Friday, January 27, 2006

Storm & Teacups @ Univ of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

In a story that is covered exclusively by Malaysiakini and not seen in the mainstream press, there appears to be some form of crisis brewing at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC). I have previously written fairly favourably about the University (largely on its undergraduate programme here).

The entire episode was started by a possibly disgruntled senior academic at the Malaysian campus, Geoffrey Williams when he protested against an alleged discrimination against Malaysian MBA students at UNMC. I really won't go into the details here, but essentially Williams accused the examining body in the United Kingdom (UK) of lowering standards of marking in the UK home campus which in turn, resulted in a poorer performance amongst the Malaysian-based candidates.

It's actually an interesting accusation, for I would actually have expected a reverse in discrimination as a commercially oriented university as many from Australia have become would be keen to increase in-take in foreign campuses to become more profitable and hence may take actions which may make it easier to enrol into the college and secure its degrees. Interestingly enough, if the above accusation is true, then my perception of the UNMC MBA graduates will be raised further, as the quality of output is even better than the graduates from the home course.

However, equally possible is that the Malaysian students enrolled are just not up to par in general and was unable to meet the external examiners' marking criteria in the UK. The University's chief executive officer, Professor Brian P Atkins, made vague references to the above (probably vague so as to avoid stepping into another landmine :-)) while making a vague defense of the university.

However, for the current students as well as the prospective candidates of the MBA course at the University, I'm more concerned with regards to the reported "brain drain" from the University. UNMC’s Business School was reported to have allegedly lost more than half its senior faculty members including lecturers seconded from the UK.
Dr Geoffrey Williams, who quit in mid-December, said nine senior staff out of a total 14 have left the school for various reasons although the main grouse appears to be a “general dissatisfaction” with the university’s overall administration. He said the school initially had 18 staff but was soon left with 14, which has since dwindled further.

Over the last 18 months, he said the school has lost two professors, four associate professors, two assistant professors and the school manager - all of whom had either resigned or their contract not renewed.
This loss of staff may not have been surprising as a possible key issue is where the University is sited - in Broga, Semenyih. For many of the UK lecturers, being seconded from a university in the city to one in Broga, located some 90 minutes away from the Kuala Lumpur (KL) city centre, may be regarded as a hardship posting. Some might even construe such postings as constructive dismissals, if not done on a voluntary basis. Even Malaysians from urban KL will be unhappy at the thought of being posted to Broga, not to mention expatriates from Nottingham.

However, the above is an internal issue for the university to resolve with its staff. What's more important for prospective students is that the teaching quality may be affected by the severe loss of staff. To quote Williams:
“I mention this because the make up of the staff at (the UNMC) is now mostly Malaysians with no experience of the UK system, so students will get a very similar experience as that at any other Malaysian university although they pay many times as much for it in fees!”

“I understand they have recruited an associate professor from Universiti Malaya and an assistant professor from Monash (Malaysia).”
Hence students expecting to be taught and lectured at UNMC may suffer from a lack of fulfilment in terms of the experience of learning from senior academics from the UK. Personally, I actually believe that the problems will be resolved over time as the campus is still fairly new, but immediate prospective students to the university may want to review their options with greater care. Most importantly, obtain details of the teaching academics at the faculty, conduct the necessary research on their background before signing up for the programme. For that matter, do that exercise for all the universities you intend to sign up to, for while there is a little storm over UNMC at this point of time doesn't make the other colleges necessarily better.

Good luck! And thanks to Anne for the heads up. :-)


Anonymous said...

hmm... today's news said about AKU being upheld, due to the MASSES voice. so much for political freedom.

Anonymous said...

I would not be surprised. In the early days when I was a Chartered Institute of Management Accountant student, it use to be known that passing the exams in Malaysia were more difficult than passing in the UK. So many students went to the UK to sit for their exams. The same thing happening here is not a real shock.

As for Aussie unis yes there is a dilution of entry requirements at MBA and DBA levels. Support systems are wanton and yes the dollar sign seems to be more important. Enter at your own peril.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty surprise UK home campus have lower standards than Malaysia Campus!

A side note: chinese students from china can easily gain entry into UNMC foundation program without IELTS requirement. Furthermore, Chinese National College Entrance Examination results are not really considered. It is really nice that they give students a 2nd chance since I knew those who gain entry have scores like 55% (with this score in china they can only go to tier 4 Univrsities). From what I learnt from those students passing UNMC Foundation will gain admission to the Degree program. Thats sounds pretty easy. If UNMC standard is high, these students might not make it and have to transfer to UK Campus. Very good for the UK economy!

Another thing that may have gone unaware by many Malaysian. Many Chinese from China who cannot make it to local 3rd/4th tier University ended up studying in Technical College. Arm with a Diploma they are able to gain direct admission to Postgrad program! There are a number of students studying in Top 20 UK universities. It is kind of unfair for Malaysians or Singaporean who have graduated from Polytechnic and not able to gain direct admission to Postgrad in UK! Obtaining VISA to UK is cake for chinese.

Anonymous said...

1st week of Apr: Due to the poor passing rate from the foundation program at Foundation Program at Uni of nottingham Malaysia. The entry requirement for this yr to degree program has just adjusted lower!

For the past yrs it was 65% passing for English and other subjects not lower than 60%. Current grades needed is 40% average and no subject less than 30% to be admitted to the degree program.

Will that affect the quality of future graduates? Will that affect we Malaysians studying there by helping out the weaker to make it? 1 thing for sure, it sure help to keep the students in school and keep the money coming in!!!

Anonymous said...

As a student from China currently studying at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, I feel that the false information about the admission requirements for students from China to Nottingham Malaysia Campus is unfair. All of us, the Chinese students from China, have attained IELTS of at least 5.5 or TOEFL of at least 520 before we are admitted into the foundation programme. Further, we are accepted into the University based on our year 12 results. We can only be admitted if we have an average of 80%. Can the anonymous who claims he/she knows someone who had been admitted into the Foundation without evidence of English proficiency and poor academic results to provide evidence. His/her claim is an insult to us who have worked hard to be considered by the University. Further, because we do not have IELTS of 6.5, we have to obtain an average score of at least 65% for our English language and study skills before we can be admitted into Business UG courses. Without this 65%, we have to take IELTS before we can be admitted even if we pass the foundation.

chels said...

i came across this website after searching for UNMC complains. I am a student from UK under an exchange programme to Malaysia. What I found out on my 2 weeks of classes is that, the management/administration is horrible. They were disorganised. I did not have a timetable until a night before lecture commences and when I went to the university in the morning, got told off by a Prof that it was cancelled. Generally, its making me very uncomfortable in the environment itself. I hope to see a better change soon. Moreover, the lecturers here just 'copy and paste' notes from the UK campus lectures as my personal tutor in UK told me so. Last I checked, plagiarism is not allowed in the uni.