The Tempinis diaries

May 26, 2008

The Half Baked Research Assessment Exercise

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 2:04 pm

Whoever came up with this Setara nonsense does not understand universities at all (see story below). There are so many things wrong with this entire thing that it seems like an exercise in futility. First, the academics on the panel are all from UKM. Now apart from questions of impartiality, UKM is not exactly a world-class university (to put it mildly). Why then get UKM professors to judge other universities in Malaysia? This really boggles the mind! And isn’t it ironic that the article is called “A Balanced View”? The members of the panel certainly are not balanced since they are all from UKM. Second, not all the academics on the panel are full professors. Are we so short of full professors that we cannot convene a panel with full professors? Third, there does not seem to be any repercussions in being ranked highly or lowly in this exercise. What then is the point of it all? It is just a case of ‘syok sendiri’.

I would propose that the following steps be taken in future exercises: (1) Appoint a completely foreign advisory board comprising of distinguished academics. This will ensure impartiality and also a valuable outsider perspective. The members of the panel can come from reputable universities in this region like NUS, NTU, Melbourne, Sydney, Beida, Fudan, Seoul National, Tokyo University or HKU. (2) Make funding and (possibly) fees correspond with ranking. Universities which are ranked higher should have a more generous funding from the government and possibly charge higher fees. Also, this should translate to the pay of the lecturers as well. Lecturers at higher ranked universities should be paid more. (3) The panel should also make specific recommendations on how Malaysian universities can be improved.

As it stands, this Setara is a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money where a bunch of UKM academics are given a ‘rombongan sambil belajar’ to various countries. I understand that Setara might be the work of the former Minister for Higher Education. However, in future the Higher Education Ministers (Khaled Nordin, Hou Kok Chung and Idris Haron) should demonstrate that they take this portfolio seriously and display leadership and professionalism in conducting a more meaningful exercise.

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Sunday May 25, 2008

A balanced view

By SIMRIT KAUR

The rating system announced recently provides the first objective snapshot of where Malaysian universities stand in relation to each other.

WE now know where Malaysian universities stand, following the release of the Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (Setara) 2007.

Mohamed Khaled (fourth from left) holding up a copy of the Setara 2007 report .Looking on are his deputies Datuk Idris Haron (left), Dr Hou Kok Ching (right) and other Setara committee members.

Setara provided a contrast to last year’s Academic Reputation Survey (Ares). Universiti Malaya (UM) got the highest marks under Setara, whlle Universiti Sains Malaysia scored the most marks under Ares.

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May 21, 2008

Tough Treatment for Malaysian Varsities

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:24 pm

For all the spilt ink on how to improve Malaysian universities, the initiatives that ought to be undertaken are quite obvious.  The challenge is whether there is the political will to implement these initiatives and whether the universities can find a good man or woman to carry out these moves firmly yet being sensitive to the local culture of the universities.  The story on NUS below presents an excellent case study for Malaysian universities.  Malaysians should get over their pride and learn from Singapore. 

Also, politicians should try not to interfere with the day to day running of universities.  They should appoint a good man or woman and leave him or her alone for a few years.   Ideally, a Vice Chancellor should stay for at least six years.  It takes 3 – 4 years for a batch of students to graduate.  For any initiatives to bear fruit, we have to be patient and let the Vice Chancellor do his or her work.  Shih Choon Fong of NUS stayed as the President for 8 years.

In summary, these initiatives are:

(a) abolish (or lessen) the quota system for recruitment of staff and student;

(b) make publications in international refereed journals the key performance indicator for staff;

(c) benchmark pay to publications and research output.  This will make it possible to pay younger research active staff more over their less productive colleagues;

(d) make the pay more competitive internationally with respect to research active staff;

(e) sign meaningful research collaboration and student exchange programmes with respected universities;

(f) hire internationally.  The best person should be recruited for the job regardless of race and nationality.  To do this, the pay has to be competitive internationally;

(g) hire faculty with strong PhDs.  Pre-existing staff should be sent to respected universities for their PhDs; and

(h) implement a tenure and professorial system whereby external referees from respected institutions would have a significant input on the quality of the research of the candidate.  The quality of research should be the determinative factor in awarding tenure or professorship.

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How tough treatment made NUS one of best

Sandra Davie , EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT

May 23, 2005


THERE was a time at the National University of Singapore when the name Shih Choon Fong was bad news.

