Call on Minister of Finance and Minister of Education to set up a high-powered joint committee to help Malaysian students in Britain and other Commonwealth countries

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the Klang Pasar DAP Branch on Monday, 30th July 1979 at 8 p.m. at the branch premises in Klang, Selangor.

Call on Minister of Finance and Minister of Education to set up a high-powered joint committee to help Malaysian students in Britain and other Commonwealth countries who are saddled with steep increase in tuition fees and rising cost of living

Reports from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries are meet disturbing to Malaysian parents with students studying abroad and to parents who plan to send their children for studies overseas because of the limited higher education opportunities at home.

The United Kingdom government announced last month that tuition fees for overseas students from the start of the next academic session in September will be 33 per cent higher than last year.

There is now serious report that the United Kingdom Government under the Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, proposes to charge overseas students ‘the full cost’ of their courses, which will mean a further 150% increase to the new September fees which would have already included the 33% rise.

This is a most shocking development, and comes as a black news for Malaysian parents and students, who appear to be condemned to one educational disappointment after another, whether at home or abroad.

with the new 33% fee increase in September, and the proposed further 150% increase later to charge students in UK the ‘full cost’ of their studies, higher education will become a privilege for the wealthy few, and an impossible dream for the majority of academically-qualified Malaysian students, who come from poor families.

The DAP calls on the Minister of Education, Datuk Musa Hitam, to give serious and urgent attention to this problem, by acting on three fronts:

1.To ask for Cabinet authority to lodge protest and make representations to the UK Government, with the full weight of the Malaysian Government, against the 33% increase in September and the proposed further 150% increase to charge students the ‘full cost’ of their courses. Britain must be made to understand in acting in so selfishly in this fashion, she is breaking her moral responsibilities to the commonwealth and the Third World. I will go so far as to the Malaysian delegation to the Commonwealth Premiers’ Conference in Lusake, Zambia, on Wednesday, to raise this British action as a most ‘unCommonwealth’ act, and to urge the British Government to desist from such proposals.

2.The Ministry of Education should review higher education plans with the view of greatly expanding higher education opportunities in our country, in view of the closing of more university doors of Malaysian students abroad, and do this through:

(a) building or more universities and the expansion of university places in existing universities;

(ii) approve the establishment of private universities.

3.The ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance should set up a high-powered joint committee to help Malaysian students in Britain and other Commonwealth countries financially stranded by the steep increase in tuition foes and rising cost of living.

The Government has a financial and moral responsibility to look after and help all Malaysian students studying abroad, and not just those Malaysian students who are abroad on government scholarships and bursaries.

Last year, in 1978, the Government gave scholarships to 1,803 bumiputera students for secondary and post-secondary students, the majority of whom being in UK, which totals 1,625. The Government also gave 6,770 bumiputera students scholarships for university studies overseas.

The DAP is not asking that every Malaysian student overseas should be given government scholarship and become a government responsibility. But in view of the steep rise in tuition fees and rising costs of living, the Government should step in and help students who are financially stranded by these adverse developments, so that the Malaysian students would not be left high and dry, or had to interrupt their studies.

Money spent in this way will be well spent and well-invested. Malaysia has a new source of funds from the petroleum production, and this will be one way to make good use of our petro-dollars for the long-term benefit of the country.