Academics from Malaysia's eight universities are complaining they have been kept in the dark over government plans to corporatise universities, and want a say in the planning process.
Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda, president of the Malaysian Academic Movement, said university input "should not be left solely to vice chancellors". Lecturers had not even been briefed on corporatisation plans, and their knowledge on the subject was limited to newspaper reports.
Dr Manan referred to a statement that all university vice chancellors had welcomed government plans to give universities the opportunity of financial independence, following a recent closed-door meeting with education minister Datuk Dr Sulaiman Daud.
The minister was quoted as saying that corporatisation of the universities would ease some of the government's financial burden.
Dr Manan, who is also the president of University Sains Malaysia academic and administrative staff association, said that such areas as running hospital facilities and laboratories could be corporatised because it would enable lecturing and research staff to make use of their expertise. Universities could also take on consultancy work in fields such as computing, business management and marketing.
But academics were concerned that the government would go overboard in commercialising disciplines that appeared to have potential for raising revenue.
Certain fields which did not lend themselves to commercialisation, such as those in the social sciences, would be trimmed.
Many academics felt that too much commercialisation could adversely affect the nation's perception of education and its value and purpose in society. They urged therefore that the government retain control over universities, and ensure that the same standards of corporatisation are applied across institutions.