UiTM’s VC shouldn’t pursue conflicting argument in justifying Bumiputera only admission

I FIND it strange that Universiti Teknoloji MARA (UiTM) vice-chancellor Datuk Shahrin Sahib would invoke a class argument to justify the need for the university to maintain its Bumiputera only policy in the admission of students.

Sharin by referring to recent statistics on the university’s admission said 60% of UiTM’s students are from the B40 group. Due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the M40 group shrunk, hence increasing the number from the B40 category.

In other words, the middle-class formation was adversely affected by the pandemic. Given the increase in the Bumiputera students enrolling from the B40 group, Sharin seems to suggest that UiTM is justified in pursuing the admission of only Bumiputera students.

He also indirectly suggested that the time might not have arrived yet to consider the change in the admission policy given the class gap in among the Bumiputera.

Earlier, it was the same Sharin who affirmed the university’s admission policy of Bumiputera only was in accordance with the university’s charter and in line with the Article 153 of Federal Constitution.

However, Sharin by his selective reading of Article 153 failed to touch on the prerogative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) to consider the educational well-being of the non-Bumiputera.

Selective justification

As an educationist and academic leader of UiTM, Sharin should not engage in shallow thinking. He never talked about the admission of foreign students, the non-tax paying category.

The proposal of the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) was to increase the pool of cardiac thoracic surgeons in the country. It was in this context that there was a suggestion for UiTM to admit non-Bumiputera students to the post graduate training in cardiac thoracic surgery.

This was a harmless suggestion taking into account the acute shortage of cardiac thoracic surgeons in the country.  It is this lack of cardiac thoracic surgeons that might have devastating impact on the national health.

Recently, a medical doctor reported that a pregnant woman died in a hospital in Sabah because there was no cardiac thoracic surgeon available.

I really find it rather strange and odd that Sharin who should be having a broader view of education would pander to the ethno-nationalists by invoking the contradictory class argument to justify or rationalise the ethnic admission policy.

I can understand the dilemma of Sharin and many others who might want a broader admission policy for UiTM.

But unfortunately, given the ethnic and religious polarisation between the races, even a harmless suggestion to admit the non-Bumiputera might be construed as a zero-sum game in the realm of racial politics.

Agong’s discretion

If Sharin thinks that class argument is a valid justifiable for the admissions of Bumiputera students, then why exclude the B40 group from the non-Bumiputera group.

Isn’t it true that a class-based rationale is opposed to ethno-nationalist justification in the admission of students? It befuddles me how Sharin can combine both in his justification of Bumiputera only admission.

The government in power has a unique role to play in reforming the outdated and archaic admission policy that was hatched in the heat of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the early 1970s.

Prof Ramsamy Palanisamy (Image credit: New Straits Times)

More than 50 years have elapsed since then but no government in power – including the Madani government that came to power recently on the need of reforms – has the courage and political will to reform the universities in the country, especially those that are focused only on Bumiputera admission.

Article 153 gives the YDPA the prerogative to empower the Bumiputera but at the same time to consider the educational welfare of the non-Bumiputera.

Malaysia’s system of political administration is based on Constitutional Monarchy. Even though the Federal Constitution gives the power to the YDPA, such power is exercised with the advice from the Prime Minister (PM) or government in power.

Unfortunately, however, the present government under PM Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim seems to function in not exercising the power of “advice” to the YDPA.

Essentially, the present government is too timid to suggest reforms in the education sector for fear of being politically de-stabilised.

It is a surprise that Anwar has the tendency to pass the responsibility to the YDPA almost on all controversial matters. – May 21, 20234


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE