KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 ― Public universities will see their combined operating budgets for 2017 slashed by about 19 per cent, or RM1.5 billion, a bigger cut than this year’s budget.
Out of the 20 public universities in Malaysia, 10 of them will be facing massive cuts ranging from over 10 per cent to over 31 per cent ― including many top-ranking institutions ― under Budget 2017 announced yesterday.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) suffers the biggest reduction in operating expenditure in terms of percentage with a 31.16 per cent drop from 2016 allocations, but Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) will be losing the most in terms of value with RM563 million wiped out from its operating budget.
Five other universities in the list are expected to have more marginal cuts of between RM93,500 (-0.06 per cent) to RM10.56 million (-4.74 per cent), while the remaining five will have marginal increases in the operating budget of between RM3.83 million (1.88 per cent) and RM13.61 million (8.85 per cent).
Taken as a whole, the budget for 20 universities' combined operating expenditure in 2017 will be RM6.12 billion, which is a cut of RM1.46 billion or 19.23 per cent from the allocation of RM7.57 billion in 2016.
This comes as the Ministry of Higher Education's total allocation for next year went down further to RM12.13 billion from RM13.38 billion for 2016, even as Putrajaya increased its overall budget to RM260.8 billion for 2017. The government also expects to reduce the fiscal deficit to 3 per cent of the GDP next year.
Even in the Budget 2016 tabled last year, the ministry's total allocation fell by RM2.4 billion from 2015's RM15.78 billion, resulting in public universities' spending allocation for 2016 cut by RM1.4 billion or 16.5 per cent.
There was public uproar over the 2016 drop that saw 19 out of 20 universities’ budgets cut, with some losing over 20 per cent from their previous allocation, such as Universiti Malaya (UM) which then had a 27.3 per cent or RM175 million cut.
But on October 26 last year, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh was reported saying that public universities were not allowed to cite the RM2.4 billion funding cut as an excuse to raise fees.
“Ninety percent of public universities are still relying on government funding. The universities should make money by utilising their assets,” he was quoted saying then by Astro Awani’s portal, arguing that it would help public universities to be less reliant on the government in line with the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education).
Later on November 26, Idris reportedly said the government will be using a new funding formula for public universities to encourage more efficient use of funds, by withholding five per cent of the funds in 2016 until the universities meet their targets or key performance indicators.
He also said then that the reserve fund would be gradually hiked annually to reach 40 per cent by 2025, also noting that the government wants public universities ― which he said had been generating income for the past nine years ― to be more financially sustainable.