begin on March 8 next year.

Parmjit said PHEIs are also formulating new courses that could prepare students for the ever-changing future.

“It is already happening as jobs have changed. We have to align ourselves with the future and jobs of the new normal,” he added.

The National Association of Bumiputera Private Higher Education Institutions president Amir Hamzah Md Isa echoed MAPCU’s sentiment that without student intake until June 2021, there will be no growth for PHEIs.

He said due to the pandemic, private institutions are under financial pressure, especially with the decline of local freshmen of up to 60%.

“Next year will be more challenging as SPM has been postponed and on top of that, there are no new international students coming,” he told TMR.

Amir Hamzah suggested that higher learning institutions should now focus more on online classes.

He was also of the opinion that new courses must be introduced based on the new economic model since new skillsets are required nowadays.

Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) sudent recruitment division director Mohamad Faizul Mohd Ruslan said the intake process will continue as usual for 2020 SPM leavers, coordinated by the centralised university admission unit (UPU) for the first session next year.

“However, there will be slight adjustments to the process date. Several policies have been planned by UPU for the coming student intake to mitigate the impact of postponement in SPM exam dates.

“We will use SPM trial results for the screening (interview) process. However, the selection and offer will be based on the actual SPM result,” he told TMR.

Meanwhile, UiTM academic development director Prof Dr Nor Aziah Alias said the sudden change has triggered much distress, but at the same time, allowed universities to identify anomalies, and re-evaluate, review and reformulate policies and processes.

“Of the many things we learned from the pandemic, agility in the form of cognitive, emotional and dispositional is most essential. The pandemic has considerable impact on our work and study ethics, and the way we deliver, hence, the way students learn. This will certainly be a long-term effect.

“We are now more aware of student diversity and accessibility. Their learning needs are evidently varied. Lecturers have found ways to innovate in response to these elements,” she told TMR.

Nor Aziah said the pandemic has also opened doors for collaborations with industry practitioners to impact the community.

“Thus, engaging the industry and community in the early development of curriculum by bringing industry on campus, constantly subjecting students to field experience and work-based training will be maintained as a priority,” she added.

On convocation, UiTM deputy registrar Aminah Aman said the postponement of the convocation ceremony does not affect the status of students who have graduated.

“Graduates can obtain their official scrolls and transcripts. Alternatively, the method of awarding of diplomas and degrees will be by appointment to replace the ceremony,” she added.

Read our earlier report


Private colleges need 5 years to recover from Covid-19 impact