Is UiTM Really Opening Admissions To Non-Bumis & Why Is Their Student Union Against It?

A misleading statement has sparked a debate about race and national healthcare needs.

Cover image via @mppuitmshahalam (Instagram) & New Straits Times

Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp for the latest stories and breaking news.

The student union (MPP) at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) is protesting against a proposal to open admissions to non-Bumiputeras

In a recent statement on X, formerly Twitter, the student union said that the objective behind establishing UiTM was to preserve the special status of the Malays, Orang Asli, and indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak, ensuring that less privileged Bumiputera students have access to higher education.

"UiTM MPP believes that this university is the only institution that supports and protects Bumiputera students, serving as a bastion for safeguarding their special status and the progress of the nation.

"In an effort to reinforce this stance, UiTM MPP has launched a #MahasiswaUiTMBantah campaign to raise awareness among students about the rights of the Bumiputera," it said.

The student union also encouraged all students to wear black and post using the hashtag on social media platforms on 16 May to show solidarity against "the agenda of opening UiTM to non-Bumiputera groups".

"We hope that all UiTM students can unite to defend the special status of the Malays and Bumiputera as enshrined in Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia," read the student union's statement.

The MPP protest, however, misses some key points, while also failing to mention that the proposal is for a temporary opening of one very specific medical programme and not the entire university

The protest by MPP — which calls itself "one of the highest student organisations at UiTM" — is in response to a proposal by Professor Dr Raja Amin Raja Mokhtar, who is on the board of studies of the UiTM-IJN (National Heart Institute) cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme.

Late last month, a local health news site quoted him as suggesting that UiTM may temporarily open up the medical programme to non-Bumiputera parallel pathway trainees and graduates to meet the needs of the nation.

The programme is designed to cater to the standards set by the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA), Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF), and Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

According to Dr Raja Amin, UiTM's vice-chancellor and the chairperson of the UiTM board agreed for the Bumiputera-only public university to open admissions to non-Bumiputera or non-Malays for a limited period until a similar programme is offered at Universiti Malaya (UM), reported CodeBlue.

The proposal to open up the programme came after graduates who earned a Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons Edinburgh (FRSC Ed) qualification for cardiothoracic surgery were told that they couldn't practise in Malaysia because it wasn't recognised by MMC, reported Malaysiakini.

For context, the cardiothoracic field comprises surgery and care for heart and lung diseases.

There are two ways to become a cardiothoracic surgeon in Malaysia.

The first is through UiTM-IJN, which is Malaysia's sole local cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme that has received provisional accreditation from MQA until 12 August 2025.

It's recognised by MMC, which allows graduates to practise.

The other is through the Ministry of Health's (MOH) parallel pathway programme in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd). However, MMC doesn't recognise this programme.

There's a shortage of qualified heart surgeons, and temporarily opening up the programme to non-Bumiputera students works as a solution to MMC's non-recognition of the cardiothoracic surgery parallel pathway.

UiTM MPP appears to prioritise race over national healthcare needs while failing to explain the full picture and causing misunderstandings

Responding to the student representative council, PKR's student wing vice chairperson Yap Xiang slammed it for the "misleading" statement, which is a "gimmick" to spook the Bumiputera.

He also pointed out that the government hasn't even approved the proposal by the professor, with the Higher Education Ministry never issuing any statements on the matter so far.

Earlier this month, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir said that a few "fundamental issues" need to be addressed first before the programme can be opened to non-Bumiputera students.

"We also weren't informed officially about the proposal," Zambry was quoted as saying.

Last night, he also lamented that certain parties have "deliberately turned [the issue] into a polemic", causing confusion and disputes among various parties, reported Malaysiakini.

Meanwhile, many Malaysians, including Malays, have criticised MPP for prioritising race over patient needs, especially when the country is experiencing a critical shortage of specialist doctors.

"UiTM is proposing opening up the cardiothoracic programme. What's wrong? When you're old and you fall sick, are you only going to be looking for a doctor from your own race? Be smart," said one commenter.

Others also pointed out that UiTM already accepts international students, and "opening UiTM to all races will show just how high the quality of education is at UiTM, where students can compete with anyone".

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir.

Image via Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

Check out more recent explainer pieces on SAYS:

Read more trending stories on SAYS:

More stories to read: