PETALING JAYA: Malaysian academicians have urged the US government to rethink its move to send international students packing if their universities switch to online-only courses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) chairman Prof Zaharom Nain of Nottingham University Malaysia Campus said he did not see any reason for such drastic action as students were paying for their amenities.

An announcement was made last week by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying students attending schools operating entirely online may not remain in the US during this year’s autumn semester from August to December.

“Firstly, this is nasty on the part of the (US President Donald) Trump administration.

“Even if students have to do online classes, why can’t they stay in the US? After all, they are paying for their university fees and most of them are also paying their own rent.

“Until such time when they can’t pay their fees, students should be allowed to stay on,” he told theSun yesterday.

Zaharom said a lack of internet facilities may also prove detrimental to students who are forced to return home.

“The US government is assuming that all students have easy access to the internet.

“However, even in the context of Malaysia, we have reports of a student in Sabah who had to climb a tree to get good internet access to complete an examination.

He said asking students to leave is to deny them a healthy learning environment.

“Being disconnected from the university environment and sitting in your room can lead to heavy amounts of stress.

“This is terribly unfair and not the way a so-called leading developed country should treat students who have been slogging over the years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia principal research fellow Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong said classes conducted purely online have limitations and should not be the only way forward.

“The learning process cannot be facilitated by the use of an online mode only.

“The face-to-face element is important, else students will be missing the personal touch with lecturers, among other limitations.

“The US has to rethink the educational policy of sending back international students and asking them to study online,” he said.

Read the story on our iPaper: ‘US move too drastic’