PETALING JAYA: A DAP man has urged the unity government to repeal the Universities and University Colleges Act (Auku) 1971 to “institutionally guarantee” student autonomy in universities.
Tanah Rata assemblyman Ho Chi Yang welcomed higher education minister Khaled Nordin’s pledge to empower student unions in universities, saying abolishing Auku would be a key step towards achieving that.
In a statement, he also called for the implementation of “democratic processes” in the appointment of universities’ vice-chancellors, board of directors and faculty deans to promote campus democracy.
“Although empowering student unions and student organisations is important, the university’s top management could eventually become subservient to politicians if they are not elected democratically.
“Ever since the then Barisan Nasional government implemented Auku in 1971, numerous students and even academics who dared speak up to question the authorities have been punished.
“As a result, the decades of fear instilled by the draconian law severely impacted the quality of Malaysian higher education,” said Ho, who leads DAP Youth’s university affairs bureau.
He maintained that Auku was not in line with the government’s aspiration to revamp the national higher education system, reiterating that Putrajaya must abolish the Act.
Ho said protecting universities from political interference would give the management, academics and students a safe space to make use of their knowledge and skills to criticise and give feedback on government policies.
In its manifesto for the 15th general election, Pakatan Harapan Youth had pledged to repeal Auku. This was also in PH’s manifesto for the 14th general election.
Former education minister Maszlee Malik had previously said a working committee for the Act’s abolishment had been formed and tasked with preparing a draft for a new Act to combine both Auku and the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act.
However, this fell apart after the PH government fell in 2020, while his successor Noraini Ahmad later said the Perikatan Nasional government saw no need to replace the two Acts.