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A wave of private higher education audits unearths quality and financial concerns

Malaysia’s private education sector is urged to focus on capacity-building after the results of the first Malaysia Quality Evaluation System (MyQuest) exercise were revealed on 8 November. To the great disappointment of the 210 private colleges that participated in the non-mandatory evaluation – the country currently has 403 such providersonly three attained the highest rating in the six-tier evaluation scheme. Over 60% of those audited obtained only a three-star status or below, prompting the Malaysian government to introduce tougher measures to regulate private colleges in the upcoming amendments to the Private Institution of Higher Learning Act.

Most private providers in Malaysia are now expecting growing pressure from regulators as well as the market. According to the Ministry of Higher Education, the ratings of MyQuest will not only affect the students’ choice of colleges, but also the decisions of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation on the approval and disbursement of student loans. Colleges that are rated three stars or less are therefore urged to step up their capacity-building efforts through reforms or mergers.  

Meanwhile, an audit of 35 universities (6 state-funded and 29 private) conducted by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) in South Korea has unearthed serious professional and ethical issues in the financial management of private universities. Some 200 chief directors, university presidents and professors may face criminal charges or penalties for malpractice relating to “high-expenditure, low-income” budget fixing, actions which explain the doubling of tuition fees charged by South Korea’s private institutions in the past ten years.   

In the wake of skyrocketing tuition fees in the private education sector and growing financial burdens on new graduates, a “global wave” of auditing actions seems to be underway. Kenya’s Commission for Higher Education was recently directed to investigate the quality of programmes offered by institutions in the private sector. Hong Kong’s on-going consultation on the improvement of the student loan scheme there has proposed limiting the loans lent to students enrolled in self-financed courses, in order to prevent excessive borrowing and to ensure the quality of eligible courses. And, in the United States, the Government Accountability Office recently conducted an undercover investigation of 12 online for-profit programmes. The probe found widespread evidence of lax academic standards.

Malaysian Qualification Agency The Government of Hong Kong U.S. Government Accountability Office The Hankyoreh University World News