UTM’s Japan Institute students demand removal of ‘special fees’

Students holding placards to protest against the fees.

KUALA LUMPUR: Students from the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT) have urged Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) to remove the “special fees” which have been imposed in addition to the basic semester fees.

The MJIIT is a faculty under UTM and it was established in 2010 by the Malaysian and Japanese governments, in line with the Look East policy introduced by Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first stint as the prime minister.

MJIIT Voices, the group representing the students, claimed that the special fees had affected close to 600 students comprising first to third year students who enrolled in the faculty from 2016 to 2018.

“The special fees were included since 2016, and since then, we have been trying to seek a clarification on what these fees are for,” said MJIIT Voices president Tan Cheng Siong.

“Until September this year, we were not given clear answers of why they imposed the special fees (RM2,855) on top of the one-off fee (RM1,200) which we had to pay in our first semester.”

He said the total fees paid by new students amounted to RM5,000, excluding hostel fees.

“Other students from other UTM faculties only pay RM945,” said Tan at the Residensi UTM KL today.

Tan also questioned why students were required to pay such exorbitant fees when UTM was not a private institution.

“The total fees paid by students from the 2016/2017 intake for eight semesters are up to RM40,000 (excluding hostel fees), compared to the amount paid by the previous intake (2015/2016) students which was RM8,460 (excluding hostel fees).

“We raised this matter with the MJIIT dean and we were told that the special fees were used to buy equipment and laboratory appliances.

“But as students studying for a bachelor’s degree, we don’t use these equipment as often as those doing their doctoral studies and even their fees are much lower (RM3,800),” said Tan.

MJIIT Voices president Tan Cheng Siong.

Tan said the MJIIT programme was supposed to send students to Japan for a three to four-week “short course” (Global Mobility Programme or GMP). However, the recent intake of students had yet to be informed of the programme.

“The initial criteria for a student to be eligible to attend the programme in Japan was to have an above average academic performance and he or she must be active in co-curricular activities. The student has to then apply for placement.

“When it came to the 2016/2017 and 2018/2019 intake, students were told that if they pay the RM5,000 per semester, then they can participate in the GMP.

“Students who want to go to Japan must also sign an agreement stating that they must complete their studies under the MJIIT faculty. If they fail to do so, they have to pay RM10,000 as a penalty fee,” said Tan.

He said this was unfair and paying RM10,000 for a three to four weeks’ course was unjustified.

Tan said students from the 2017/2018 intake who join the GMP would also have their allowance reduced by the MJIIT.

“Students from the 2016/2017 batch received an allowance of RM2,200 per person, while the allowance for the 2017/2018 intake was reduced to RM800 per person.”

Tan claimed that he had also been threatened with suspension for raising the matter.

“All the students who have been fighting on this issue are very good students with 3.5 CPGA and above.

“They cannot threaten us like this,” he said.

A second year student, who only wanted to be known as Mohd, said he had to defer a semester as he was trying to get a transfer to Johor Baru UTM.

“When I enrolled, I was looking to be placed in Johor, but in the end I was given a place in MJIIT.

“When I found out that the fees were so much higher than Johor Baru UTM, I immediately applied for a transfer.

“I applied twice but my applications were denied, with no proper reasons given.

“The Johor Baru UTM faculty has said they would issue me an offer letter if MJIIT would release me.

“But MJIIT has refused to do so. Now, I’m stuck with having to pay high fees that I can’t afford.

“If I apply for my fees to be subsidised, I will not be eligible for to apply for the GMP,” Mohd said.

After two years, Mohd’s application for a transfer was finally approved but he would have to repeat his studies.

“There is no reason for me to transfer already, because if I transfer, I will have to restart my second year. I’m already finishing my second year.

“It is a waste of money and time. I don’t understand why the university is making it difficult for us.

“I have been very frustrated due to this, and my grades have suffered and I was suspended,” he said.

The students today demanded that the university remove the special and enrolment fees from current, past and future semesters.

They also want the university to reimburse the special fees paid by students and urged the university to be tranparent with its management of student fees.