THE number of private institutions of higher learning in the country should be dictated by market forces, said KDU College Sdn Bhd principal officer and chief executive officer Dr Chia Chee Fen.
Let the market forces decide. It will be the survival of the fittest. If an institute cannot survive on its own, it should be closed.
Merging alone does not help build Malaysia as a centre of education excellence. Institutions must merge to create a win-win situation for all to become leaner and stronger to compete, she told Starbiz, adding that there was currently a saturation of colleges in the industry.
That said, Chia sees a bright future for the education industry, especially if merged institutions result in better quality education, as it would promote Malaysia as an educational hub.
However, she cautioned that the immediate impact of merging could be inconsistent programme quality and even confusion for students.
The public and private sectors should also work together as a team to make Malaysia a centre of education excellence it will be a good industry if we can get our act together, she said.
KDU, the education arm of Paramount Corp Bhd, currently has over 3,000 students in its Petaling Jaya campus and 1,600 students in its Penang campus. Of the total, 20% are international students from 38 countries.
Competition wise, Chia expects future competition to be keener as the local student market continues to shrink.
Those who attend private colleges are mainly the non-bumiputras and the birth rate is decreasing, thus resulting in lower number of students. In addition, students are still going overseas and many are still sitting for the STPM and going to public universities, she added.
Some suggestions for the government to support the private education sector include incentives to encourage institutions to focus on quality, the offer of research grants for specific areas of study and improving staff development programmes through joint ventures.
Chia said the growth in student enrolment for the college this year would be unpredictable due to the National Service (NS) and increasing competition from other players.
However, in order to capture some of the students under the NS programme, the college has organised a special intake this month for them.
We expect better times with higher student enrolment from 2005 onwards. The effect of the NS is not to shrink the pie; all it takes is better planning, she said, adding that KDU hoped to perform as well as it did in 2003, this year.
Chia said growth for the college would also come from KDU Management Development Centre, which catered to adult learners. The centre currently has over 200 students.
It has also expanded into China the KDU International Language Training Centre in Chongqing has been set up to teach the English language and will have its first enrolment in the third quarter.
The college will also be extending its programme offerings to include degree courses for its School of Hotel and Tourism Management with a first intake by the first quarter of 2005.
We will also be focusing on a new area healthcare - in the near future. KDU has started its School of Sciences this year with a new approved biomedical programme, she said, adding that the college planned to increase the range of programmes by including pharmacy to the list by year-end.