KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — The government has decided to keep the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 Higher Education Ministry said in a parliamentary reply today.
But it added that it is looking to improve the Act — better known by its Malay abbreviation AUKU — so that university students will have more freedom to participate in political activities.
“The ministry is of the view that the existing Act is still relevant in enforcing its functions, especially for matters related to university governance.
“The repeal of AUKU will affect the governance of public universities, especially during the transition of the Act.
“In fact, this repeal process requires further research since it involves several other Acts that are also in force, for example the Private Higher Education Institutions Act 1996 [Act 555], the Education Act 1996 [Act 550], the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act 2000 [Act 605] and several other Acts supervised under other Ministries or agencies.
“However, the ministry is always open to any suggestions and views to improve the existing Act,” it said.
The AUKU has been amended seven times since it was gazetted in 1971. The last amendment was in 2019.
The ministry added that it is in its final phase of refining several suitable guidelines to give students more freedom in managing student activities and in participating in political activities on and off campus.
“One of the ministry's main agenda in 2023 is to empower students by giving them more autonomy in associational activities,” it said.
It emphasised that the freedom given is not “absolute” and that the students have a responsibility not to neglect their university education.
“At the same time, the university is also responsible for ensuring that harmony within the university is maintained,” the ministry added.
Pakatan Harapan (PH), which is part of the current ruling coalition, had promised to abolish the AUKU as part of its general election manifesto in 2018.
Then education minister Maszlee Malik and later on then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had promised to look into ways to repeal the Act before the collapse of the PH government in early 2020.