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 14, 2008

Varsity hit by complacency

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 10:01 am

Another side of UM. This ties in with my earlier post on the importance of soft factors.  It seems such soft factors are important not just to attract global talent but also for the morale of the students as well.


Friday September 12, 2008
Varsity hit by complacency
I AM a student currently residing in Univer­siti Malaysia and would like to share what I believe is in the heart of many UM students. When the results of the apex university were announced, most of us were not surprised that Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) had bettered UM.

We believe that UM is still resting on its old laurels of glory and therefore has become complacent, not wanting to improve or develop itself. Residential colleges and faculties are settling for second best in aspects like infrastructure, quality of academic staff, etc.

The motto “Producing leaders since 1905” only holds true because we were the only university around at that time.

Firstly, despite being in the heart of KL, water supply is still inconsistent. Residential colleges 3rd, 4th and 7th have been suffering from severe water cuts as pipe repairs have not been carried out effectively.


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.


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.


June 9, 2008

Reviewing Khaled Nordin’s Higher Education Plan

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 1:24 pm

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.

Since his appointment on March 27, Khaled has been making the rounds of university campuses. At a briefing on UKM’s strategic plan at its campus in Bangi, Selangor, in April, he speaks to VC Prof Datuk Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin.

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

The amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 are expected to be tabled in Parliament in August. On May 29, Khaled (right) and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (second, right) received a memorandum on the amendments from USM Student Representative Council president Muhammad Syukri Ibrahim (left) and his counterpart from UM, Afandy Sutrisno Tanjung.

ranked among the Top 50 worldwide.


June 5, 2008

NEP and The Incredible Shrinking Pie

Filed under: malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 2:06 pm

The paradox of the NEP was that it was designed to help the Malays. As it stands now, I think that it is being implemented in a way which ultimately harms the intended beneficiaries. How so you might ask? Let me count the ways:

1. Too many unqualified graduates are produced by the local varsities. This results in a high unemployment rate in the country.

2. The stress on Bahasa Melayu to the detriment of the English Language in schools. Like it or not, English is still the language of commerce. A poor command of English is a sure recipe for graduate unemployment.

3. The policies of NEP make Malaysia an incredibly unattractive place to invest in. The result: a rapidly shrinking economic pie.

4. NEP fosters the development of a crutch mentality and a sense of entitlement. This inevitably leads to a lack of self development and confidence. Also, there is a lack of ‘hunger’ to succeed. This makes it hard for our young people to compete with the young people from China or Vietnam.

As I see it, the NEP and its ill effects is becoming a vicious cycle. The smaller the economic pie, the more demands will be made for a more aggressive implementation of the NEP. Everyone ends up fighting for the crumbs of the incredible shrinking pie. It is far better for us to work together to enlarge the economic pie together. But I wonder – is there a way to break out of this vicious cycle?

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.


How tough treatment made NUS one of best


May 23, 2005

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


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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