PUTRAJAYA: The Higher Education Ministry today said the fate of 156 public university professors who did not have their contracts renewed lay with the universities concerned. Its minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the government should not be blamed for this as the universities had autonomy to operate on their own. "The decision does not lie with us. It is up to the universities to decide whether they want to rehire the professors or put them on contract," he said. Earlier, Idris said the ministry would consider reviewing the retirement age of these professors which is now set at 60 years. This follows the announcement by National Council of Professors (MPN) CEO Professor Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose that 156, which is 33% of 507 contract professors aged between 61 and 70 years at public universities did not have their contracts renewed due to budget cuts. There are reportedly 2,254 professors in Malaysia, of whom 1,867 are in public universities. The annual allocation for public universities was reduced by 16.5% in Budget 2016 which was tabled last October. "If the university concerned feels that the professor still possessed strong research and teaching skills and can effectively contribute, then it is up to them to decide whether their services are still needed," added Idris. Despite challenging situations, he said the nation saw a 5% growth last year, while it is expected to grow by 4.5% this year. Under the Budget 2016, the Higher Education Ministry was allocated RM13.378 billion, which is a RM2.4 billion reduction from the RM15.785 in Budget 2015.