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Universities already feeling the impact of budget cuts

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Stiff budget cuts are already having an impact on Malaysia’s higher education even as the country tries to arrest a widely held perception of declining education standards, writes Anil Netto.

A 19 per cent cut in the operating budgets of Malaysia’s 20 public universities announced on 21 October is likely to hit research the hardest at a time when the country is trying to become a high-income developed nation, academics have said.

The operating budgets of the state-run universities have been slashed from MYR7.6 billion (US$1.8 billion) to MYR6.1 billion (US$1.5 billion) in the 2017 budget. This follows a similar sharp cut of 16% in the 2016 budget.

On the eve of the budget announcement, Ahmad Ibrahim, a fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, published an appeal to the government in a local daily to “not only reinstate the R&D allocation according to the formula of preceding years, but also allocate more. It is in our long-term interest.”

Reducing the allocation for research last year “did serious injustice to the momentum [in research] we have created all these years,” he said.

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