Media Conference Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in DAP Cheras Service Centre, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, 2nd June 2009 at 12 noon:
Cabinet tomorrow must give categorical assurance that the 4,574 student-victims of USM Apex University student intake foul-up will be given places in other public universities without jeopardizing chances of other eligible applicants
From the statement of the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Seri Mohamad Khaled from Yemen and my discussion with the Higher Education Department director-general Datuk Prof Radin Umar Radin Sohadi, no concrete assurance is forthcoming that the 4,574 student-victims of USM Apex University student intake fiasco will definitely be given places in other public universities.
Although Khaled described the foul-up by the country’s only apex university as serious and directed that an independent committee be set up to investigate the matter, he has no assurances for the 4,574 student victims.
All Khaled said was that students who were rejected by USM will get another bite of the cherry, as they will be considered for placements in other public universities by the University Admissions Unit (UPU).
This is scarce consolation for the 4,575 students who went through emotional havoc over the USM foul-up.
Over 22,000 students applied for places in USM, which was conducting its own intake of undergraduates for the first time, in line with its status as an apex university. Out of this number, 8,173 were pre-qualified but only 3,599 were offered places.
The problem arose when all the 8,173 pre-qualified students were mistakenly uploaded on the USM website as being successful in their applications, creating emotional shockwaves for 4,575 students and their parents when their joy of being accepted by USM were immediately dashed by the USM bungle.
Khaled’s assurance that the 4,574 will be considered for placements in other universities is totally unsatisfactory, as this means that they are placed in the same category as the over 14,000 students who applied for admission to USM but were not pre-qualified. How can this be fair?
My discussion with Radin Umar is also not successful in getting any assurance that the 4,574 students would all be offered places in the other public universities.
He said that there are 40,366 places for public universities available for the 2009/2010 academic session while the UPU has received 61,027 applications. The UPU results would be announced on June 19.
When I asked that the 4,574 students should be given special attention as they are pre-qualified by USM, Radin Umar said that all the 61,027 applicants received by UPU are also “pre-qualified”. He said meritocracy has to be the yardstick unless the meritocracy selection system is not followed.
I do not know what this “meritocracy” Radin Umar is talking about, but I agree that the 4,574 students should be given places in the other public universities without jeopardizing or denying the chances of other eligible students.
This can be done by a two-step process.
Firstly, in the selection of the placement of 40,366 places for the public universities from the 61,027 applications, the UPU uses its meritocracy selection system.
Secondly, those from the 4,574 student-victims of the USM Apex University fiasco who failed to get UPU offers for the 40,366 university places should all be given places in the public universities, which would mean an expansion of public universities places from 40,366 to include this group.
As the 4,574 students were “pre-qualified” by USM from over 22,000 students, I will be surprised if there is even five per cent or less than 250 students from this group who are not offered places by UPU.
I do not believe that it is beyond the capability of the Malaysian public university system to increase university intake by one per cent of its target intake of 40,366 students for the new academic year when such a tiny increase in university places will see that justice is done and that not a single one of the 4,574 students nurse a life-long grievance against an unfair university selection system.
This is a decision which cannot be taken at the bureaucratic level of the UPU but only at the policy level of the Cabinet.
For this reason, I call on the Cabinet tomorrow to give categorical assurance that the 4,574 student-victims of USM Apex University student intake foul-up will be given places in other public universities without jeopardizing or denying chances to other eligible applicants.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor