GEORGE TOWN: Twenty-three Universiti Malaya (UM) external undergraduate law students are at a loss as they are unable to graduate after failing to fulfil the compulsory passing rate of the Malaysian Universities English Test (MUET).
The majority, who were mature Bachelor of Jurisprudence (BOJ) students, claimed to have sat for the examination at least six times but were unable to attain the Band Four passing range that carries scores of between 180 and 219 marks.
MUET was introduced in 2000 to increase the level of English among college and university students in Malaysia and varies between an entrance and graduation requirement for higher learning institutes.
A legal clerk, who declined to be named, said she completed all her BOJ subjects by 2010 but could not attain Band Four despite sitting for MUET six times.
"As a result, I am unable to graduate. I completed my 15 law subjects under BOJ within fi ve years, two years shy of the maximum period prescribed by UM to complete the law degree," she said.
"It has been eight years now and I will not be able to pursue the Certifi cate in Legal Practice (CLP). According to CLP requirements, we must have finished our degree within seven years.
"I am distraught that all my dreams of becoming a lawyer have been crushed because I cannot attain a Band Four in MUET. It is a very difficult English examination."
The clerk, 42, who keeps attaining Band Three, carrying marks of between 140 and 179, said she and 22 other students who obtained a similar band had appealed to the UM law faculty and vice-chancellor numerous times.
"We keep asking them to consider allowing us to graduate with Band Three but they consistently reject our appeal. We are at our wits-end with no way to go about this anymore," she said.
The group also appealed to the Higher Education Ministry that urged UM to look into the matter. However, UM contended that the ministry had no authority to intervene because universities are autonomous, she said.
The teary-eyed clerk said that she had spent more than RM40,000 for the programme and with no 'light at the end of the tunnel'.
"If only I knew my fate was going to be like this, I would not have withdrawn half my savings from the Employees Provident Fund. I have nothing to prove at the end of the day. No degree and no hopes of ever becoming a lawyer," she said.
Having worked as a legal clerk for 16 years, the unmarried woman, sixth child of seven married siblings, grew an ambition to become a lawyer and to secure a stable life that would carry her through her old age.
"I studied very hard for this programme. I don't understand why UM would not just allow us to graduate with Band Three.
"We heard that three students from our batch were allowed to graduate with Band Three passing marks and one of them is a lawyer now.
"I am surrendering to the fact that I cannot become a lawyer anymore but I want to create an awareness in the discrepancy in the system. I don't want other students to experience what I have," she said.
Meanwhile, UM Deputy vice chancellor (academic and international) Prof Dr Mohd Hamdi Abdul Shukor, said the MUET Four is a requirement that was informed and agreed upon by the students when they initially got the study offer.
"Anyhow, the UM Senate has agreed to allow them to take up a special English programme run by our Language and Linguistic Faculty as they need to attain a certain level to pass," he said.