PETALING JAYA: The top 20 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) scorers will be able to further their studies at renowned universities worldwide under the National Scholarship Programme now, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The scholarships are for their pre-university programmes until the completion of their first degrees.
He also said that 200 students would be sent to Japan, South Korea, Germany and France to study engineering under the Public Services Department’s (PSD) Special Engineering Programme.
Also, the 744 students under the Bursary Graduate Programme will now have to study locally, in public or private institutions of higher learning, he said. It is believed that these are from the SPM 2013 batch.
Before this, all students who scored 9A+ and above in the SPM received bursaries from the Education Ministry.
The bursary covered the students’ pre-university studies at local institutions, after which they could continue with their first degree either locally or overseas if they managed to secure places from universities, usually top ranking ones, that were approved by the Government.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said the Government would continue allocating funds for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), with RM5bil to be channelled to undergraduates.
He said programmes like MyBrain15, Academic Training Scheme for Bumiputra and Academic Training Scheme of Public Higher Education Institutions (SLAI) would not be stopped.
The MyBrain15 programme was introduced by the Government with the aim to produce 60,000 PhD holders by 2023.
“Some 25,000 students are pursuing studies under these programmes.
“The Government has agreed to the increase of 15,000 new students for the MyMasters programme, 5,000 for MyPhD and 300 for SLAI,” he said.
To accommodate the increase, Najib said an additional allocation of RM300mil would be given.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh thanked the Prime Minister for the increased allocation.
“In times of economic hardship, we must not stop funding education and providing scholarships. Rather, we must increase funding for educational pursuits and for skills development,” he said in a statement.
Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Arshad Ayub Graduate Business School associate professor Dr Tan Peck Leong said it was the right decision to reduce the number of overseas scholarships while increasing local scholarships.
He said this would reduce the outflow of money from the country, as well as help tackle the brain drain problem.
The PSD said in a statement that sponsorship of students would continue as normal.
More information on the sponsorships can be viewed at http://goo.gl/XDX1OW.
A bursary recipient who wanted to be identified only as See, 20, said she understood the economic situation and why the PSD was taking such steps.
“At least they let us continue in local private universities,” she said.