A blueprint will be formulated soon on increasing student intake to Malaysia's institutions of higher learning, and determining which programmes are to receive priority for supporting national development.
Malaysian education minister, Datuk Najib Tun Abdul Razak, made the announcement after chairing the country's first National Higher Education Council Meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The first draft of the blueprint will be ready next month.
The plans, resulting from a joint effort between public and private institutions of higher education, will be based on the government's policy of raising student numbers by 26 per cent by the year 2020.
Presently, the country's universities are unable to satisfy the demand for professionals like scientists, engineers, technicians and many others. Malaysia needs 56,600 engineers by the year 2000, but will have produced only 21,000 by that date based on the current number of graduates.
The situation was almost identical in most professional fields, Najib said, which was why measures to increase student intake in both public and private institutions of higher learning had received early attention by the new council.
The new 14-member council replaces the vice chancellors conference which held its last meeting earlier this month.
The council's immediate priorities also include the incorporation of universities and recommendations on which foreign universities can set up campuses in Malaysia.
Mr Najib said that plans to increase student numbers will be based on the number of students in the school system and the birth rate, which will help determine how the country might reach its workforce targets.
The intake blueprint will enable the ministry to take comprehensive steps towards fulfilling the government's education policies, and transforming Malaysia into a centre for world-class quality education.