PETALING JAYA: The Cabinet today approved amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971, which has been infamous for curtailing students' questioning of politicians.
The amendments involve abolishing provisions preventing university and college students from participating in political party activities on campus, said Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik Ipic
), in a media statement.
He said this move is in line with the political transformation brought by the government in strengthening democracy and to provide more room for university students to speak up and engage in political activities on campus.
This is also to produce graduates that are "balanced" and able to "express opinions" on current issues.
The UUCA was tightened to restrict student activism in 1975 after the landmark Baling protests of Dec 1974.
That was when thousands of university students demonstrated in the small town of Baling, Kedah, in solidarity with rubber tappers who were struggling to survive after global rubber prices had collapsed.
They were led by prominent student activists such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Hishamuddin Rais.
After 1975, the restrictions have all these years applied to students not only of public universities, but also to those in private higher education institutions, polytechnics, community colleges and teacher institutes.
Dr Maszlee said that the draft bill on the proposed amendment of several UUCA provisions is expected to be made at the current Parliament session (which will end in mid December).
The amendments also involve the Private Higher Education Institutions Act 1996 (Act 555) and the Education Institutions (Discipline) Act 1976 (Act 174).
Dr Maszlee said the approved amendments are a positive development as some provisions in the current UUCA need to be changed to suit the new government's transformation plans.
He added that this is just the first step in transforming higher education in line with the advancements of technology and information, as the Ministry wants a new higher education law to replace the UUCA by 2020.