The student movement in Malaysia has its origins before the second World War. In the early 1930s, teacher trainees from the Sultan Idris Training College established the KMM or Kesatuan Melayu Muda (Young Malay Union), which opposed British colonialism and desired independence.

In the fifties, students at the University of Malaya (established in 1949), then located in Singapore, enjoyed close relations with the anti-colonial movement, including nationalist journalists and unionists.

Thus, university students were actively involved in the struggle for independence. The development of the student movement at the University of Malaya in Singapore continued until the university moved to its Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) campus from 1959. In the early K.L. years, the character of student activities was different.

Students focussed instead on campus issues, especially in connection with student welfare matters. The emergence of the social and political dimensions of the student movement began around 1967.

Various events during that year distinguish it as a year of transition in the history of the student movement. From 1967, the student movement gradually advanced once again. In the following years, as it became more vocal, it became a force to be reckened with in the political upheavals of the country.

Several more universities were set up from 1969, a development which helped to strengthen and increase the influence of the student movement, The universities formed were Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM).

The increase in the number of universities meant an increase in the nurnber of university students. At the same time, more and more students from poor and rural backgrounds obtained places in universities.

These students were to play an important role in the student struggles in the years to come.