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May 20, 2008

Why Rafiah Salim Should Stay

Kian Ming has a post in Education Malaysia re-iterating their (Tony and Kian Ming’s) position that Rafiah Salim should be removed as the VC of University of Malaya. I believe that this is a such a wrong and populist position that I feel compelled to reply.

First, Rafiah Salim has been reported to be implementing many sensible moves in improving the university. These steps include (a) making annual publications in two peer-reviewed journals a key performance index for lecturers; (b) consulting external dons in matters of promotion; and (c) the signing of student exchange agreements. Rome was not build overnight. Tony Pua is being completely unfair to blame Rafiah Salim for the continued decline of University of Malaya’s ranking. Rather than taking a knee-jerk reaction (e.g. recruiting graduate students from the Middle East to improve the foreign student ratio), Rafiah Salim seems to have the courage and wisdom of taking the bull by the horns in the unheadline grabbing task of trying to promote a research culture in the university.

Second, Khaled “Save Sufiah Yusof” Nordin’s move of extending Rafiah Salim’s contract by only six months puts her and the university in an invidious position. This effectively creates a ‘lame duck’ Vice Chancellor. Matters are on hold. Nothing will get done. See story below from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Third, Kian Ming’s gripe against Rafiah Salim’s qualifications is again unfair. It is true that she does not (save for an Honorary PhD) have a PhD. But you have to consider what discipline she is in and what generation she is from. Rafiah Salim is a lawyer and many lawyers in her generation even in Oxbridge do not have PhDs. In fact, in many US Law Schools where law is a postgraduate degree – PhDs are not a pre-requisite for faculty members. I am sure Kian Ming will agree with me that a PhD is not evidence of leadership abilities. I have met enough dumb people with PhDs to last me a life time. While a PhD is an absolute must for new faculty hires especially in science and the social sciences, Rafiah Salim should not be faulted for not having a PhD. As the Vice Chancellor she is an administrator whose most important quality is leadership ability. Thus far, I think she has shown remarkable leadership abilities. Also, Kian Ming’s comparison with the Harvard President is totally unwarranted. University of Malaya is not Harvard and will never be Harvard. To benchmark University of Malaya to Harvard is just so wrongheaded I do not even know where to begin.

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May 11, 2008

University of Malaya Watch: Another Positive Move

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 12:47 pm

Another positive move. Student exchanges can only improve the quality of Malaysian students. Kudos to Hou Kok Chung and Rafiah Salim.

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IPTs Told To Carry Out Student Exchange With Varsities Abroad

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 (Bernama) — The Higher Education Ministry has called on the local institutions of higher learning to carry out student exchange with universities abroad.

Its deputy minister Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung said this was important to internationalise their students and expose them to different kinds of learning and experience abroad.

“In this respect, the ministry will continue to support any initiatives to forge ties with universities abroad,” he told reporters after attending a student exchange programme organised by the University of Malaya’s Malay Studies Academy.

Under the programme, a total of 45 students would be sent to China’s Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) for six weeks starting May 15.

The programme was to reciprocate the sending of 22 students by BFSU to attend lectures at the Malay Studies Academy for one semester last year.

Meanwhile, University of Malaya Vice-Chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim said the initiative was among measures taken by the university to widen the knowledge among the students.

“We want our students to have a unique learning experience,” she said, adding that the university was hoping to sent 1,000 students to universities abroad within the next three years.

In a related development, 15 engineering students of the university would depart for South Korea tomorrow for a 10-week exchange programme.

— BERNAMA

May 10, 2008

VK Lingam Should be Disbarred

Filed under: malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 4:44 pm
This man should be disbarred. He has brought such disrepute to the legal profession. Wonder who he will implicate next – Dr. Mahathir? After all, a drowning man will clutch on straws. Could this be Pak Lah’s trump card? Maybe Pak Lah is not as stupid as he looks.

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Who is VK Lingam?

by Soon Li Tsin

To many he is the senior lawyer in the videotape apparently brokering the appointment of ‘friendly judges’ into top positions in the judiciary but to others, he is a powerful and well-connected lawyer.

Who really is VK Lingam?

Malaysiakini reconstructed this portfolio based on information available in a company annual report where Lingam is a director and news reports posted on the Internet.

Kanagalingam Veluppillai, 56, began his career by serving several multinational and local companies in various senior management positions between 1973 and 1983.

