The creation of the Higher Education Ministry has got industry excited – and institutions are optimistic that their wish list and grouses will finally be given serious consideration
Peter Ng, vice-chancellor (VC) and president of University College Sedaya International (UCSI)
I think it's a brilliant idea to have a separate ministry to oversee higher education; the education portfolio is too big for one to handle. It’s a wonderful move and all of us welcome the news with great joy.
If we really want to be a regional centre of education excellence, we need to be focused so we can get there. There is a lot of excitement in the air because we feel this (Higher Education Ministry) is a purposeful appointment.
We at Mapcu (Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and University Colleges) have sent in 20 reports or so to the ministry over the years but no one has had the time to look into our proposals.
Personally, I’d like to see that private institutions of higher learning get to enjoy similar benefits like those in the public sector. Those with university infrastructure or have spent RM50mil to RM100mil should be given special incentives for things like land conversion and stamping fees instead of being slapped costly commercial rates.
After all, generations of students who graduate from our institutions benefit and we contribute to the human resource in our country.
Khoo Soo Peng, Taylor’s Education Group president
It's very good move as schools and higher education are different in many aspects. The Higher Education Ministry is being set up at a time when Malaysia needs to establish itself as a regional education hub and move towards 2020.
We need to ensure that the courses we offer are relevant to what industry needs, not just for students in our country but also for the foreign students coming from our neighbouring countries.
Compared to the advanced nations, we have a long way to go in terms of the range of courses that are currently being offered. We must be pro-active in this area and encourage the development of international capital.
Datuk Teo Chiang Liang, KBU International College chief executive officer
With the new Higher Education Ministry, we need to relook at what has always been and what will be the role of private higher education. For example, in the Budget, higher education is deemed very important but it is otherwise at the ministry level.
I think we should review all education policies to see if they support the government's objectives, whether the policy facilitates or obstructs those aims. If, for example, we want the private education industry to grow and to recruit more foreign students, LAN (National Accreditation Board) should not be putting obstructions in our way. We have to change the mindsets of the people in charge.
The first thing that needs to be done is to clear all the backlog for the approvals of courses based on the recommendation of LAN and JPS (Private Education Department).
Prof Dr Merilyn Liddell, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Monash University Malaysia
I would hope that the new Higher Education Ministry will support private as well as public higher education. At present private higher education is hampered by slow bureaucratic approval processes, which need resources to streamline.
The Minister may also wish to consider addressing impediments to attracting foreign students, such as visa requirements, restrictions on work and so on to improve Malaysia's competitiveness as a regional educational hub.
Prof Datuk Dr Dzulkifli Abd Razak, Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Sains Malaysia
I hope that the new Minister will focus on universities' research activities as this will aid in the creation of new wealth and become the source of new productivity. Research has to be intensified and there should be more facilitatory procedures put in place.
This includes the commercialisation of research and the formation of companies by universities. For this to happen, universities need to be given more autonomy and flexibility in decision-making. Existing structures are very restrictive and not as flexible as they should be.
Datuk Clement Hii, chief executive officer, Systematic Education Group International
I hope that the new minister and ministry will not be obsessed with the welfare of just full-time students who enter with SPM and STPM qualifications.
The Government must recognise the growing number of working adults who study on a part-time basis as they would like to upgrade their qualifications.
Good quality control is important to maintain a high standard of education in Malaysia. The new ministry should allow us to tap into the expertise and curriculum of our foreign university partners and use them as benchmark for standards as well.
Parmjit Singh, managing director, Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology
Of key importance is the development of intellectual capital which is what counts in the long term and ultimately in education. We must move to the next level of development and not be mere importers of intellectual capital.
We also hope for more developmental policies rather than regulatory. We are all stakeholders in this. There is a need to work together to be development oriented as opposed to punitive.
Dr Mohamed Thalha Alithamby, president, National Association of Private Education Institutions (Napei)
We have to work on resolving outstanding issues. The most current of which is a review of the five credits ruling for entry into first-degree programmes. The last Education Minister (Tan Sri Musa Mohamad) said he was open to discussing the new ruling but nothing has been done so far.
Local intellectual property also has to be given greater emphasis for Malaysia to make its mark in the region and world.
Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, president, Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology
To talk about quality is one thing. It can be measured in terms of facilities, faculty and so on. Any college can achieve this once they have a good track record. However, this assessment is largely conservative.
Compliance is not exactly innovation as you have to break from the norm to create something new. If assessment is based on compliance then it is a very conservative approach.
Creative people like film directors, for example, do not necessarily have masters or even first degrees to be top practitioners in their field.
These people who have a lot of experience should be used in teaching. Here, they are seen as not being qualified enough to teach.
Henry Wong, principal, Alif Creative Academy
I hope that the Higher Education Ministry will evaluate the different levels of the different subjects and not just have rules across the board.
"At the moment, rules and regulations are quite rigid. For example, students need a minimum of three credits at SPM to do a diploma, and a minimum of two for a certificate. But what about the students who don't have any credits? Not every student is academic or interested in academic subjects.
The important thing now is whether a student is able to go out to work after graduating, think critically and solve problems; it's not just whether they are good at scoring A's.
Goh Kek Seng, chief executive of academic affairs, Metropolitan College
Creating this new ministry is a good, timely move which will be able to deal with a set of issues that are usually beyond the purview of the present education ministry and help make Malaysia a regional hub for good education.
There are many private colleges coming out; there needs to be some support for colleges that are already reputed for running programmes with good foreign institutions. The support should be there for us to carry on the good work and make the programmes well known so that Malaysia can be known as a centre for providing quality programmes.
I think the ministry could also help to promote a more positive image of private colleges (IPTS) and their contribution to education.
Elizabeth Lee, principal, Sunway College
It is heartening to see that the new prime minister is recognising the importance of educating students who will be tomorrow's leaders and putting two senior ministers to look after this area of education.
There are two stages that need to be looked at - firstly, the developing years of the child through school and secondly, policies which are literally affecting our future, and whether we are producing graduates who can serve the nation and who can integrate and work in an increasingly globalised environment.
I hope that with the new ministry, the resources allocated will be able to speed up application and approval process for new courses. At the moment, it's not really for us to complain that the process is too slow – I acknowledge that there are just so many.
Dr Kua Kia Song, principal, New Era College
I think the new minister must make sure that the bureaucracy involved in dealings with LAN is reduced significantly. At the moment, it takes very long to get courses approved or accredited because of the bureaucracy involved.
Also, I am curious as to whether LAN's criteria for approval are strictly academic. Our college has been running for six years and to wait that long for approval is too much. We are one of the few educational institutions that are not for profit and I think the ministry should support us and not hold us back , especially since we have the required credentials.
Dr Richard Ong, chief executive officer, Smart Reader® Worldwide Sdn Bhd
Our Prime Minister has very good vision in creating two different Education Ministries to look into the needs of the country. I am confident, with the cooperation and guidance of these newly appointed Ministers, we will be able to promote our made-in-Malaysia programmes overseas extensively.
I am of the opinion that Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein has proven to be a very energetic and concerned leader during his tenure as the Youth And Sports Minister. I believe that being a hands on person, he will make changes in the Education Ministry and resolve issues efficiently and effectively.
Datuk Dr. Shafie Mohd Salleh is equally a good choice for the Higher Education Minister. With his valuable experience in the Finance Ministry, he will be able to promote Malaysia as the hub of educational excellence.