Ghauth Jasmon says the university is already dipping into its reserves and will need to cut 2,000 jobs to survive..
The oldest university in Malaysia may be bankrupt in three to five years if “the right people” are not hired to raise funds for its operations.
This comes after the government slashed its funds by half, said former Universiti Malaya (UM) vice-chancellor Ghauth Jasmon.
He said UM received government aid of RM550 million yearly before funds were slashed two years ago.
“Now, UM face cuts of RM270 million. They are now dipping into their reserves as the top management are academicians (vice-chancellors or VCs).
“These VCs, appointed by the higher education ministry, have no clues as to how to raise money. They only have another three to five years’ of savings.”
He was speaking on the final day of the Asia Public Policy Forum 2017, co-hosted by Harvard Kennedy School and Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia.
Ghauth, who was the UM VC from 2008 to 2013, said there was no “income replacement” for the budget cuts. This was despite the university being informed by the government a decade ago of the intended reduction in aid.
He said UM has 5,000 academic and administration staff. To survive these budget cuts, they will have to remove 2,000 people.
“It’s not only UM. Other public universities are also facing the same problem. Professors going to retire or on contract have been told to end their services.”
There is a big crisis in universities but none of the VCs have the answers to cope with the huge budget cuts, he said.
“… Not the board or the top management of academicians. They are still renting out the gymnasium or organising competitions at the swimming pool. That is the sort of things they are doing (to raise funds).
“What is the solution? The public university is waiting to die. That’s is how I see it because I have not heard of any solutions.”
Ghauth predicts public universities will be forced to sell off their assets to make up for the shortfall.
He said this may lead to a large number of school leavers unable to continue their tertiary education, causing a huge social problem.
As for Universiti Teknologi Mara, it is facing cuts of RM946 million a year.
“UITM has 200,000 students. With almost RM1 billion in cuts from the operating budget, they might not be able to keep that (high a) student number. Where are the school leavers going to go?”
One solution, he said, would be for the government to hire capable people from the private sector to manage and generate funds.
Ghauth noted that more universities would be set up by China companies in Malaysia as some of the smaller local private universities close down due to budget constraints.
At the moment, there is the Xiamen University Malaysia.
“About a month ago, another group came to see me and told me that another university, from China, would most probably be established soon in Malaysia. We can definitely expect more companies from China opening their universities here.”
Attempts to reach UM’s vice-chancellor Prof Dr Amin Jalaludin were unsuccessful. However, an officer from the communications department of the university said they would respond to Ghauth’s claims.