While serving as human resources manager in UMW Holdings under the stewardship of Eric Chia (who later headed Perwaja Steel Holdings), he left to study law at the University of Buckingham, England, and graduated in 1985.

With Eusoff Chin. On his return, he re-joined UMW as its group legal advisor in 1985, but started his own practice four years later.

He was first caught in controversy when photographs surfaced on the Internet of him and then Chief Justice Eusoff Chin while they were on holiday in New Zealand in 1994 (right).

Eusoff denied that the holiday was paid for by Lingam – as had been alleged – and they had merely bumped into one another. It was revealed later that the two had been on same flight from Singapore to Auckland.

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May 6, 2008

The Suffering People of Burma

Filed under: history — Tags: , — toru @ 2:24 pm

As if the Burmese people have not suffered enough. Hopefully, aid will get there soon.
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Burma Reels as Storm Toll Rises

Uprooted trees bring down power lines after cyclone Nargis hit Rangoon, Burma on May 4

Uprooted trees bring down power lines after cyclone Nargis hit Rangoon, Burma on May 4
Democratic Voice of Burma / EPA

The people of Burma take omens seriously. For centuries, the paths of planets and vagaries of weather have been scrutinized by astrologers, who divine a relationship between celestial irregularities and earthly mayhem. So when a tropical cyclone tore across the country May 2-3, killing more than 22,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands more homeless in the Irrawaddy delta and the commercial capital of Rangoon, Burmese couldn’t help but note the curious timing: On May 10, the country’s thuggish ruling junta was set to hold a constitutional referendum, the first step toward what the military has called a “discipline-flourishing democracy.” Critics dismissed the plebiscite — which has been postponed because of the natural disaster — as nothing more than a political ruse to legitimize the military’s grip on power, noting that the proposed constitution reserves a hefty chunk of parliamentary seats for the army and bars top opposition leaders from holding office. Then the heavens opened and the winds lashed. The gods, it appeared, weren’t happy with where Burma’s leaders were taking their country

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May 5, 2008

Defending Rafiah Salim, UM Vice Chancellor

Education Malaysia has a blog post calling for Rafiah Salim to be removed as the Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya. Normally, I always agree with Tony and Kian Ming’s writings. However, this time I think they are being a tad unfair.

Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea to remove Rafiah Salim. First, Rafiah Salim is trying to make positive changes to the University. See the story below. She is proposing that certain promotions at the University of Malaya should be assessed with input from foreign academics. This is certainly a welcome development as it is in line with the practices of other leading universities. She did not say what kinds of promotions will be subject to such consultations nor did she say how many academics will be consulted. It is also important to consult academics at good universities. Hopefully, there will come a time when all promotions (tenure and full professors) will be assessed with input from foreign dons. I have previously written on this topic here.

Second, Rafiah Salim has also set a very sensible and do-able goal of making two publications a year as the Key Performance Indicator for all teaching staff. Hopefully, this move will engender a research culture in University of Malaya where academics know that they will be promoted on the strength of their research rather than politicking and sucking up to the right people. In time, Rafiah Salim should also encourage her staff to publish in internationally refereed journals as this will help improve the reputation of the university.

Finally, I believe that we should give Rafiah Salim a chance to prove herself. It is very demoralizing for an institution to remove their leader who has held on to the job for less than 2 years. Really, what can one do in 2 years? The rot has set in a long time ago and it would take some time to fix it. Universities are not like corporations where you can come in and fire half your staff.

Overall, I think Rafiah Salim is on the right track and doing a credible job. She seems to be making all the right moves. Reform of the promotion system and the inculcation of research culture is ‘unsexy’ and not headline grabbing stuff. But these moves are what will eventually improve the university. We should give her a chance.

Now what is really killing the university is the quota system in terms of student admissions and faculty hiring. But is this really within Rafiah Salim’s purview? Perhaps, that is the real issue that Tony Pua and his DAP colleagues should address rather than taking the easy way out of calling for Rafiah Salim to be removed as Vice Chancellor.
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Foreign dons to assess UM
By : Regina Leer

Datuk Rafiah Salim says Universiti Malaya is keen to increase its standing internationally

KUALA LUMPUR: Universiti Malaya is turning to overseas peers to ensure it is recognised as a research university to be reckoned with.
All UM examinations will be scrutinised by officials from foreign universities, who will also evaluate UM’s teaching methods, syllabus and facilities.

