How budget cuts affect public universities

University Budget 2017

How budget cuts affect public universities

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 ? The austerity drive in public universities has resulted in a conundrum between providing quality education and working within a much tighter budget compared to previous years.

Under Budget 2017, public universities will see their combined operating budgets slashed by about 19 per cent, or RM1.5 billion, a bigger cut than last year’s budget, and out of the 20 public universities in Malaysia, 10 of them will be facing massive cuts ranging from over 10 per cent to over 31 per cent.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh has reportedly said that public universities have become too dependent on government funding, and that a decade ago, it was a fraction of what was now given.

But what do the budget cuts mean? What is the feasibility of public universities sourcing out alternative funding? Will it compromise the quality of education being offered in varsities?

Seeking funds in turbulent times

Professor Emeritus Datuk Abdul Rahman Embong believes that public universities should be allowed to continue providing education and training and serving the community as best they can, and that reducing their operating budgets will affect this.

“Reducing the budget for public universities and demanding that they raise their own funding has the effect of turning the principle of education as a public good on its head.

“I would like to state a fundamental principle that education is a public good, and that it is the responsibility of the government who is supposed to represent the public interest to ensure it is offered to the public from the judiciously managed taxpayers’ coffers,” Abdul Rahman, who is adviser to the Malaysian Social Science Association and Principal Fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), told Malay Mail Online in an email interview.

He said that while some universities will find ways to cope with the budget cuts by collaborating with each other in terms of aspects like facilities, there will be a tight race between varsities to source out alternative means of funding.

“Some will succeed while some others will not be as lucky. It is a crowded market out there with hopeful fund-seekers while funders hold tight to their purse especially during these turbulent times,” he added.

Azmil Tayeb, a senior lecturer with the Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) School of Social Sciences, said that the cuts have resulted in university staff being deprived of basic work needs like office telephones and desktop computers.

“A few lucky ones get hand-me-down computers that have seen better days and in most likelihood slow and near obsolete. As the minister has clearly stated, he wants public universities to depend less on government and increase alternative sources of funding.

“That statement in itself is acceptable but the drive for alternative funding should not be done at the expense of diminishing the main function of a public university as a public good serving as the engine for social mobility for the less fortunate. Public universities should not be run as a business entity, where only the bottom line matters,” he told Malay Mail Online in an email interview.

How budget cuts affect public universities
January 11, 2017 – MMO


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