Star’s interview with Khaled Nordin (see below) is a pretty depressing read. There doesn’t seem to be any substantive changes that Khaled Nordin, the Minister of Higher Education, intends to implement. There’s also mention of the half baked Setara exercise filled with UKM professors. As I have written before, the whole assessment exercise is a complete embarrassment. That’s bad news. If Malaysian tertiary institutions are to compete globally, nothing short than a radical overhaul is required. To give him credit, there are some positive moves mentioned below, namely, the improvement of accommodation for foreign students. These soft factors are crucial in attracting global talent.
Currently, the main pre-occupation of the Ministry seems to be this process of identifying apex universities. Now the identification of the so-called apex universities is not a panacea to all the ills in higher education in Malaysia. Realistically, only three universities in the country have the potential to compete globally i.e. UM, UKM and USM. Khaled Nordin does not make it clear what kind of support would be given to an apex university. Will they dismantle the quota system for at least one of the apex universities? As I have written before, what is really killing the universities in Malaysia is the quota system. The solution to improving universities is quite simple really. But is there the political will to do so? It is far better to have one decent university which operates on merit rather than have more than a dozen lousy ones filled with unqualified candidates who got in through the quota system.
Sunday June 8, 2008
Doing it his way, with team support
BELOW are extracts from StarEducation’s interview with Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
Q: What do you see as the top priorities and challenges in higher education?
A: The Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) is translating the national mission and the Ninth Malaysian Plan into an actionable National Higher Education Strategic Plan, to develop first-class human capital.
My predecessor (Datuk Mustapa Mohamed) has done a good job in identifying the strengths and weaknesses in order to bring about change. My task now is to engineer the change, and implement what has been planned to ensure that we achieve the targets.
The higher education sector has evolved to meet global challenges.
We are moving in the right direction.
I now have a clearer picture of what is happening and should be done.
I would also like to see the universities in the country move up in the world rankings. By 2020, we hope that our universities can be
ranked among the Top 50 worldwide.
What is your leadership style and how does it differ from your predecessors’?
Everyone has his own leadership style. My commitment and passion is to make MOHE excel. I will work hard towards achieving this goal and will need support from everyone in the higher education sector.
Working as a team means we understand our objective, mission, vision and goals. There will definitely be challenges but they can be handled if we work together.
What is the best way to implement the National Higher Education Strategic Plan?
The plan has clear steps and procedures on implementation. The programme management office (PMO) will continue to brief the universities on the Strategic Plan to ensure that their KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are aligned with the Strategic Plan.
Targets spelled out under the Strategic Plan and the Action Plan are our main objectives.
There will be half-yearly reviews, updates and reports to see whether universities have achieved the targets set.
The ministry will act as a facilitator and provide the support needed; it will not play the role of regulator or inspector.
I have confidence in the universities and I believe they will deliver.
What measures have been taken to improve the position in the world rankings? Has the apex university been chosen?
The apex university is still in the process of being chosen. Apex is only a conceptual construct. If any university is chosen, it will not be given world-class status immediately.
Once a university is chosen, we will put it on the fast track and provide all that it needs to achieve apex or elite university status, within five to 10 years.
Apex also means “accelerated programme for excellence”. It is not confined to one or two universities, but may also include faculties, and centres of excellence in universities. When we talk about apex status, it goes with autonomy, governance and special funding.
But given our limited resources, we cannot turn all our universities into apex institutions
As for the four research universities – Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) we have studied their positions in the Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli-Symonds (THES-QS) World University Rankings and identified their respective strengths.
(The THES-QS rankings began in 2004. Based on the 2007 report, no Malaysian university made it to the top 200. UM was the highest ranked at 246, followed by USM at 307, UKM at 309 and UPM, 364.)
Discussion and seminars have been held to discuss the rankings and the universities know what needs to be done to ensure that they go higher as soon as possible.
The ranking criteria keeps changing and we become victims each time there’s any “moving of the goal post”.
Change cannot happen immediately, but I foresee that in three to four years, there may be an improvement in the rankings. We will continue to work at it – we cannot create miracles.
