THE 1990s saw university expansion on an unprecedented scale – new tertiary institutions sprang up, and colleges were awarded university status; some entered into agreement with overseas universities to provide twinning programmes.
Course offerings expanded and thousands of students entered the world of post-secondary education. Never before had so many 18-year-olds enrolled in higher education.
This expansion allowed universities unparalleled opportunities to diversify and play to their strengths, which should be the guiding principle in ensuring the standard of higher education is maintained.
Students must be able to study at universities that are able to deliver the best instruction and research in their subjects.
And by playing to their strengths, universities can attract students best suited to the type of education they offer.
These institutions should also have the autonomy to develop research and teaching strategies that best suit their particular needs. Some universities specialise in pure research areas, while others in applied research.
With research funds from various agencies allocated selectively, there is bound to be competition and that’s good.
But funding should be given based on the real, rather than perceived, quality of these institutions.
This ensures a concentration of research activity that reflects the individual specialisation of each university.
Meanwhile, varsities must make it a point to ensure that students complete their courses within an allotted time.
For example, a three-year degree course must be completed within the stipulated time as public varsity students are heavily subsidised by taxpayers.
To maintain quality, students who do not meet the requirements for a course should not be admitted.
The tasks of preparing would-be undergraduates for universities rest with schools. Universities should not be burdened with such responsibilities.
Their role is to offer good diploma, degree and postgraduate courses, to engage in high-quality pure and applied research, and to offer professional training to mid-career professionals.
DR ARZMI YAACOB , Former academic