THE MALAYSIAN education minister has said that fee rises of up to 400 per cent for postgraduate courses in several Malaysian universities are "reasonable and minimal" because the original fees were so low.
Before the increases, the University of Malaya charged M$977 (Pounds 159) per year for masters and PhD studies. This session the fee is between M$1,654 and M$1,854. Unlike first degree courses postgraduate fees are not subsidised.
University Sains Malaysia in Penang is raising its postgraduate fees to between M$1,020 and M$l,800 per academic year, compared with between M$350 and M$400 last year.
In reply to criticism, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said almost all postgraduate students with the exception of those pursuing MBAs are sponsored by agencies and corporate bodies and that fees for postgraduate programmes are determined by individual universities, not the government.
A group of University of Malaya postgraduate students of philosophy, science, ecology and physics voiced their dissatisfaction over the 70 per cent fee hike.
They have petitioned Tan Sri Dr Abdullah Sanusi Ahmad, the university's vice-chancellor, to reconsider the fee increase. Mohd Ali Syed Hussin, spokesman for the group, said: "Many postgraduate students are thinking of dropping out due to financial constraints."
A university spokeswoman said the fees structure of the university had not been changed for ten years. She attributed the fee rise to higher operating costs and said it had nothing to do with the country's economic downturn.