Malaysian universities can soon have free student unions

MANCHESTER, 1 Dec 2019: 

At least five more public universities will establish student unions next year as a step to promote academic freedom and the practice of democracy among students, paving ways for students’ early exposure to the country’s democratic system.

Malaysia’s Department of Higher Education Student Development Sector director Dr Zaid Omar said lack of students’ participation in the democracy systems at the university level has resulted in poor participation of young people in the decision process at the country’s level.

“We have 20 public universities in the country, and they all agreed to establish student unions and provide full cooperation. We expect students to actively participate in the university going forward, not only in voicing out political opinions but also in terms of organising university’s programmes, as well as participating in university’s management meetings,” he said after a town hall session with Malaysian students at the University of Manchester here.

Zaid said student empowerment was also in line with the government’s intention to abolish laws related to higher education.

“We will abolish existing acts, including the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996, Educational Institutional (Discipline) Act 1976, Companies Act for the International Islamic University Malaysia, and another act related to Institute of Teachers Education and replace it with a new and comprehensive act that covers all.”

He added the new Act would also provide more academic freedom, among others.

Zaid was scheduled to meet Malaysian students abroad, particularly in Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh and the National Student Union to get their perspectives as well as learn more about students empowerment overseas and bring the positive culture back home.

With regards to private universities, he said there were about 400 private universities and colleges nationwide, but they were not subject to the requirement of student unions establishment.

– Bernama