Earning a PhD is a rigorous process in Malaysia

A POLITICIAN recently raised doubt over the capability of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) to produce almost 400 PhD graduates every year. While some agreed with his comments, others branded them as “political publicity.”

As a full-time teacher and currently also a PhD candidate in Human Communication at UPM, I am appalled by the politician’s comments, which have since been debunked by UPM’s Centre for Strategic and Corporate Relations director Prof Dr Azmawani Abd Rahman.

In a statement, she said that the number was the usual issued by research universities, and that the criteria to select PhD candidates at UPM are higher than those set by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

Besides having to produce a thesis that must pass three external assessors, PhD candidates must also publish in two citation-indexed journals before being awarded their scroll, she said.

Believe me, I know what she is talking about. Pursuing a PhD is not just about writing a thesis especially if you are doing it in Malaysia. Some universities in other countries do not make it compulsory for their PhD candidates to publish articles in citation-indexed journals or to undergo viva.

Questions have also been asked about the practical contributions of theses and academic articles produced by PhD candidates to society. Critics choose to negate and label them as “empty talk”.

I beg to differ. As a novice in the “publish-or-perish” world, I am expected to read a lot of journal articles for my literature reviews. In my research to fathom the persuasive devices in political speeches, I have learnt a few strategies employed by politicians to attract the attention of their audience.

I applied these strategies during my classes, and I could see the positive effects they had on my pupils.

Although this might seem trivial to some, I am satisfied that with the knowledge I have gained throughout my PhD journey so far, I have improved the quality of my pedagogy for my pupils.

In short, pursuing a doctoral degree in Malaysia is not easy. Some candidates have experienced mental depression and other illnesses, financial constraints and family problems.

Furthermore, those who aspire to become lecturers in universities might not realise their ambition at the end of their PhD journey. I have accepted the fact that my ambition to become a university lecturer after securing my doctorate might not be achieved. As such, I have prepared myself for remarks like “Belajar tinggi-tinggi PhD nak stay jadi cikgu je ke? (You studied till PhD level and yet you want to remain a teacher?)

But I choose to stay positive about everything. Anyway, I think the politician’s comments were not worth the attention he received.


Science and English teacher

Hulu Selangor

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letters , Universiti Putra Malaysia , UPM , PhD


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