One of the promises in the manifesto of the Pakatan Harapan Government that was elected into power through a massive popular vote in May 2018, was the reform of higher education. A committee was established in early 2019, made up of academics from both the public and private sectors, headed by Dr Wan Chang Da, of the National Higher Education Research Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Professor Dato’ Dr Norzaini Azman, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Professor Nik Ahmad Kamal of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia. Other members of the committee are Professor Aiman @ Nariman Mohd. Sulaiman also of University Islam Antarabangsa, Professor Russayani Ismail and Assoc. Professor Soon Jan Jan, both of Universiti Utara Malaysia, Assoc. Professor Rozilini M. Fernandez-Chung of the University of Nottingham Malaysia, Dr Lee Hwok Aun of ISEAS-Yusof IshakInstitute, Dr Ahmad Nazri Sulaiman, Universiti Sains, Dr Mohamed Ali Hj. Abdul Rahman, Monash University Malaysia, Encik Suharmi Ismail, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Mr U K Menon, Espact Sdn Bhd.
The committee was tasked with formulating proposals for the stabilization of governance structures in higher education and harmonizing the legislation on higher education.
The committee presented six papers in November 2019 to the Minister of Education. The papers are;
1. Creation of a Buffer Organisation
2. Establishment of an Education Ombudsman
3. Institutional Funding and Financing
4. Service Level Agreement
5. Academic Profession
6. Universities and Higher Education Institutions
The thrust of the committee’s recommendations in these papers is for the establishment of a higher education system in which institutional autonomy and academic freedom will constitute the mainstay of the system. When translated to law, the proposals in the six documents will make significant and far-reaching changes to the higher education system as now found.
Change in Government February 2020
The Pakatan Harapan government which instituted the reform was displaced by a new alignment of political parties and parliamentarians on 29 February 2020. Whether the reforms proposed by the abovementioned committee will continue or continue according to the proposals is still not clear.