Education Ministry Higher Education Department director Professor Hassan Said yesterday disclosed that intake into public universities this year is about 20% below the projected figure of 38,000 because "not enough students meet the minimum standard.''
Although the Government has been increasing enrolment in these institutions, the number of places cannot be filled this year because there are not enough eligible bumiputra students to make up the 55% needed to maintain the 55:45 (non-bumiputras) quota.
The enrolment for the 2001/2002 academic session at 14 public institutions of higher learning is 30,832, a drop of 8.7% compared to last year's intake of 33,783.
Of the 30,832 successful applicants, about 20,000 are STPM candidates, 6,000 matriculation students and the rest diploma holders.
These are most shocking figures. As only 4,998 places were available at universities offering programmes at the post-SPM places, this means that 135,844 SPM applications have been rejected - including more than 500 SPM top-scorers, with some scoring 11As, 10As and 9 As. As only about 20,000 out of the 53,207 STPM applications were accepted, this means over 33,000 STPM holders failed to get admission into the local universities.
With over 33,000 STPM holders and 135,844 SPM students rejected in their application for admission into the public universities, how can the authorities leave 7,168 university places unfilled simply because there were not enough bumiputera students to meet the “minimum standard” to maintain the 55:45 university intake quota?
In fact, this decision is doubly unfair to the non-bumiputra students, as with the global figure of 38,000 students, the 35% Chinese and 10% Indian quota would work out to an intake of 13,000 Chinese and 3,800 Indian students, but with the global figure reduced to 30,832, there would be a corresponding decrease of intake for non-bumiputra students, i.e. 10,791 Chinese and 3,083 Indian students - or a decrease of intake of 2,509 Chinese and 717 Indian students.
In keeping the 7,168 university places unfilled, and in fact reducing the intake of Chinese and Indian students to comply with 55:45 quota, the 33,000 STPM and 135,844 SPM unsuccessful candidates, their parents, friends and Malaysians in general are entitled to be aggrieved that a cardinal principle of the national development policy has been violated - the solemn promise made by the Barisan Nasional government from the very start of the New Economic Policy 30 years ago in 1971 that in the implementation of development plans, “no one in Malaysian society need experience any sense of loss or deprivation of his rights, privileges, income, job or opportunity”.
This is because the 33,000 STPM and 135,844 SPM unsuccessful applicants for entry into the public universities have been deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher studies when 7,168 university places are deliberately left unfilled!
Penang’s Tan Jo-Lene, the former Convent Light Street student who scored 10As and who had turned down an interview for an Asean scholarship in Singapore because her parents wanted her to study in a local university and eventually serve the country, only to find that her results were "not good enough'' to enter a public university at home, is a case in point.
Leaving 7,168 university places unfilled also goes against the higher national interests and make a complete mockery of the Eighth Malaysia Plan, OPP3 and the National Vision Policy objective to develop a knowledge-based economy with competent, productive and knowledgeable workforce.
The Eighth Malaysia Plan, which projects a 44% increase of degree-level enrolment at the tertiary level in the next five years from 201,271 in 2000 to 289,806 in 2005 has become a joke when in the first year of the Eighth Plan, there is actually a 8.7 per cent reduction in university student intake.
What then is the use of the Eighth Malaysia Plan talking about “efforts to expand the absorptive capacity of public institutions of higher learning” and establishing four new universities in Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Perlis to provide additional 20,000 places at the degree level by 2005 when this year alone the government has to leave 7,168 university places unfilled?
The Eighth Malaysia Plan, OPP3 and the National Vision Policy must not
start with such a gross injustice.
DAP calls on MCA, Gerakan, MIC and SUPP Ministers to requisition for an emergency Cabinet meeting this weekend to release the 7,168 unfilled bumiputera university places to non-bumiputera students, including the over 500 SPM top-scorers, in a flexible and smart application of the quota system in the higher national interests of nation-building and national development.