Big goals for graduate upskilling

THE Strategic Plan for Higher Learning Institute Graduates 2021-2025 will be launched soon to reskill and upskill the future workforce.

This will complement existing graduate marketability enhancement programmes such as Penjana KPT-CAP and KPT-PACE Voucher programmes that will be expanded and closely monitored to ensure that the set outcomes are achieved, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad.

“The National Higher Education Entrepreneurship Council should be reactivated as a forum to discuss the direction and solution related to the initiative to produce entrepreneurial-capable human capital.

“Expand the space for strategic cooperation with relevant ministries or agencies related to entrepreneurship, ” she said in regard to increasing graduate employability.

The ministry, she said, is also looking to improve the financial models of public universities as it works on enhancing the learning experiences of tertiary students and increasing their employability.

When it comes to generating income for the sector, Noraini said the gaps identified in the auditor-general’s report involving public universities have to be addressed.

“This is to ensure the sustainability of the university’s operations, ” she said during her annual new year address on Thursday.

Managing limited resources efficiently is another challenge the varsities face.

“Every expense must give the best value for money to ensure the university’s financial resources and funding are strong enough to cover operating, development and research costs, ” she said.

Noraini said the Higher Education Leadership Academy (Akept) and Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) must “spread its wings overseas” and come up with appropriate programmes to attract more international students.

“Akept as an expert in the development of higher education talent leadership needs to be more creative to promote the expertise it possesses to be recognised internationally.

“Similarly, MQA can highlight its Accreditation for Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) beyond national borders.”

She also hoped that the announcement to allow foreign students back into the country since Jan 1 will help increase revenue for the higher education sector.

“The global economic slowdown last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the sustainability of private higher learning institutes. I hope that 2021 and post-Covid-19 will be a turning point for these institutes.”

In terms of governance in public universities, the board of directors of these universities have been given the autonomy to be more efficient, orderly and transparent in running the institutes.

She said a “new narrative” needs to be given to parent companies of public universities – which are under Universiti Awam Holdings – so that they can play a similar role to government-linked companies, and generate more income.

“The university, as a statutory body authorised to establish subsidiaries and make investments, should come up with effective methods to monitor the management of investments, the establishment of parent companies and subsidiaries as well as loans made by public universities.”

Of the 25 public university holding companies and 106 subsidiaries, the analysis for 2015 to 2019 shows that only five of these companies recorded revenue exceeding RM25mil and another five recorded a net profit exceeding RM3mil.

In a 2018 study conducted by the Institute of Accounting Research, it was found that only 60 percent of public university holding companies contributed in the form of dividends and indirect sources of income, while another 40 percent gave a return in the form of indirect financial contributions only.

“With the constraints of infrastructure, network and device coverage, especially in rural areas, the implementation of online teaching and learning is limited and not comprehensive, ” she said, adding that they need to hasten the Digitalising Education Agenda.

There is also a need to adapt to disruptive technology, said Noraini, and put in place strategies that embrace IR4.0.

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