On the UPU application process

Yet another bright student has failed to get a placement in a university and is now appealing the decision via Twitter to Dr Maszlee Malik. However, there are a few things to consider in this case.

Yes, she scored brilliantly in her Sijil Tinggi Peperiksaan Menengah (STPM) results. Had she already been in university, she would have made the Dean’s List award for sure, with a 3.92 CGPA. But there are a few things suspect.

According to the article published in SAYS:

“The brilliant student had six university choices in mind: Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIA), Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)”

Now let’s start with the most glaring problem here – UiTM and UIA enrolments are restricted. One by race, the other by religion.

Yes, that’s wrong, that’s unfair, that’s downright indecent, “let’s take to writing up a petition on Change.org”, throw a fit on Facebook and get it changed accordingly – or at least talk about it for another week and then just forget it.

But – if you know those university enrolments have been restricted for the past 40 years or maybe longer, would rational thought tell you to still list those universities on the UPU form?

At this point, we have to suspect whether she truly wants admission into a university, or she wants to challenge the entire system of enrolments altogether.

So if the student is in fact wanting to advocate social change, congratulations on your courage. But if that wasn’t the case at all, you should have really paid attention during the UPU briefing.

Moving on to the second problem with the UPU process. It does look at merit, but it also looks at your choice priority. This needs some elaboration.

For example, let us say you scored a 3.6 CGPA and put UM as your first choice, and yet someone with a 3.8 CGPA put UM as their third choice, which one of you would get the UM placement?

Well, you would get it for putting UM as your first priority. Thus, the UPU does not only take merit into account, but also your ranked priority of choices in all universities.

And yes, students are briefed on this in secondary school, contrary to the many cases of confused masses out there. If I, at 35, have to go back and remember a briefing given at the age of 17, more than half my lifetime away now, then you should be able to recall these details which just happened months ago.

So, how does the government move forward on this issue?

First off, there is a need to re look all universities and admission officers including the UPU to weed out corruption – primarily in the form of students attending interviews for placements being asked “do you have any contacts to reach out to, to get a placement?”.

Yes, this is still happening. Yes, it is widespread. And more importantly it raises the question – why is there already such a question if you’re still interviewing people for placements? Are there already reserved slots even before the interviews?

Secondly, students, this one is on you – please don’t expect your results being great to break glass ceilings everywhere with regards to race and religion.

More importantly, be sure of your priority ranking in the UPU form. Aim high, but be realistic – this is rather important and I know it’s rather awkward because at that age, many really have no clue what they want to do in their life or whether it suits them.

Now, to the general public, here’s something to think about. If we are to base solely on merit, we discredit passion and more importantly, the equal opportunities afforded to everyone. Just because someone got great results, they’re not treated to a red carpet treatment into a university even after making a silly choice.

That would be discriminating wisdom and shrewdness for lackadaisical intelligence. Of course, both traits should be celebrated, but not when there is such a system as the UPU which puts merit and a student’s choice on the same measure.

I do wonder where Dr Maszlee Malik stands on this matter, though. Would he open up UiTM and UIA, or would he review the UPU procedures to ensure merit is priority one over everything else?

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