The story started when six of the local university colleges requested the dropping of the word ‘college’ in their names as they felt their current description had an inferior connotation. Then, they were being asked to upgrade their status. In April 2006, Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed had said that he was looking into their request. Finally, our government has agreed to rename 'university college (kolej universiti)' to 'university (universiti)' back in October 2006. The Star Online reported that January 1, 2007 will be the official date for the name-change for six university colleges:
- Kolej Universiti Kejuruteraan Utara Malaysia (KUKUM) to Universiti Malaysia Perlis
- Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia (KUSTEM) to Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
- Kolej Universiti Kejuruteraan dan Teknologi Malaysia (KUKTEM) to Universiti Malaysia Pahang
- Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan Malaysia (KUTKM) to Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Malacca
- Kolej Universiti Islam Malaysia in Nilai, Negri Sembilan to Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia
- Kolej Universiti Teknologi Tun Hussein Onn in Batu Pahat to Universiti Teknologi Tun Hussein Onn
The change of name is because people especially employers have misconceptions about the status of 'university college' (Kolej Universiti) and also to satisfy public requests. The misconceptions among employers possibly make life difficult for graduates from these university colleges to be hired. Actually, those university colleges have the status of 'university college' are due to their specialization in limited disciplines compared to those full-fledged universities. Moreover, the number of undergraduates in a university college is less than 10,000.
Malaysia Students blog contributor, Reign226 who is currently an undergraduate of KUTKM (soon to be Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Malacca) has a good write-up on this. He wrote:
As a result of this, classes in KU [Kolej Universiti] usually have a very desirable teacher:student ratio. In my own class, we only have 18 students, so the teachers are able to devote time for each student. Lecturers also have a comparatively open schedule and can be approached easily as their responsibilities are only towards a small pool of students.
Indeed, the more established KUs are virtually indistinguishable from other universities both in terms of diversity and student population. As my own KU is relatively new, there are some annoying inconveniences that I have to put up with, chiefly the lack of a proper campus for my own faculty.
Personally, I believe most or at least half of the undergraduates in the university colleges did not choose those university colleges when filling in Bahagian Pengurusan Kemasukan Pelajaran (BPKP, which was formerly known as Unit Pusat Universiti, UPU) online registration form. Well, I think the most obvious reason is that most students, when choosing public institutions of higher learning, believe that old is gold (isn’t it? ;-) and hence would choose well-established universities rather than those relatively new university colleges. Furthermore, most local public universities have been well-known for being specialized in certain disciplines while University of Malaya (UM) being the most prestigious university in Malaysia.
Some questions come to my mind as I read this news: Does it mean that by renaming these university colleges to universities, they become full-fledged universities? Can they each support more than 10,000 undergraduates? Once they admit more undergraduates to achieve the full-fledged university status, will lecturer:undergraduate ratio be reasonable? Will teaching materials and resources be sufficient?
Only time will tell. ;-)
Update: Berita Harian Online reported that the official date for the name-change has been postponed to February 1, 2007. Secretary of Ministry of Higher Education, Datuk Dr Zulkefli A Hassan said that it was postponed after considering a few legal processes which need some time to be completed.
Even though these university colleges will be renamed to universities, the courses and degree programmes offered by them will remain the same. Besides that, the enrollment of these soon-to-be universities will be between 10,000 and 15,000 undergraduates, which means no increase compared to their previous enrollments. Meanwhile, the administrative positions like Rektor and Deputy Rektor will be renamed to Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor respectively.
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