Said vice-chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim: “This is part of our strategy to benchmark ourselves as a research university. We don’t think too much about competing with local peers, but of standing out internationally.”

The UM Strategic Plan, implemented last year, introduced several measures:

– Promotions for certain levels of teaching staff after being assessed by assessors from foreign universities;
The number of research grants boosted and faculty and students encouraged to pursue grants from overseas; and,

– Making being published in journals at least twice a year a Key Performance Indicator for all teaching staff .

Rafiah was speaking after pro-chancellor Raja Dr Nazrin Shah presented the Chancellor Award for Excellence to UM staff in recognition of their work. This was the first time the award was given out.

The five recipients each received RM30,000. They were Professor Dr Mohd Ali Hashim (leadership), Professor Dr Looi Lai Meng (research), Professor Dr Mohamed Kheireddine Aroua and Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman (invention) and Dr Aishah Abu Bakar (teaching).

“With these steps, we are focusing on international recognition. Hopefully, this will have an effect on UM’s global ranking,” Rafiah said.

May 4, 2008

University of Malaya Appoints 78 Year Old Surgeon as Visiting Professor

Filed under: education, malaysia, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — toru @ 1:55 pm

It’s nice to see that the VC of University of Malaya, Rafiah Salim, trying to get things done. But I am not sure of the wisdom of appointing a 78 year old surgeon as a visiting professor. Sure, he seems like a superstar. But he may be way past his prime. Contrast this with NUS’ recent appointment of Harvard’s Daniel Tenen. It is better to appoint someone below 70 instead of a superstar who is past his prime.

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UM Appoints Sir Roy Calne As Visiting Professor
KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 (Bernama) — Universiti Malaya Sunday announced the appointment of Prof Emeritus Sir Roy Calne of Cambridge University as Visiting Professor of University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) to strengthen the centre’s transplant team.

UM Vice-Chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim said Roy, a pioneer in solid organ transplant, has been instrumental in consolidating the rapid expansion of transplant services at the UMCC since late 1990s.

“Roy had added further dimension to our transplant programme by including us in international clinical trials on the use of new immunosuppressive agents to reduce the risk of rejection of transplant organs,” she told a public forum on Donors and Organ Transplant in Malaysia.

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A Lazy Sunday with Mrs. T

Filed under: life, singapore — Tags: , , — toru @ 1:39 pm

Quite an enjoyable low stress and lazy Sunday with Mrs. T. Went shopping with Mrs. T at Vivo City. Had coffee and thick peanut butter toast at Toast Box (yum!). Went to the Mark and Spencer sale but didn’t manage to buy anything. Bought clothes from Topshop and Bossini. And then a late lunch at Food Republic.

Mrs. T and I noticed that it was not crowded as usual at Vivo City. It suits us just fine but I think it’s a sign that the recession is well and truly here. People not shopping with a vengeance (which is rare in Singapore).

Did my usual Turbulence Training and had a seafood hor fun at the Cze Char restaurant.

Happy days.

Rejected for Matrikulasi?: It Might Work Out Well in the End

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 1:22 pm

And so it begins. We have the yearly round of heartbreaking stories of top students who are rejected for scholarships and matrikulasi (letter below from Malaysiakini). My two cents worth to these students is this: get over it. Don’t mope about it, don’t shed tears over it. Channel your energy towards earning excellent STPM or A-levels grades. SPM is not really a pre-university qualifications anyway. If you got good grades for SPM, don’t expect a short cut to university.

You will emerge stronger from this experience. And things will work out in the end. This incident might turn out to be a huge blessing in disguise. Get excellent grades for STPM or A-levels and go to another university which values your talent, energy and brains. Here’s how. Looking back at those dark days when I was in a similar position, I would say that I have achieved so much more than if I had gone to a local university. Besides, the standard of local universities is nothing to shout about these days.
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A daughter devastated, a mother with no answers
A Schoolteacher | Apr 17, 08 3:27pm
I am a teacher by profession. I am teaching in a government school. Being a teacher, I am expected to inculcate moral values in my teachings. I have memorised all the sixteen values ‘Nilai-nilai Murni’ as a result of twenty-five years of teaching – values that transcend curriculum. Day in day out, all the students are exposed to all the values which are expected to cultivate good thinking and moral values among our young citizens. Examples of some of the moral values are being kind-hearted, respecting each other, fairness, honesty, and moderation.

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