THE reputation of the country’s higher education institutions will be affected if no action is taken to curb illegal student activities as this could discourage international students from choosing to study in Malaysia.
Taylor’s University vice-chancellor and president Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said hoped the Higher Education Ministry and the Immigration Department would find an effective mechanism to speed up the process of issuing visas for genuine students.
“This would ensure that only legitimate students who have been enrolled in an education institution locally get issued with student visas. This practice is not new as countries such as Britain, Australia and the United States require a letter of acceptance into a university in the destination country before a student visa can be issued to the applicant,” he said in a statement.
To complement the efforts taken by the ministry, Prof Hassan said higher education institutions must play a critical role in monitoring the problem at the university level.
“At Taylor’s University, we are already putting strict measures in place to ensure acceptance of genuine foreign students to any programmes at the university,” he said.
Prof Hassan was commenting on a statement by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin last Sunday that the ministry would stop issuing visas on arrival and social visit passes to foreign students. This was to prevent the abuse of the travel permits.
Higher Education Ministry deputy director-general (private higher education institutions) Prof Datin Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said all student visa applications have to go through the ministry’s e-student system.
“Once international students meet the entry requirements for a particular programme at a higher education institution, the institution will in turn send the applications via the e-student system to the Higher Education Ministry,” she said.
After the ministry has verified the students’ qualifications, she said the applications would then be forwarded to the Immigration Department.
“The Immigration Department will then conduct a background check on the applicants and once this has been completed, it will issue a letter to the respective higher education institution to obtain the student visa,” she said.
Prof Siti Hamisah said the conversion of social visit passes to student visas was not allowed.
Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said Mapcu was supportive of any move to curtail abuses of social visit passes.
“We do hope that this will not result in increased bureaucracies in the processes leading to student arrivals in Malaysia. We are rather concerned as we have made major investments in infrastructure and support services in response to the Government’s strategic intent of establishing Malaysia as an international educational hub, and any regulations which reduce our competitiveness by making it more difficult for bonafide students to enter the country would have serious implications,” he said.
Dr Parmjit said the auhorities needed to provide further clarification to enable higher education institutions to communicate any changes to incoming students.
Limkokwing University of Creative Technology president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing said its students were required to obtain offer letters prior to visa application.
“Acceptance of students via visa on arrival is only for selected cases, with very specific requirements,” he said.
Updating the matter on Tuesday, Mohamed Khaled said the enrolment of foreign students into higher education institutions will not be affected by the stricter visa application process into Malaysia.
He said the new regulation would not leave an impact on the enrolment because not all foreigners who had entered the country with visas on arrival and social passes previously registered with the institutions.
“It is a common practice in other countries to only issue visas after the students have received offer letters from the universities. Students who meet the requirements and are genuinely interested in furthering their studies here would have no problem obtaining the visas,” he said.
Mohamed Khaled said cases highlighted in the media from time to time showed that some of the foreigners who had run-ins with the law were not genuine students.
“The public has voiced its concern that the Government should tighten the measures in the visa application process. More foreigners will enter the country on the pretext of studying if the situation is left unchecked,” said Mohamed Khaled.
He added that the foreign students did not need the social passes to check out the institutions in Malaysia as they can always do their survey on the Internet or by referring to brochures.