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Mustapha should explain why he misled Parliament last week by holding up MUST as a successful example of “smart partnership” with MIT when it is a flop with only 10 students after five years as compared to its target of 500 students in five years and 5,000 students in ten years

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday) : The Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad should explain why he misled Parliament last week by holding up MUST as a successful example of “smart partnership” with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when it is a flop, with only 10 students after five years as compared to its target of 500 students in five years and 5,000 students in 10 years.

Mustapha was reported in the New Straits Times today as saying that the government is taking a hard look at the future of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology (MUST), a post-graduate university whose enrolment has dwindled and is operating with about 10 students left. MUST boasted research tie-ups with the world- MIT when it opened in 2002.

Mustapa said yesterday the government had asked a group of experts to assess and make proposals for the future of MUST, which is privately-owned but indirectly sponsored by the government through scholarships for the students.

"My ministry and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry are taking another look at the MUST model to address some of its problems. We are waiting for the recommendations."

A source close to the university said at its peak, there was an average of 20 students in each of the seven programmes offered: information technology, biotechnology, transportation and logistics, materials science and engineering, construction engineering and management, system engineering and management, and energy and environment.

The research ties with MIT have by and large been discontinued.

"Whatever ties are left are mainly on a personal basis between the professors and not officially through the university," the source said.

MUST was established with the aim of boosting Malaysia’s R&D capacity.

Last Wednesday, during the winding-up of the Higher Education Ministry 2007 Budget estimates, Mustapha had cited MUST-MIT relationship as the successful example of “smart partnership” which the government wishes to establish with Research Centres of Excellence all over the world as the justification for the proposal of a RM500 million donation to Cambridge University – which he said was nevertheless “premature” as a final decision had not been taken.

Yet, less than a week later, Mustapha was telling the country that the MUST-MIT partnership was not that “smart” after all, that it is in fact quite a flop.

This is another instance of Cabinet Ministers not batting an eyelid to mislead Parliament when they are pressed to the wall to justify insupportable policies or decisions.

I had wanted to question Mustapha about the woes of MUST, as I had received information that all was not well with MUST, from the following email:

Maybe you don't know. MUST is a sad case now. It is not easy to get MIT to "clone" itself. Mahathir, being a very persuasive prime minister then in 1996, succeeded in doing so. MIT has never done this before…

It's another reverse of Mahathir's policy. This was supposed to be a great one!

MUST info:

• 2002 intake - about 40 something

• 2003 intake - about 60 over.

• 2004 intake - about 100 over a little bit.

The first convocation in MUST was held in 2004, with 23 graduates, of which, only one is a Bumiputera. No more convocation until now.

As a result of this, government stopped funding students, stop paying MIT, and 2005 intake dropped drastically to only 12 and only 2 for 2006 intake.

What a waste and a shame. Very little advertisement on the U now. It's really very sad. Government, indirectly funded Bumi students through UiTM and other local U.

However, I was unable to pursue the matter during Mustapha’s winding-up as I had promised to ask the last question related to the Cambridge University donation issue.

With MUST going bust, is it the prototype of the RM500 million “smart partnership” being envisaged by the Higher Education Ministry with regard to the proposed RM500 million donation to Cambridge University?

Mustapha should explain why he had misled Parliament, holding up MUST as an example of a successful “smart partnership” with foreign research centres of excellence, when it is a flop, and the total amount of monies which the government had donated to MIT to persuade MIT to agree in the initial instance to collaborate in the establishment of MUST.

I visited the MUST website,, and found that it is very shy about its teaching staff, visitors are greeted with the hostile notice – “You will require a username and password to access the staff section of this website. Please contact ISD for more information.”

The prime mover behind MUST was Datuk Effendi Norwawi, whose private investment holding company, Kuching-based Encorp Group Sdn. Bhd. formed a consortium with the Selangor State Government to establish MUST Ehsan Foundation to enter into the collaboration with MIT to establish the post-graduate university.

MUST was conceived to create “a pool of technology experts, an essential ingredient to attaining the national objectives under Vision 2020”. It aimed to have 500 students in five years and 5,000 students in 10 years.

Instead, it has some ten students left after five years’ operation.

Effendi is the Minister in charge of ensuring the success of the RM220 billion Ninth Malaysia Plan. It is horrendous to think what would happen if the Ninth Malaysia Plan goes the way of MUST!


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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