The Tempinis diaries

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.
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.


  1. […] Rafiah Salim has been reported to be implementing many sensible moves in improving the university. These steps include (a) making […]

    Pingback by Why Rafiah Salim Should Stay « The Tempinis diaries — May 20, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  2. Some of the lecturers not only publish two articles a year but more than 10 but when it came to promotion, there is still “pilih kasih” in place. There should be more transparency in promotional exercises.

    Comment by Samantha Carey-Lim — November 10, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  3. Samantha – I doubt the articles are any good if a person can publish 10 articles a year!

    Comment by toru — November 10, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: