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Amendments empower councils with autonomy in policy and finance management

PETALING JAYA: Student Representative Councils (SRC) at various universities have lauded the Higher Education Ministry for amending the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971.

The student representatives said the amendments were a step towards advancing the student empowerment agenda and advocating their rights to freedom and welfare.

On March 18, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir tabled amendments to several sections of the Act.

The amendments to Section 15A allow SRC or any student body to make, organise or take part in any collection of money, or receive money and other contributions from any person or body of persons, subject to any written law.

Amendments to Section 16B involve the transfer of authority in handling disciplinary issues from the vice-chancellor to a student disciplinary committee.

Other amendments include several provisions under the First Schedule, namely Section 48 and subsections 4, 11, 11A, 11B and 12A. The amendment to Section 49(2) also allows university student bodies to receive similar facilities provided to the SRC.

International Islamic University Malaysia Student Union president Muntasir Aznan said the amendments provide students with increased autonomy, aligning with the ministry’s student empowerment objectives.

He said the time had come for students to be given more authority, whether from a financial management perspective or in terms of setting their university policies.

“Students are the primary stakeholders in universities. By granting us more authority in financial management and university policy, we are empowered to shape our academic environment according to our needs and welfare.”

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan SRC president Luqman Hakim said the amendments provide confidence to student representatives nationwide to effectively carry out their responsibilities. The last time the Act was amended was in 2018 when Section 15(2)(c) was repealed to allow students to take part in political party activities on campus.

“That amendment provided students with a voice to speak up about their political opinions and demands.

“Previously, students who were involved in politics did so covertly but after the 2018 amendment, their political activities become open and expanded beyond mere campus activities.”

Universiti Sains Malaysia SRC president Muhammad Nazmi Hakimi said: “We are now permitted to oversee our internal and external finances, coordinate the election of student representatives in line with the university’s academic schedule, and enhance the management of student disciplinary matters.”

He said the provisions could change the leadership pattern of student bodies as it provides them with greater control over finances and political freedom.

He also said the amendments level the playing field between the institutions and student representatives, address challenges that hinder student freedom and align with the objectives of the 2030 Youth Policy.