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Thursday November 10, 2005

Moves to improve our varsities


PUTRAJAYA: Progressive measures will be adopted to ensure local universities were able to compete internationally. These include the establishment of a search committee to identify the best candidates to head public universities as well as the setting up of a leadership academy to train lecturers. 

The move is in response to Malaysian universities’ drop in the recent Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Rankings.  

Universiti Malaya’s overall position in the World University Rankings dropped from 89 in 2004 to 169 this year, while Universiti Sains Malaysia, which placed 111 last year did not make it to the top 200. 

In announcing the establishment of the search committee, Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh said a university’s success was a reflection of the quality of its leadership. 

“We must select vice-chancellors who are capable leaders as well as acknowledged academics in their fields and who are committed to making the university a centre of knowledge.  

“This does not mean that we are not satisfied with the present vice-chancellors. But we feel more can be done to institutionalise the selection process. The final decision will still rest with the minister,” he said before the ministry’s post-Cabinet meeting yesterday. 

When contacted, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Salleh Mohd Yasin said that having a search committee would augur well for local universities that want to become leading institutions. 

“Overseas, the appointments of vice-chancellors are largely based on their leadership abilities as well as academic prowess. Now that we are practising meritocracy, we should select the best candidate for the job,” he said, citing the recent decision by the University of Manchester in Britain to select an Australian as its vice-chancellor. 

Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob said he welcomed the proposed establishment of the leadership institute as lecturers were not trained in administrative matters. 

“I think it’s a very good idea as we want only the best. This is also true when selecting a vice-chancellor to head a university,” he added. 

Dr Shafie announced that the Government aimed to attract foreign academics of high calibre. Other steps include establishing a pool of academics and researchers who were active internationally, creating incentives for successful researchers, and boosting students’ soft skills.  

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