The Tempinis diaries

March 7, 2009

The Language March: Opportunistic and Populist Move

Filed under: education — Tags: , , — toru @ 1:49 pm

This saddens me a great deal. The language march is, in my view, an opportunistic and populist move which will ultimately hurt Malaysia. Like it or not, English is the international language of commerce. As Gordon Brown said, “Globalisation is not an option, it is a fact.”

Language march: Tear gas fired
Malaysiakini Team | Mar 7, 09 3:05pm
Police came down hard on some 8,000 people taking part in a protest march from Masjid Negara to Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.

MCPXThey cordoned off the road leading to the palace, firing rounds of tear gas at the crowd as they approached the palace.

December 15, 2008

Thinking out of the Box: Fund Raising for University of Malaya

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , , — toru @ 2:35 pm

The new Vice Chancellor, Ghauth Jasmon has an unenviable task of taking over as the head of University of Malaya. His job is made more difficult by the fact that University of Malaya was not chosen by the Malaysian government as an apex university. In the exercise of choosing the apex university, UM was pipped by USM. The apex university status is especially crucial because it comes with extra funding. In this era, lack of funding usually spells disaster for an institute of higher education as the institution cannot afford to recruit the best and brightest staff and also foot the costs of labs and cutting edge research.

So is this the death knell of UM as the premier institution in Malaysia? It does seem so. Without the extra funding, it is inevitable that USM will overtake UM. The Vice Chancellor, Ghauth Jasmon needs to do something really drastic to turn things around.

One idea is to think out of the box. If the government will not fund UM adequately, Ghauth Jasmon should think of going to the alumni to raise funds. Of course, you can’t start asking alumni for money out of the blue. UM should begin by building a competent alumni office headed by someone with good contacts. Efforts of reconnecting with alumni must be made. An attractive and credible alumni magazine needs to be published; class reunions should be held. The alumni office should then approach the alumni members for donations. Alumni especially older ones are usually generous during class reunions when they recall the good old days. I am sure that many UM alumni would donate generously to their alma mater if the rallying cry for the donation is to keep UM as the premier institution in the country. Judging from the experience of the Singaporean universities like Nanyang and NUS, the task of fund raising is difficult but not impossible. Perhaps, ‘a rombongan sambil belajar’ across the causeway should be made soon?

In Asia, American-Style Fund Raising Takes Off The Chronicle of Higher Education December 5, 2008 Friday

Copyright 2008 The Chronicle of Higher Education
All Rights Reserved
The Chronicle of Higher Education

December 5, 2008 Friday


LENGTH: 2003 words

HEADLINE: In Asia, American-Style Fund Raising Takes Off


DATELINE: Singapore


Until last month, the development office at Nanyang Technical University was hidden away in a forgotten part of the sprawling Singaporean campus. The building was dated and the air-conditioning was cranky — a description that could also have summed up the university’s fund-raising efforts and its alumni.

Marina Tan Harper, director of the university’s brand-new development office, toiled in obscurity with her tiny staff. Few understood what the American fund raiser had been hired to do. Even fewer thought raising money from alumni made any sense. After all, in 2005, the year Ms. Harper was hired, just 143 out of 90,000 alumni had made contributions to their alma mater.

“Singapore is very first world, but the funding for universities is very third world,” says Ms. Harper, referring to the reliance on the government to finance higher education. “Literally, the concepts have to be taught.”

Teaching alumni why they need to give — and making giving easy to do — is what Ms. Harper set out to accomplish. And last year more than 4,000 graduates opened their checkbooks, helping the university raise $27-million, largely for its endowment. No one is asking what a development office does anymore.

This month the director, who used to run the development office at Northern Kentucky University, moved her staff of 21 out of their old digs and into the newest building on the campus. Today they sit at brand new desks working shiny new phones. Here at the heart of the campus, the air-conditioning never breaks down, and it is always a perfect 69.8 degrees.

Nanyang is just one of dozens of Asian universities adopting American-style fund raising. The institutions are opening development offices, hiring professional fund raisers, investing in slick billion-dollar campaigns, and trotting out their presidents to pass the hat, tactics unknown here a decade ago.

September 6, 2008

Why Choose USM over UM?

