The Malaysian government will cut the operating budgets of its public universities by almost 20 per cent in 2017.
An academic has said that research will bear the brunt of the funding cuts, which follow a 16 per cent drop in funding to universities in the 2016 budget.
The government has reduced funding for higher education in 2017 to MYR6.12 billion (£1.17 billion), down from MYR7.57 billion in 2016, in a bid to reduce the country’s financial deficit caused by a slowing economy.
The announcement came as fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Ahmad Ibrahim, wrote in the New Straits Times that 2016 had been a “painful year” for scientific research.
Dr Ibrahim said that research universities have been especially affected because of the “drastic curtailment” in research and development activities as well as cuts in funding for contracted research professors.
He added that the cuts had taken the science community by surprise and will affect Malaysia’s competitiveness. “Reducing the allocation for [research and development] did serious injustice to the momentum we have created all these years,” he said.
Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, announced that there would be extra funding for scholarships in the 2017 budget, with MYR4.3 billion available, compared with MYR2.65 billion in 2016. A further MYR300 million will be distributed to the top five research universities nationwide.
The National University of Malaysia in Selangor is set to see the biggest hit to its budget, with a funding reduction of 31 per cent in 2017 compared with 2016. A further seven universities will experience funding cuts of between 20 and 30 per cent.
There will be a small increase in the operarting budgets at five smaller institutions as the government allocates more funding for technical and vocational education.