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Budget cuts affecting universities’ work

Academics at UiTM and IIUM say they are finding it hard to maintain quality.

higher-educationPETALING JAYA: Hardly a year after Putrajaya announced a reduction of funds for higher education, academics in at least two universities have disclosed that they are already feeling the cash crunch.

Last October, in tabling Budget 2017, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that funding for the higher education ministry was set at RM6.117 billion, down from the RM7.575 billion allocated for 2016.

Speaking to FMT, academics from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) said the two universities were struggling to keep afloat and staff members were finding it hard to maintain the quality of their work.

Normaly Kamal Ismail, who heads UiTM’s Academic Staff Association, said the cutbacks had, for instance, caused a reduction in the number of students pursuing doctoral degrees.

“The allocations for research grants are being cut, and without research grants we’ll produce fewer PhD graduates because many of these students depend on grants,” he told FMT, adding that this was a bad indicator for a country aspiring to achieve the status of a developed nation.

“One of the indicators of an advanced and developed nation is the number of PhD graduates it produces.”

Other lecturers interviewed by FMT would speak only on condition of anonymity. One of them said that although salaries at UiTM had not been touched, it was obvious that cutbacks in other areas had caused productivity to drop from previous years. He would not elaborate.

A lecturer at IIUM said there had been an increase in the workload of the academic staff because the university had stopped hiring part-time lecturers.

The full-time lecturers were struggling to balance their time and energy between teaching and performing administrative duties, he added.

“I know of a lecturer who has to teach 150 students four subjects a semester,” he said. “Previously, he was only given three subjects, but since universities no longer hire part-time lecturers due to budget cuts, the workload increases for the existing lecturers.”

Meanwhile, a lecturer from Universiti Selangor (Unisel) said it was still business as usual at the university.

Unisel is wholly owned and managed by the Selangor state government without funding from the federal government.


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