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The latest overseas scholarship policy guidelines contravene the policy statement made by the Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Mustapa Mohamad


Media Statement
by Tony Pua


(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday) : Based on a report published in The Star on March 5th, 2007, the Minister stated that overseas scholarships will only be offered to “students who are accepted by renown foreign universities”. 

...the move was to produce high quality graduates.   

“Tertiary education in Britain and the United States is very costly. We do not want to send our scholars to any overseas university randomly.  It’s better if we only send them to renowned universities and in return, we produce high quality graduates,” he said. 

However, based on the latest circular issued by Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA), scholarships will continue to be awarded to students who fail to qualify to the top universities, particularly those from the United States. 

Selepas berjaya di peringkat persediaan dan memenuhi had kecemerlangan akademik yang ditetapkan, pelajar-pelajar yang berjaya mendapat tawaran daripada universiti-universiti bertaraf Ivy League atau Ivy League Standard akan meneruskan pengajian di Amerika Syarikat selama 4 tahun.  

Bagi pelajar-pelajar yang tidak mendapat tawaran daripada universiti-universiti bertaraf Ivy League atau Ivy League Standard, mereka akan meneruskan pengajian Ijazah Pertama di bawah American Credit Transfer Programme (ACTP) di mana pelajar-pelajar akan mengikuti pengajian 1 tahun pertama di dalam negara dan seterusnya meneruskan pengajian selama 3 tahun lagi di universiti-universiti di Amerika Syarikat. 

Hence it is clear that the Government will continue to finance students with scholarships irrespective of the universities which they manage to secure places in despite what the Minister of Higher Education has promised earlier.  

In addition, no mention of qualifying for the top universities in the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia was made as a criteria for these countries. 

In the pursuit of the quantity of scholars, have we decided once again, to forgo “the move to produce high quality graduates” as expressed by the Minister of Higher Education himself? 

Why is the JPA offering scholarships for Medicine studies in countries which are not recognised by Malaysian Medical Association (MMA)? 

This year, the JPA is also offering scholarships for students to pursue medical degrees at universities in Czech Republic and Poland.   

Without even directly calling into question the quality of these universities, why are these scholarships offered in the first place when the MMA has yet to recognise medical degrees from these countries?

Wouldn't such a policy place our potential scholars in limbo should the MMA decide that the degrees at these universities may not meet our minimum required standards? 

On top of scholarships to the above 2 countries, JPA also offer medical degree scholarships to Egypt, Jordan and Indonesia. 

As it stands, the Minister of Health, Dr Chua Soi Lek is contemplating a “unified medical examination” for future overseas medical graduate due to the serious question over whether these graduates “had the required standard and quality to practise medicine in the country”.  Dr Chua also added that “there had lately been a drop in the quality of doctors”. 

Dr Chua's call for a “unified medical examination” would not have been necessary if Malaysia is more selective over the colleges in which we provide recognition.  For example 6 from Burma, 6 from Bangladesh, 11 from Indonesia, 14 from Pakistan, 4 from Iraq and even 1 from Uganda. 

Revise JPA Scholarship Award mechanisms 

The DAP would like to make the call for overseas undergraduate scholarships to be confirmed and awarded after the students have been offered a place at a top university. Why should scholarships be awarded to the students even before they have qualified for a place at a top university overseas? 

The existing policy is flawed and subject to abuse for the official interviewers and selection panelists for JPA may not be able to fully evaluate the qualities of an individual candidate, particularly, since there are so many top scorers these days. 

There are 2 case examples last year: 

  1. Calvin gained acceptance into University of California, Berkeley to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In the US rankings of US universities, Berkeley is joint second with Stanford University, after Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Engineering. In the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) global rankings, Berkeley is ranked 6th in the world overall, and 2nd for Technology. No one will dispute that Berkeley is indeed a "world-class" university.

Unfortunately for Calvin, after attending an 30-minute interview with Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awan (JPA) for the JPA scholarship as part of a group of 10 (or so) individuals, his application was rejected. And given that his parents are middle income earners, a degree at Berkeley will not be possible without scholarships or financial aid. 

In his JPA interview, they gave him that curt “don’t tell us where you want to go, we’ll decide where to send you” answer. 

  1. Similarly, Wei Shen from Teluk Intan , who has completed his STPM (and got 5As) last year has qualified for both Cambridge University in Britain and Cornell University in the United States as highlighted by the Star on 21st May 2006 but was facing difficulty raising the necessary financing then.

These are certainly not the only examples available. 

Hence the simple question we would like to ask JPA and the Ministry of Higher Education is this, which is more important and which makes more sense for Malaysia? 

  1. Award overseas undergraduate scholarships to post-SPM students who have yet to undergo pre-university programmes or examinations, and have not secured any placements in top universities overseas? This has often resulted in students being sponsored to study in 2nd or 3rd tier universities in Britain and the United States, as well as being sent to other 3rd world countries. OR

  1. Award overseas undergraduate scholarships only to students who have successfully completed pre-university programmes or examinations and have received conditional or unconditional acceptance into the top-rated and most selective universities in the world, such as University of California, Berkeley or Cambridge University, UK?

We would like to constructively propose that the above 2nd option be adopted for future scholarship awards in this country, in line with the Datuk Mustapa's hopes “to produce more high quality graduates”.


*Tony Pua, Economic Advisor to DAP Secretary-General

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