Current Affairs

Private universities suffering quality concerns, says think tank

Private university graduates have “ongoing quality concerns”, a Penang-based think-tank has revealed today.

Based on 2013 data from the  Education Ministry, the Penang Institute in its ongoing study of private higher education institutions in Malaysia, said that certain quality disparities between private universities and government universities have been observed.

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Overall unemployment in Malaysia is 3.1% according to latest figures from the Department of Statistics Malaysia for 2015

“Data shows that 27 percent of private sector graduates were unemployed six months after graduation, compared to 24 percent amongst their public sector counterparts,” the report stated.

Overall unemployment in Malaysia is 3.1%, according to latest figures from the Department of Statistics Malaysia for 2015.

Apart from unemployment, the study also showed that academics who held a PhD in private universities were less than half compared to those in public varsities, that is, 13.3 percent of academics in private universities with Phd’s compared to 33.4 percent in public varsities.

“Around 76.2% were only educated to Bachelors and Masters level and 10.5% had lower than Bachelors level qualifications,” the report reads.

The study also showed that one-third of private universities did not have any rating in the Rating System for Higher Education Institutions in Malaysia for 2013 (SETARA 13).

SETARA 13, which is under the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA), is implemented using a rating mechanism to measure the performance of undergraduate teaching and learning in universities and university colleges in Malaysia. The exercise showed also that only 51 percent of private universities were rated “excellent” as opposed to 81 percent of public universities in that rating.

In terms of research, however, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) stands out as the only private varsity to receive a five- star rating in the Education Ministry’s ‘Malaysian Research Assessment Instrument (MyRa) 11’ list. Around 78 percent had no rating at all, it said.

Apart from local ratings, private university showing in international ratings are poor, with only five private varsities the QS-Asia ranking in 2014 with the top rated UTP coming in the 191-200 range.

Poor finances and management impact quality of universities

Penang Institute attributes the poor quality of some private universities to ineptitude in management by the varsity administration and tight financial conditions.

“Analysis of new data from Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) – the Companies Commission of Malaysia – shows that 45% of Private Universities and University Colleges had insufficient current assets to cover their current liabilities and 71% were below the market average in terms of sufficient assets cover,” said the study.

It estimated around 35 percent of all private varsities and full universities running on negative reserves, meaning that their total debts exceed their total assets.

“This means that they are technically insolvent,” it noted.

It also reported that 28 private varsities were making year on year losses, based on public data for the fiscal year 2013 – the latest available-for-all financial data for private varsities.

Penang institute cited the case of University College of Medical Sciences (AUCMS) which had closed down due to financial constraints. AUCMS had around 2,000 students and 500 staff at the time according to media reports.

Ong Kian Ming says that private universities, university colleges and colleges were largely ignored in the preliminary National Higher Education Sector Blueprint 2015-2025 which was released to elicit public feedback. He hopes that the study by the Penang Institute is read in conjunction with the launching of the National Higher Education Sector Blueprint by Prime Minister Najib Razak today.

-The Rocket

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