Varsities overly dependent on fees, says Sunway chairman

Most public universities rely solely on fees and government funds to sustain their operations, says Jeffrey Cheah.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s largest education-focused social enterprise Jeffrey Cheah Foundation has raised concerns that universities are overly dependent on tuition fees to survive, urging the government to see the importance of endowment funds.

Following the plan to launch of the foundation’s endowment fund today, Sunway Group chairman Jeffrey Cheah said for now most public universities rely solely on fees and government funds.

“Many public universities depend on 95% of the fees to survive. The only public university that has a strong endowment fund is Universiti Malaya,” Cheah said.

He also questioned the “double-standards” when it comes to the treatment of private universities in the country.

“Currently, the government does not recognise private universities to be accorded the same privileges (fund allocations) as public universities.

“We (private universities) are working hard for the government to recognise us as institutions of higher learning that are also able to contribute meaningfully and impactfully to society,” he said.

During the launch event today, in conjunction with the foundation’s 10th anniversary, it was announced that the endowment fund will exceed RM1 billion within the next 10 years.

Cheah also urged the government to amend the laws related to endowment funds, pointing out that under current regulations governing endowment funds, the foundation is required to disburse at least 50% of its funds received in the following year.

“This is very different to how it is run in other countries, such as the United States and Singapore. In these countries, institutions that are allowed to receive donations can set them aside for investment or place them in fixed deposit accounts.”

He said the amendments would encourage more people and charity organisations to donate towards endowment funds.

Asked about Prime Minister Muyhiddin Yassin’s announcement on the new Kita Prihatin stimulus package worth RM10 billion yesterday, Cheah said he welcomed the initiative, saying it could help boost the economy.

“We need the RM10 billion to avoid the economy from tanking.”