Higher learning institution operators seek RM10b in financial aid to weather Covid-19

Amir Hazmah suggested a special scheme, or recovery fund, be introduced for operators of higher education institutions. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Amir Hazmah suggested a special scheme, or recovery fund, be introduced for operators of higher education institutions. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The National Association Of Bumiputera Private Higher Education Institutions Malaysia (PKIBM) today pleaded with the government for financial assistance worth up to RM10 billion to help edupreneurs affected by Covid-19.

PKIBM president Amir Hamzah Md Isa reportedly said it was time Putrajaya rendered assistance to the private higher education industry, which it said had contributed significantly to the country’s economy and human capital development.

Amir Hazmah suggested a special scheme, or recovery fund, be introduced.

“We have 437 private higher learning institutions and I am not sure if all of them require [funding]. Assuming all of them need it, a funding of at least RM10 billion is needed with the expectation that business will continue to be affected for a longer period of time.

“This is because of the impact across all sectors involving hundreds of thousands of lost jobs,” was quoted as saying in a Sinar Harian.

“The economic effect will persist. The RM10 billion estimation is for the entire industry. If for Bumiputeras alone, I do not think the amount would be that large. This is in order to survive the direct effect of Covid-19,” he added.

Amir Hamzah claimed that the industry contributes to the country’s gross domestic product to the tune of around 2.5 per cent, or RM31.5 billion, annually.

“The contribution is in the form of students’ fees. From that amount, RM11 billion was contributed by international students. That is the first dimension.

“The second dimension is that many do not realise that 50.3 per cent of tertiary students in Malaysia studied in private higher learning institutions. From the estimated 1.3 million students overall, 660,000 aged between 18 and 24 studied in private higher learning institutions.

“Let us imagine that if such institutions were non-existent, the government would need to find placement for these students,” he said, adding that the government has not had to channel any aid to the industry for the past 30 years because the 437 institutions were self-sustaining.

Based on the expenditure figures of the 437 institutions, Amir Hamzah said the figure was around RM7.4 billion annually.

He said the Covid-19 outbreak has effectively hamstrung these institutions, citing around 60 to 70 per cent of them that were significantly affected during the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) in March.

“March is actually a productive month for us. It is the time of new enrolment. When the MCO started, we had to stop new enrolment for March, April and May. I would say many were affected because they were not prepared in terms of management and finance.

“When we talk about business, it must be profitable. If it is not profitable, then we cannot continue said business. A business that is not profitable will hurt many people. We will not be able to provide the required services to students,” he said, when asked whether the industry was a profitable one in the country.

Last week, Higher Education Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad announced that the government has agreed that universities can fully reopen in October, as Malaysia seeks to move forward from the coronavirus pandemic.

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