On further research and reflection, I am coming round to the view that the conferral of apex status on USM over UM is a mistake. I did an ISI Web of Knowledge search this morning using the all databases section. This database search includes the highly respected Web of Science database which contains high impact scientific journals. Here are my findings when I typed in the following terms under the “address” field:

1. “University of Malaya” – results – 1,679 hits

2. “Malaya” – results –  7,076 hits

3. “University Sains Malaysia” – results – 160 hits

4. “sains malaysia” – results – 4,010 hits

5. “science malaysia” – results – 1 hit

6. “National University of Singapore” – results – 10,278 hits

7. “Singapore” – results –  79,679 hits

8. “Nanyang Technological University” – results – 1,586 hits

9. “Nanyang” – 20,032

Based on this very simple and primitive search, my impression is that USM is currently very far behind UM in terms of international reputation and publication record. In academia, the crude maxim of “publish or perish” still rings true. A university’s rankings and reputation is only as good as its publications and research. Based on the figures, USM still has a long way from catching up with UM, let alone placing in the top 100 universities in five years time.

I should add a qualification that I could be wrong, of course.  If USM’s “hits” were more recent than UM, then this could indicate an up and coming institution (USM) as compared to one resting on its laurels (UM).

Now the interesting question is whether Khaled Nordin and his Ministry of Higher Education do a proper analysis of these figures before conferring apex status to USM?

August 16, 2008

UITM: No, you can’t come on board my (sinking) ship

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 6:10 am

This is almost comical if not tragic beyond belief.  The whole institution is going down the tubes yet people are foaming at their mouths preventing non-Malays from joining Uitm.  What’s the point of having a 100 % bumiputra enrollment if your graduates can’t find a job?


PM vetoes call to open UiTM to non-Malays



Aug 13, 08 2:42pm



Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has vetoed a call to allow other races to enrol in Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), a proposal which caused a furore and a student protest.

uitm students protest in selangor state office 130808 01The mentri besar of selangor, where UiTM is located, triggered an uproar when he suggested on Sunday that the institution could offer 10 percent of its places to other races.

“He has no power to do that. Matters related to (student) intake are under the jurisdiction of higher educational institutions,” Abdullah was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times daily.

khalid ibrahim selangor state budget pc 120808 03Selangor Mentri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim (left) has reportedly said the move to include other races and foreigners into the university would allow students there to gain more exposure and be friendlier to people of other races.

Currently it is the only university in the country which is confined to Malays and indigenous races – known collectively as “bumiputera” or “sons of the soil”.

Abdul Khalid’s remarks triggered a protest by 3,000 students from the university who took to the streets yesterday and marched to the chief minister’s office, waving placards saying, “Do not seize our rights,” and “Save UiTM.”

S’gor MB told not betray own race

UiTM vice-chancellor Ibrahim Abu Shah said the public university was reserved for bumiputeras as a majority of students in leading fields of study in higher-learning institutions in Malaysia were non-Malays.


July 15, 2008

Melbourne University reappoints Glyn Davis as VC

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

It seems that the Higher Education Minister has not decided on whether to extend Rafiah Salim’s contract as the Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya.  More worrying is the fact that the Ministry does not seem to know how to conduct a proper Vice-Chancellor search committee. I have consistently maintained that in order for there to be some continuity, Rafiah Salim should be extended for at least one more term.    See the story below where the Vice Chancellor of Melbourne University has been appointed for 10 years.  A revolving door involving a string of Vice Chancellors is not healthy for an institution of higher learning.


Melbourne University reappoints Glyn Davis as VC

Andrew Trounson

IN what is a restatement of its confidence in the new “Melbourne model” of offering professional graduate degrees, the University of Melbourne has reappointed its vice-chancellor Glyn Davis to another five-year term.

The appointment, which could keep Professor Davis at Melbourne until the start of 2015, will also scrap any lingering rumours that he could be tempted to Canberra by close friend and fellow Queenslander, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.


June 29, 2008

Setting Up an International Academic Advisory Panel for Higher Education in Malaysia

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 11:58 am

Malaysia should seriously consider setting up an academic advisory panel for higher education. Singapore set up one in 1997. Take a look at the composition of its members here. Singapore panel’s is really impressive in its diversity and the quality of the people on board. Besides the obvious benefit of tapping into these talented people’s expertise, it would be easier to forge collaborations with the foreign universities in question if their Vice Chancellor or President is on the advisory panel.

For an example of how an advisory panel may benefit Malaysia, see the story below of the panel’s recommendation on how Singapore should go about setting up a fourth university. Singapore’s careful approach has prevented the problem of low quality institutions, like what happened in Malaysia, when governments rushed into opening universities without proper consideration. Singapore Management University took three years of planning before it was launched.


