PETALING JAYA: The academic staff is the latest casualty in an austerity drive at Universiti Malaya (UM), the country’s premier institution of higher learning.
The measures, a result of slashed government funding for public universities, has already caused several facilities there to be neglected.
Now, many of the staff have been let go, giving rise to fears that the quality of education at UM will be affected.
According to a source, most staff members whose contract has ended have not been given a renewal, and that only a handful was being retained.
Many undergraduates and some academic staff have also complained that “several brilliant lecturers have been told to go”.
UM is just one of the many public universities struggling to cope with reduced federal funding. Also, it is the one with second highest cut (see graphics).
Contacted by The Star, UM’s Academic Staff Union said it could not provide an exact number of how many academic staff were let go.
As at Dec 31, 2015, there were 1,430 permanent staff and 728 contract staff. Many, especially the foreigners, have not had their contract renewed.
“It is a tough time,” said union secretary Aznijar Ahmad Yazid, adding that only those staff members who were criticially needed would get renewals.
The university was allocated RM638mil in 2015 and that was slashed by 27.3% last year. It was further reduced by 20.2% this year.
Aznijar, a lecturer in UM’s Engineering Faculty, said the cuts “were unjust” and that the Government should always make education a priority.
The reductions were also affecting the running of the university, he added.
According to the source, the staff who remained were being subjected to all kinds of cost-cutting measures, such as limiting them to one ream of printer paper per year.
They were also made to buy their own stationery, such as marker pens, said the source.
Aznijar said that the move was in line with UM’s goal to go paperless and that he was more concerned about the budget cuts’ impact on teaching quality and the upkeep of facilities such as labs and lecture halls.
He believes that UM will be able to weather the storm as it seeks additional sources of funding.
“Compared to the smaller universities, we are in a slightly different position.
“UM has other funding apart from that given by the Higher Education Ministry,” said Aznijar.
In response, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said public universities have become too dependent on government funding, adding that a decade ago it was a fraction of what was now given.
To read more about his reply and additional reports on UM, look out for The Star exclusive tomorrow.