Ensure grads are employable, varsities told


RECENT years have seen Malaysian varsities gaining prominence with Universiti Malaya leading the way in both the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE) global rankings.

A record 15 Malaysian universities qualified for the June THE Asia University Rankings 2021, compared to eight last year.

And, in March, QS reported a year-on-year increase in the number of local programmes achieving the top 100 and top 200 QS ranks.

In total, 32 Malaysian programmes made the 11th edition of the rankings, with 12 of them entering the rankings by subject for the first time.

But while higher education institutions (HEIs) continue to compete for the top spot, parents and students are more concerned about whether the paper qualifications awarded by these varsities will lead to a promising career for the future graduates.

Ask any course counsellor and they will tell you that the questions most frequently asked – especially in the current soft job market – are: What are the job prospects? How much can a graduate earn? And what are the chances of getting employed?

The reality is that the mark of a good HEI, as Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) chief executive officer Prof Datuk Dr Mohammad Shatar Sabran rightly pointed out, does not solely lie in its academic performance anymore.

Now, it is time for HEIs to put more emphasis on graduate employability.

He said as far as the public is concerned, what determines a good HEI is whether its graduates can gain employment in their chosen fields after completing their studies.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the top 1% in terms of world ranking. If your graduates are not able to get a job, the public will not be bothered to even look at the rankings,” he said during a virtual talk on Aug 5.

The talk was part of a webinar on “Higher Education and The New Normal: Economics, Employability and Education Sustainability” co-hosted by the Sunway Education Group and AppliedHE – a Singaporean company that ranks HEIs based on their quality of teaching and learning, employability, collaboration with industry, and social engagement.

Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Wira Dr Raha Abdul Rahim, who was among the speakers at the webinar, said the national graduate employability rate stands at about 86%.

“But for the four technical universities (in Malaysia), the rate is about 93%,” she said, adding that the technical universities focus on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) courses.

“That says a lot about how skilled workers are actually also the backbone of the country’s industry,” she said, adding that UTeM aims to produce graduates who are holistic and adaptive, especially in this volatile economic era.

This, she believes, will also make them the first choice for employers. Prof Raha was the Higher Education Ministry’s former Public Higher Education Institution Excellence Planning Division director.

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