June 18, 2008

Why Foundation Programmes are Usually a Bad Decision

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 2:58 pm

A commentator of this post, Chiyee, asked me for my views about giving up his or her A-levels course to take up a foundation programme instead.  My view is that taking any kind of foundation programme is usually a bad idea.  Why do I say this?  First, foundation programmes are not recognised by most leading universities.  That means if you take a particular foundation programme, you are locked into that particular college and degree programme.  You can also kiss the chances of getting into top US, UK, Singapore universities goodbye since they do not recognise these programmes.  Also, most universities that offer foundation programmes are not exactly very good universities.  You can read Tony and Kian Ming’s post here.   Second, foundation programmes do not offer flexibility.  For example, if you take a foundation programme in business, it is highly unlikely that you can switch to engineering, medicine, law, science etc in university.  In contrast, if you take a combination of biology, maths and chemistry in A-levels or STPM, you can take any of these courses in university.

So the upshot is:  never ever take a foundation programme unless you are absolutely, 100 % positive that you want to take a particular course at a particular university.  But then again at 16 years old – how can you ever be sure of something like this?  It would be far wiser to take A-levels or STPM.


The postcript to this post is this: it doesn’t mean you will do badly if you take a foundation programme.  I am sure there are many people who have done these programmes, gone on to do well in university and have forged successful careers.  I just think that it is not as flexible as STPM or A-levels.

June 16, 2008

Studying in Taiwan

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:15 pm

An interesting story below on studying in Taiwan. This could be an option for students who have strong Chinese capabilities. It might be difficult to get a job back in Malaysia with a Taiwanese degree. But if a graduate has a strong technical degree such as Engineering, I don’t foresee much difficulty in getting a job in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong or Singapore.


Sunday April 15, 2007

Good place to network


Looking for a place where you can learn and grow at an affordable price? Check out Taiwan.

AS a student in Taiwan, one of the things that struck Teoh Seok Ai most was the openness of its society.

“I was surprised when I heard my classmates speak so openly about the political situation in Taiwan. I had not expected to see young people so passionate about politics in their country,” says Teoh, who studied psychology in the central part of Chia-yi County in Taiwan five years ago.

“They are not afraid to bring up an issue if they have valid reasons for doing so. It could be about anything, from accommodation to the university’s facilities or lecturers,” she adds.

The international students of Yuan Ze University in Taoyuan county seen here are among the 13,000 studying in Taiwan. – Pic courtesy of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia


NYU Opening a Campus in Abu Dhabi

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , — toru @ 2:07 am

Apart from education initiatives like Kaust in Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Education City, UAE seems to be also shaking up the Middle Eastern education sector in a big way.  NYU is opening a campus in Abu Dhabi.  See their website here.  If Malaysia doesn’t buck up, it is going to lag far behind these Middle Eastern countries.

June 13, 2008

A Recent Restatement of Singapore’s Education Policy

Filed under: education, singapore — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:18 pm

The new Education Minister, Ng Eng Hen, set out Singapore’s education policy in a speech recently. His full speech can be found here. I have excerpted the parts on Universities below. In a nutshell, it seems that Singapore’s plan is diversification of institutions, research collaboration with reputable foreign universities and developing extensive global exchange programmes for local undergraduate students. All very sound and sensible moves.

The Malaysian Education Ministry and Vice Chancellors of universities in Malaysia should study some of these initiatives carefully with a view to emulating them.



27We have three publicly funded local universities: the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU). NUS and NTU have established themselves as world-class research universities, ranked amongst the top 100 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings in 2007. SMU, though young, has quickly established a reputation for producing high-quality graduates who are confident, street-smart and articulate.

28To add value to their students, our universities must maintain high standards of admission and performance. They must also act as strategic engines for Singapore’s long term economic advancement. Thus, our universities have developed programmes to nurture and groom top talents.

29Take for example, NTU’s C N Yang Scholars Programme. This is an undergraduate programme designed for top science and engineering students. C N Yang Scholars are assigned faculty mentors who guide their entire academic programme. The programme provides a strong and broad foundation in the basics of science and mathematics, and empowers students to delve deeper into any discipline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to develop an interest in forefront research.

30There is also the University Scholars Programme (USP) in NUS. Graduates from this programme participate in interdisciplinary modules on a range of topics, from Human Relations and Ethics, and the Environment. Part of the programme involves student interaction with top universities around the world, such as Waseda University in Japan.


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