UiTM should accept non-Bumis for postgraduate studies, says its first head

Arshad Ayub, the first director of Institut Teknologi Mara, now known as Universiti Teknologi Mara.

KUALA LUMPUR: The man who first headed what is now known as Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) has called for the acceptance of non-Bumiputera students for its postgraduate programmes.

Arshad Ayub, who became the director of Institut Teknologi Mara when it opened in 1965 and stayed in the position for 10 years, said he believed Malaysia had reached a stage in its history when it had become appropriate for UiTM to enrol students of all races, but only at the postgraduate level.

“If you ask me whether non-Malays should be able to go to UiTM, my own view is that at the master’s degree level, the graduates should be able to compete with other races,” he told reporters covering an event for underprivileged schoolchildren in Segambut yesterday.

At the undergraduate level, however, Malays and other Bumiputeras were not ready for such competition, he said, adding that this was also true of professional training in such fields as accountancy and engineering at the university.

“All the handicaps are at those levels,” he said. “That’s where we should still have opportunities for them to address their deprivation so that they’ll be ready to compete after three or five years of education and training.”

Arshad, now 90 years old, said he was committed to helping deprived youths in his working days. “And these youths happened to be Bumiputeras. Most of them were from the rural areas.”

Speaking of how far UiTM had come, he noted that its alumni now numbered about three quarters of a million and included professionals and doctoral graduates.

However, he said today’s students at the university lacked exposure to ways of thinking in cultures other than their own.

“To me, our wealth in this life is our exposure,” he said. “Back when I was director of ITM, only 5% of the lecturers were Malays. The others were Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, English, Japanese, Belgians, Americans, Germans, Australians, Canadians, even Russians.”

His students were thereby exposed to a wide range of cultures and perspectives, he added.

“I can say that the students now have less exposure,” he said. “If the students are 100% Bumiputeras and lecturers are 95% Bumiputeras, how will they get exposure to other cultures and ways of thinking apart from watching TV and reading books?”