PETALING JAYA: Private institutions of higher learning are not in favour of the Government’s proposal to extend the duration of degree programmes from three years to four.
The extra year would increase cost and make it less attractive for students, especially foreigners, to enrol in private institutions, according to feedback from several private college operators.
In speaking out against the proposal, they said their degree programmes should not be lengthened as their graduates were employable and “not lacking in soft skills”.
They were commenting on Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement on Sunday that private higher learning institutions might have to follow public universities in extending bachelor degree programmes from three to four years.
In June, Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh announced that undergraduates taking up food science courses would be the first group to complete their degrees in four years, with other courses possibly following suit later.
The workload of 120 credit hours will be divided over a longer duration to allow students to develop their soft skills.
The operators who were interviewed by Star Education said that any decision compelling them to follow public institutions of higher learning and extend the degree programmes would make higher education more expensive and adversely affect Malaysia’s aim to become a regional centre for higher education.
Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) deputy president Dr Parmjit Singh said private institutions would implement the decision if it was made on “good academic” grounds.
“It might make gaining a degree from a reputable institution too expensive. Prospective students might decide to go for a cheaper alternative such as distance learning, for which the quality of some providers are questionable,” he added.
Dr Parmjit Singh, who is also Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology managing director, added that soft skills were already embedded in the curriculum and students in private institutions did not need more time to learn these skills separately.
Sunway University College executive director Elizabeth Lee said private institutions complemented the role of public universities in providing higher education.
“Private institutions contribute greatly to attracting international students, working towards helping achieve national aspirations to become a regional centre of educational excellence.
“We also provide for local students who may not be able to be accommodated in public institutions for a host of reasons.”
She added that private colleges did not see the need to lengthen their programmes as their graduates were “employable”.
“They do not lack soft skills such as good English and the ability to communicate effectively. The majority are able to cope with the workload and can complete their degrees within three years.”
University College Sedaya International vice-president (academic) Kit Chin said that lengthening the time taken to complete a degree programme would not necessarily result in “better quality” graduates.
“The international benchmark is three years as practised in Australia and New Zealand. If Malaysia wants to attract international students, it is important that we follow this.”