Malaysia plans greater political freedom for students

Education minister says he will repeal laws that bar students from political activism

October 10, 2018
Malaysia federal government
Source: iStock

Malaysia’s education minister has announced sweeping reforms aimed at granting students greater political freedom.

Maszlee Malik said that he would abolish controversial laws that bar students from engaging in political activities, and also would empower students to run campus elections independently, without interference from university administrations.

The minister, who is also president of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), made the pledge after meeting with student activists to discuss abolishing the 1971 Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA). Malaysian academics told Times Higher Education earlier this year that the UUCA had a stifling effect on students’ performance, creating a “culture of fear and acquiescence”.

It is understood that these specific provisions will be repealed shortly, pending the abolition of the entire act by next year. This rolls back the five-year time frame previously promised by the deputy education minister, Teo Nie Ching.

The ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, which came into power in May, pledged to abolish the UUCA in its pre-election manifesto.

Another controversial element of the act is that it, in effect, gives the education minister the power to appoint vice-chancellors.

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