Private colleges in Malaysia will have to show that their courses meet national needs as one of five new conditions imposed by the education ministry, before it approves licences for new courses or the establishment of private colleges.
Education minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the conditions, which include the teaching of Malaysian history and culture, and certain science and technology subjects were needed to ensure that private education is successful.
The new rules will also apply to foreign universities which intend to set up branches in the country.
The five new conditions include providing: quality education; market-driven courses; courses designed to meet national needs; reasonable and affordable fees; introducing subjects which contribute towards nation building.
The requirements were essential to ensure the standard and quality of private education was high at all times, said Mr Najib. "We cannot compromise on quality if we want to turn Malaysia into a centre of educational excellence, and attract large numbers of foreign students."
This was one of the reasons a department for private education was created in the recent restructuring of the education ministry.
The clear message is that private colleges will have to shift their emphasis from soft option courses such as business studies, law and secretarial skills to science and technology-related subjects, particularly engineering, where the country's need for more technically trained personnel was "critical".
The ministry will not allow private colleges to provide only market-driven courses, as this would lead to a neglect of core areas which were of importance to the country. Moreover, said Mr Najib, if private colleges were permitted to expand freely in certain areas such as law, this would lead to a surplus in that profession.
Private colleges should share in the responsibility of nation building and "provide courses on the Malaysian constitution, history, culture and customs", he added.