The Tempinis diaries

May 26, 2008

The Half Baked Research Assessment Exercise

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 2:04 pm

Whoever came up with this Setara nonsense does not understand universities at all (see story below). There are so many things wrong with this entire thing that it seems like an exercise in futility. First, the academics on the panel are all from UKM. Now apart from questions of impartiality, UKM is not exactly a world-class university (to put it mildly). Why then get UKM professors to judge other universities in Malaysia? This really boggles the mind! And isn’t it ironic that the article is called “A Balanced View”? The members of the panel certainly are not balanced since they are all from UKM. Second, not all the academics on the panel are full professors. Are we so short of full professors that we cannot convene a panel with full professors? Third, there does not seem to be any repercussions in being ranked highly or lowly in this exercise. What then is the point of it all? It is just a case of ‘syok sendiri’.

I would propose that the following steps be taken in future exercises: (1) Appoint a completely foreign advisory board comprising of distinguished academics. This will ensure impartiality and also a valuable outsider perspective. The members of the panel can come from reputable universities in this region like NUS, NTU, Melbourne, Sydney, Beida, Fudan, Seoul National, Tokyo University or HKU. (2) Make funding and (possibly) fees correspond with ranking. Universities which are ranked higher should have a more generous funding from the government and possibly charge higher fees. Also, this should translate to the pay of the lecturers as well. Lecturers at higher ranked universities should be paid more. (3) The panel should also make specific recommendations on how Malaysian universities can be improved.

As it stands, this Setara is a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money where a bunch of UKM academics are given a ‘rombongan sambil belajar’ to various countries. I understand that Setara might be the work of the former Minister for Higher Education. However, in future the Higher Education Ministers (Khaled Nordin, Hou Kok Chung and Idris Haron) should demonstrate that they take this portfolio seriously and display leadership and professionalism in conducting a more meaningful exercise.


Sunday May 25, 2008

A balanced view


The rating system announced recently provides the first objective snapshot of where Malaysian universities stand in relation to each other.

WE now know where Malaysian universities stand, following the release of the Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (Setara) 2007.

Mohamed Khaled (fourth from left) holding up a copy of the Setara 2007 report .Looking on are his deputies Datuk Idris Haron (left), Dr Hou Kok Ching (right) and other Setara committee members.

Setara provided a contrast to last year’s Academic Reputation Survey (Ares). Universiti Malaya (UM) got the highest marks under Setara, whlle Universiti Sains Malaysia scored the most marks under Ares.


December 8, 2007

Managing Superstar Academics: Of Whales and Guppies

Filed under: education — Tags: , , , , — toru @ 4:17 pm

Philip Yeo, the former Chairman of the Economic Development Board of Singapore (“EDB”) has an interesting article in Nature.  In this article, he likens superstar hires to ‘whales’ who will guide, inspire and mentor young local talent whom he calls ‘guppies’.   It seems that Singapore has nurtured 1,000 guppies, all of whom would have completed their PhDs at top graduate schools including their lab attachment year by 2009 in areas such as information technology, engineering, molecular biology, biochemistry and medicine.  Edison Liu talks about how top overseas scientists in Singapore inspire local scientists like Lisa Ng and Ng Huck Hui to continue to stay and produce good work in Singapore. 

While there is  dispute on the direction of Singapore’s biomedical push, I think that the Singapore government is on to something here.  It is not just about buying in top talent.  But rather more importantly it is to ensure that these top talent will help lift the standards of the local talent.  This is certainly a lesson that we should learn after the entire Jeffrey Sachs debacle.  Hopefully, UKM will have a plan in place for Dr. Tan Hock Lim to work closely with the local faculty members and to improve their standards.

December 6, 2007

Harakah’s Unsubstantiated Allegations Against the UKM Vice Chancellor

Filed under: education — Tags: , , — toru @ 3:02 pm

It seems that there is a lot of interest over Dr. Tan Hock Lim’s appointment at UKM. Harakah seems to be in a state of frenzy over this appointment – they have thrown a lot of wild and unsubstantiated allegations against the Vice-Chancellor of UKM. To me, the real issue is whether UKM overpaid for Dr. Tan’s services (an alleged RM 8 million over a period of 4 years). As I said in my last post, I don’t really know what are the salaries for superstar doctors and what kind of superstar doctor Dr. Tan is. Instead of making these wild allegations against the Vice-Chancellor of UKM, Harakah should show a table of comparable salaries of top scientists in other jurisdictions. If RM 8 million is really off the salary scale, then Harakah does have a case against the UKM Vice Chancellor. It has been reported in the New York Times that salaries for top scientists at Singapore’s Biopolis are “lavish”. And Singapore’s star recruit, Edison Liu, is rumoured to be living in a suite in the Four Seasons. I am afraid that these days, the top scientists do demand top salaries.

Of course, hiring superstar professors is not the panacea to the problem of declining standards at Malaysian universities. The real challenge is how to harnest such a top scientist like Dr. Tan to bring up the standards of our local scientist. More on that in posts to come.

December 3, 2007

Dr Tan Hock Lim appointed at UKM

Filed under: malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 3:21 pm

In my previous post on the brain drain from Malaysia, I mentioned Dr. Tan Hock Lim.  There have been a couple of visits to this blog searching for his name.  Intrigued, I did a google search.  I was delighted to find out that Dr. Tan Hock Lim was appointed a professor at UKM by UKM Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharifah Hapsah.  This is certainly good news and a big catch for UKM.  However, there is currently a furor about the fact that Dr. Tan Hock Lim is allegedly paid RM 168,000 a month.  That seems pretty high to me even for Singapore standards.   But I can’t really comment on this issue with any authority because I don’t know what the market rate is for superstar doctors and what kind of superstar Dr. Tan Hock Lim is.   I am sure Singapore pays Edison Liu much more.  If this indeed the market rate for such distinguished doctors, then my take on the salary issue is that you would have to pay such salaries to employ these people. 

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