How do you see the role of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA)? What about colleges that
run courses without MQA approval/accreditation?
The MQA succeeds the National Accreditation Board (LAN) and represents progression into “the next phase” – a maturing process – where the evolution of quality assurance on Malaysian higher education is in tandem with domestic and international developments.
Its functions have expanded, but its core business remains the same: assuring the quality of Malaysia’s higher education, inspiring the confidence of stakeholders, and pushing the boundaries to make the country’s higher education comparable with the best in the world.
The MQA continues to perform LAN’s functions: develop standards and criteria, establish articulation points and equivalency status, and ensure that what an institution of higher education provides fulfils expectations.
The MQA also conducts institutional and thematic audits for various purposes in its on-going quality monitoring. There is also a provision for granting self-accrediting status to mature institutions with well-established and institutionalised internal quality assuring mechanisms.
The accreditation exercise has been simplified into a two-tier process: provisional accreditation and accreditation, with the latter now having no time frame in its validity.
The MQA also has the power to suspend or stop the operations of
institutions that fail to maintain quality.
The Ministry will take the necessary action against colleges which run courses without approval. However, MQA doesn’t grant the approval; it recommends it. Approval comes under MOHE’s jurisdiction.
Under the present law, it is not an offence to run non-accredited programmes. But the colleges must not mislead their students and declare that these are accredited by the MQA.
Accreditation is not compulsory under present law, but colleges have to achieve minimum standard requirements.
I would encourage all colleges to try to achieve accreditation status, as it has many privileges.
How will you work with IPTS (private higher education institutions) to improve quality and standards?
MOHE is working with IPTS to improve the quality and standard of private higher education in Malaysia. The MQA, established in 2007, is an important initiative by MOHE to ensure that academic programmes offered by IPTS are of the highest quality.
The PMO has taken into consideration the input given by IPTS through their active involvement in consultation activities which it organised.
To address the issue of lack of enforcement, the Public Service Department recently approved additional posts for enforcement officers at the ministry’s Enforcement and Inspectorate Division.
The division’s main focus for 2008 is to have more audits and inspections of IPTS. In addition, an establishment audit was conducted in April to collect data and determine the rating of IPTS.
How is the one-stop centre for approval of programmes by IPTS coming along?
The MOHE and MQA, working under a coordination committee, have reduced the processing time to four months, from six to 12 months. MOHE is now drafting new work processes to ease delivery time for the business side. It is also working with the PEMUDAH Secretariat to improve the current delivery process.
What is your view on the so-called “stepchild” status of IPTS?
MOHE has never considered IPTS as a stepchild.
Both the private and public higher education institutions play an important role in developing human capital and the country as a centre of education excellence.
We work together with the private higher education associations through regular meetings and discussions.
How will you attract more foreign students here? The target is 100,000 by 2010. Is that a realistic figure?
In the Strategic Plan, we have methods to attract foreign students.
We have been doing our marketing around the world and there has been a positive increase in their numbers here.
There are quite a few Middle East students in Malaysia and the figures are increasing. Besides getting international accreditation, we need our courses to be accredited by other countries as well.
We also have to improve our facilities in terms of hostels and accommodation to ensure that international students have a comfortable and friendly environment here.
We have identified the issues and problems and are looking at how best to resolve them. These include procedures to attract international students and speedier processing of visas. Offers of places to them must also be made quickly.
Once these services are in place, we should see more foreign students opting to come here. There is no need to rush as a gradual increase is healthier and easier to handle.
The numbers increase every year. The 100,000 figure is just an indicator. Even if we do not achieve this target, it does not mean that we have failed.
How do you plan to improve the selection process for IPTA?
I am looking into this matter and examining the facts and figures. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that what we have now is not a fair system. We are fortunate to be able to place so many students in higher education compared to other countries.
I know the demand for medicine is very competitive. Based on the number of places available, we have more stringent rules for those who want to do medicine. Not all straight A’s students are eligible because we look at other criteria as well as attitude, aptitude and capability.
In other countries such as India, there are two million applicants vying for places in the top engineering schools. But only 4,000 get in, based on merit, stringent criteria and an aptitude test.