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Thursday, April 19, 2012

True freedom for students in universities

DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong Dr Tan Seng Giaw maintains that there must be genuine freedom for students in universities. But, student activities should not affect the well being and the peace of a university.

There must be true autonomy of universities in Malaysia. This is a main factor for them to achieve excellence.

On 19.4.2012, Dr Tan took part in the debate on the Bill to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971(UUCA or AUKU, Akta Universiti dan Kolej Universiti).

I rise feeling happy that at least there is an attempt in the right direction to amend the act to allow students to have more freedom such as to take part in politics. At Leeds University, United Kingdom, I was active in the university for four years, taking part in societies and following politics. Here I am in this august House.

University students need the freedom to pursue academic excellence, to participate in societal activities and to be involved in politics. We do not condone any freedom to destroy the peace of a university or to deny other students their freedom.

The objectives of UUCA include many aspects such as administration and student activities. The Bill gives the Minister the right to appoint a Director General of Higher Education who shall advise him or her on matters pertaining to higher education. We hope a director general is wise, competent and fair. One of his or her duties is to maintain register on programmes conducted and provided by higher educational institutions.

Recently, the Minister announced the granting of autonomy to five universities including University of Malaya. I hope that there is genuine autonomy not just for the five univeristies, but also for 15 other public universities.

He should investigate (he has subsequently agreed to do so) the allegation that a palliative care programme from Ireland has been fixed for University Malaya Hospital to cater for the increasing number of senior citizens and seriously ill patients in the country. Apparently, getting Irish experts to train Malaysians costs a packet. Is there a possibilty of a kickback? Has the Dean of the Medical Faculty been consulted? We have Malaysian experts on palliative care. How many have emigrated?

The Bill allows a student of the University to become a member of any society, organization, body or group of persons, whether in or outside Malaysia, including any political party. There are provisos, comprising of a Board to regulate the activities of students and a society, an organization, a body or group of students of the Univerisity within the Campus.

The Students' Complaints Committee shall have such powers in conducting investigations or inquiries as to any complaint made by a student in the manner as may be prescribed by Statute. Then, there is the power of Minister to make regulations.

We hope that the Board, the Students' Complaints Committee and the Minister are wise and fair. Students should enjoy true freedom and universities genuine autonomy.

Tan Seng Giaw


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