KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz admitted today that the government did not have the “capacity” to finance the studies of the growing pool of bright students in the country.
The minister in the prime minister’s department said the public would just have to accept the reality of the situation although it was an unpopular decision.
“We have to tell the truth. We just cannot afford it. Just like how a parent cannot afford to send their children abroad to further their studies, the government cannot afford it.
“We do not have the financial capacity that permits us to send every good student abroad,” he told The Malaysian Insider at the MP’s lounge in the Parliament building here this afternoon.
Nazri, who is the minister in charge of the Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships, was explaining the Cabinet’s decision to eventually scrap the 1,500 scholarships offered to students for undergraduate studies overseas.
He said the government spent billions on scholarships annually and could no longer afford to accommodate the growing pool of bright students.
“There are two things here. One, it is financial capacity. Secondly, it is this: however we do it, whether we reclassify the As that the students get to A+, A and A-, the fact remains that in this year alone, the number of students who obtained 9A+ were over 1,200.
“This means that the boys and girls are getting more and more clever and we cannot reduce the number of scholarships we give out by re-grading the As any further,” he explained.
As a result, said Nazri, the Cabinet last week agreed that PSD scholarships given to students applying for courses in foreign universities would only go to those pursuing postgraduate courses and not undergraduate courses.
He noted that the 1,200 of the 1,500 presently offered to the students would slowly be phased out from next year onwards.
The remaining 300, which make up the quota for the Perdana Scholarships, would be retained.
“This is based solely on merit. Like this year, 80 per cent of the 300 scholarships were given to non-Bumiputras,” he said.
The Perdana Scholarships, he noted, would be given out to the cream of the crop and only to those accepted in Ivy League schools.
“For the remaining 1,200, we will phase them out completely over the years. For example, last year, from the PSD, we gave out 2,000 scholarships, including the Perdana Scholarships.
“This year, we reduced the number to 1,500. Next year, we will continue [to reduce this further],” he said.
Nevertheless, Nazri said that the extra funds would be given out as scholarships to students pursuing courses in the local universities.
“Ultimately, the purpose is also to retain our good students here in our local universities. We want our good students to study locally and this is our long-term goal.
“We want our universities to be first-class. We want to retain the money here, so we finance those in local universities — we want the talent here,” he said.
Nazri noted that one of the reasons behind the brain drain problem in the country was that many students pursued their studies in foreign universities.
“And when they are there and they have the connection, they no longer want to return,” he said.