Wednesday October 24, 2007
KUALA LUMPUR: University students will have greater freedom of speech under the Higher Education Ministry’s proposals to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971.
Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said the ministry was looking at several proposals that would “loosen up the environment in universities”.
He said the existing Act was very restrictive and did not allow any freedom of speech.
For example, he noted, permission would be needed before a lecturer could speak on academic matters.
“In a way, it’s a mockery of the law as it’s unrealistic. Every time you open your mouth, you need to get permission,” he told representatives from several newspapers yesterday at a lunch briefing.
The proposals also involve removing the provisions for automatic suspension and dismissal of students convicted of criminal offences and substituting them with the university’s discretion to proceed with disciplinary measures.
Presently, Mustapa said, even light offences meant students were automatically suspended.
“In line with the Prime Minister’s transparency and openness, we have to be in sync with the general trends in society,” he said.
Other proposals seek to:
> DECRIMINALISE student disciplinary laws (which means offences already classified as criminal under other legislation will no longer be classified as such under the Act);
> PROVIDE for fairer student disciplinary procedures; and
> PROVIDE for staff and student representation on the university’s governing bodies.
There are also proposals seeking to enhance the roles of the board of directors, senate and vice-chancellor and to provide for more accountability.
Mustapa said the amendments are expected to be tabled in Parliament next year.
“We have completed about 90% of the work,” he said, adding that he hoped the draft amendments could be presented to the Cabinet later this year.
The UUCA was first enacted in 1971 to curb the growing student movement and was amended in 1975.
On another matter, Mustapa said the ministry has set up 13 project teams under the programme management office
for the National Higher Education Strategic Plan and National Higher Education Action Plan 2007-2010.