The Tempinis diaries

July 9, 2008

Model Apex Varsity after NUS

Filed under: education, malaysia — toru @ 12:35 pm

Very sensible move advocated by Mr. P George.  But will the powers that be actually listen?

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Model apex varsity after NUS

I REFER to your report “Decision soon on apex varsity” (The Star, July 8). I would like to urge the authorities involved in making this decision to look closely at the public universities in Singapore, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University which are funded by the Singapore government and which are the best in Asean and amongst the best in Asia and the world.

The well-regarded Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Rankings 2007 shows the National University of Singapore (NUS) at 33rd place and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) at 69th place, among the top 100 universities in the world.

Indeed, NUS is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world for natural sciences (25th), life sciences and biomedicine (12th), technology (10th), social sciences (20th) and arts and humanities (21st).

What will it take for Malaysia’s soon-to-be-decided apex university to be able to compete with the likes of NUS in Singapore, and more ambitiously, with the top 10 universities in the world such as Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Imperial College, Princeton, California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, University College London and MIT?

If one were to take Singapore’s NUS as an example, one guiding principle would be to recruit the best available administrators and professors, lecturers, tutors and research assistants internationally and pay them according to international standards, while assessing their performance on rigorous and transparent criteria.

Another guiding principle would be to recruit the best students from within Malaysia and from other Asean and Asian countries based on clear and transparent meritocratic criteria.

Yet another guiding principle would be to provide generous funding for scholarships and bursaries so as to ensure that no qualified student, no matter how poor, is denied a chance to study at an apex university.

But given the situation in Malaysia, where the Government tends to regulate higher education and universities with a heavy hand, and where bureaucracy and national agendas call the shots, the drive to set up one or more apex universities could well be an expensive exercise in futility and be doomed to abject failure.

As it is, our best students are being lured overseas year after year, often with full scholarships, to top-ranked universities, with a strong possibility that they may not return to Malaysia after graduation. And this trend will intensify, given the global hunt for talent, both in the region and around the world.

Yet the government does not seem to have the political will to address the relevant issues in higher education head-on.

P. GEORGE,
Johor Baru.

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