The fact that the Higher Education policy is under-going review has been known for some time. However, it wasn't clearly known what exactly was being reviewed and how determined are the authorities in making positive changes to the local higher education policy and institutions.
It was widely reported by the local press (NST and The Sun) late in September that the Government has received a draft policy recommendations from an "independent committee" which was appointed last October headed by former Education director-general Tan Sri Wan Zahid Mohd Noordin. The deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak announced that:
The draft was prepared by a committee tasked with coming up with suggestions on how to provide the quantum leap to turn Malaysia into a regional centre of excellence in tertiary education... We can expect more positive changes to achieve our ambition for the country."However, when queried for further details,Datuk Seri Najib said the draft is with the prime minister and that they would only discuss it after they have "fine-tuned" the proposals.
Hence, it was only to be expected that if our Minister of Higher Education was queried in the parliament about the relevant proposals, we would get the standard fare replies which essentially means nothing. Sdr Lim argued that while "[the Minister] had been talking about turning Malaysia into an international hub for education with the capability to attract foreign students to Malaysia to pursue higher studies, he had failed to address the most important aspects to ensure university excellence, viz. students and academic staff of distinction."
I referred to recent university disputes such as those affecting Dr. Terence Gomez, Professor Ramasamy and Dr. Azly Rahman and the scandals of the recent university student elections which raise the larger question whether we want our students to have the faculties of critical inquiry vital for success in the globalization age or we just want to continue to breed apathy, timidity and mediocrity.It was then that Datuk Shafie Salleh announced a policy review of the Universities and University Colleges Act, saying it is now 34 years since it was first passed and students had often raised UUCA as an issue.
“Kalau budak kecil berumur 34 tahun, dah kahwin, dah ada anak, mungkin di kampong dah ada cucu dah, jadi kita akan review baliklah.”The Minister also added that feedback will be obtain from not only government officials, but also academicians, MPs and the "civil society". He even made the appeal: “Bagi saya chance. Baru setahun saya menjadi Menteri, ya. Bagi saya chance.”
The Minister should definitely be given his chance. But first things first, he needs to survive the impending cabinet reshuffle by the Prime Minister, whereby he is one of the clear favourites for the drop.
[Update: Sdr Lim have just posted an update on the above issue here, requesting the Minister of Higher Education to suspend all UUCA proceedings.]