Media Statement (3) by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 8th June 2009:
USM should put online the full list of 4,574 victim-applicants it has forwarded to UPU for selection to other public universities so that the students could personally verify to make sure that there will not be another foul-up
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Khaled Nordin said the special committee headed by Higher Education Ministry deputy chief secretary (management) Omar Abdul Rahman to investigate the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Apex University student intake foul-up is expected to complete its report by end of this week.
Yes, the reasons for the inexcusable USM student intake foul-up, where the names of all the 8,173 pre-qualified applicants were incorrectly uploaded on its website as successful when only 3,599 were successful, leaving 4,574 students roller-coasting between euphoria and despair in a matter of hours, should be thoroughly investigated and publicized; and those responsible dealt with severely.
But this should not distract the higher education authorities from the proper things that they should do.
The first thing that must be done is that USM should put online the full list of 4,574 victim-applicants it has forwarded to UPU for selection to other public universities so that the students could personally verify to make sure that there will not be another foul-up. One cannot run away from the fact that the foul-up has created a confidence problem in the integrity of the USM administration.
Secondly, clear assurances should be given to everyone of the 4,574 pre-qualified USM students that they will be offered places in the other public universities.
The 4,574 students come from all ethnic groups comprising 67.4 per cent Malays, 26.4 per cent Chinese, 1.8 per cent Indians and 4.3 per cent others.
For the 2009/2010 academic session, UPU has received 61,027 applications for 40,366 places for public universities.
I call on the Cabinet on Wednesday to make a policy decision to ensure that all the 4,574 students would be offered places in the other public universities without jeopardizing or denying the chances of the other eligible applicants.
This can be done with a two-step formula, viz:
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.
If the government cannot increase the number of public university intake by 250 places or one per cent of the targeted 40,366 places for admission this year, something is very wrong and rotten with our national system of higher education.
This however requires a policy decision to be made by the Cabinet and I look forward to such a policy announcement by the Higher Education Minister after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Concerns have been expressed that the USM’s 4,574 student intake foul-up may jeopardize the university’s Apex University status.
I agree with Professor Dr. Shad Faruqi from UiTM that USM’s Apex University was achieved on the basis of a number of objectives and demanding criteria and a computer glitch or a data processing error should not be used to challenge USM’s apex status.
A sense of balance should be maintained and this is where the special committee set up by the Higher Education Committee to probe into the USM student intake foul-up can make recommendations to ensure that such computer glitches or human errors are not permitted to recur in our universities in future.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor