IT is rather rare that the posts of as many as five vice-chancellors of public universities are vacant at any one time, as is the situation now.
Let me just go straight to the point. This is a very opportune moment for the government, more specifically the Higher Education Minister, to take the historic step of appointing non-Malay professors as vice-chancellors of some of these five universities.
This is indeed not only long overdue but very, very long overdue; and everyone, especially academics and students in the country, feels and realises this all too obvious “phenomenon”.
As a groundbreaking initiative, I appeal to Higher Education Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad, the first woman to head this ministry, to invoke her political will where all her male predecessors did not dare to do.
I certainly agree with the view expressed in the letter “Let vice-chancellors earn their post” (The Star, June 11) by “Concerned Academics” that says among the academic circles, it is an open secret that the posts of vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor carry the stigma of “political posts”. And that many are not surprised if the top university leaders selected are not the best in terms of academic rigour.
What it means is that the appointment is not necessarily made based on academic merit but more commonly by association with political masters.
It might be okay if the appointments of chairmen of government-linked companies (GLCs) are premised on this platform – although resentment against this is now growing – but we are only doing a grave disservice to education per se if vice-chancellors are political appointments, too, or not based on meritocracy.
Malaysia is home to at least 20 public universities as well as many distinguished non-Malay academics who have over the decades been discriminated against by never being appointed as vice-chancellors. And hardly any as deputy VCs, too.
This could be one factor that led to a good number of them leaving the country for seemingly greener pastures overseas.
To begin with, out of the five existing vacant VC posts, I would propose that a Chinese and an Indian professor each be appointed as VC.
This would mark a very significant beginning to break this glass ceiling once and for all towards a more inclusive education ecosystem befitting the multiracial nation that we are.
DATUK SERI AZMAN UJANG