PETALING JAYA: Universiti Malaya (UM) is increasing its intake of students through a special open channel known as Saluran Terbuka Universiti Malaya or Satu, to make the varsity financially sustainable.
The decision, however, would not deprive Central University Admission Unit (UPU) applicants of their spots, UM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor (pic) told Sunday Star.
UPU is an online system which processes student admission to public universities, polytechnics, community colleges, public skills training institutions, Teachers’ Training Institutes and matriculation colleges for SPM and STPM, or its equivalent, school leavers.
The closing date for UPU applications was April 7.
Prof Mohd Hamdi said UM was looking to recruit 1,000 students through Satu next semester.
Citizens with foundation, matriculation and STPM qualifications can apply, but each programme has its own requirements which students will have to meet.
Malaysia’s oldest and highest ranked varsity takes in some 4,200 government-sponsored students through UPU yearly.
“We’re opening up more spots for students to join UM through Satu. These students do not have to go through UPU but they will have to pay the full cost of studying here, ” he said, adding that government-sponsored students pay only 10% of the cost of studying in UM.
The programme’s full cost ranges between RM37,580 and RM300,000.
He said the move to open up the varsity was “not to make a profit but to cover costs”.
Assuring UPU applicants that their spots are safe, he said UM was committed to taking in the same number of students through UPU.
“The number of UPU students we take in for every programme will be maintained.
“We are not depriving anyone of a spot, we are increasing our capacity to allow more students to come.
“Teaching and learning are our strengths but we have not been leveraging enough on these, ” he said.
To ensure the quality of graduates, intake requirements would be the same for all students regardless of whether they are admitted via UPU or Satu.
“Perhaps those who come in through UPU are those with a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of four or 3.85.
“There are many others with a 3.75 CGPA who don’t meet the UPU cut-off point but are equally good.
“We’re giving them the opportunity of getting a high-quality education through Satu instead of them going abroad, but they have to pay the full cost as they are not government-sponsored students, ” he said.
He said the coming semester would also see the varsity introducing a cheaper remote learning option for students who would be learning off-campus.
This was part of UM’s “hybrid learning classrooms” with both physical and virtual students.
These ‘virtual’ students would pay less because they were not physically in class, Prof Mohd Hamdi said.
UM will also introduce open distance learning (ODL) for local and international students.
“ODL is similar to the ‘70% self-learning, 30% interaction’ open university concept. We have courses and degree programmes ready for enrolment next semester. We hope to get 500 students, ” he said.
He said as part of the varsity’s “democratisation of knowledge” plan, “micro degree stacking” would be introduced.
A catalogue of courses that industry professionals can take to upskill and reskill is being prepared.
Upon completion of each course, they will gain credit hours and grades which they can “stack” to earn a degree eventually.
This, he said, was important as many had lost their jobs and relevance in the industry due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said UM’s long-term plan was to be financially self-sustaining.
By 2025, UM expects to generate RM1bil for its expenditure.
“We’re supposed to spend RM1bil this year but we’re only spending about RM620mil – we just don’t have that much money.
“We can’t use our reserves as it’s not fair to the next generation.
“With income from Satu, ODL and other initiatives to supplement the government’s endowment, we hope to generate RM1bil, ” he said, adding that the first pillar of the 2021-25 UM Strategic Plan was income generation.
“Managing a university is very expensive. Research is not cheap and neither is maintaining buildings and equipment.”
The National University of Singapore received S$718mil (RM2.2bil) in research grants according to its 2019 financial report, he noted, while UM’s total grants were less than RM100mil.
“Yet, with RM100mil, UM rose to 59th spot in the QS World University Rankings 2020. So financial sustainability is very important. If you invest money, UM will grow very fast, ” Prof Mohd Hamdi said.