Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Looks West

Well, there's two pieces of interesting news in this single report by the Star entitled "UTM to hire dons from West".

Firstly, of course, as the title suggested, the vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) said that "the university would recruit at least 30 top professors from the West and Australia".

Secondly, and more interestingly - an surprising not covered by the New Straits Times who did the earlier story - apparently the contract for the incumbent vice-chancellor, Prof Datuk Mohd Zulkifli Ghazali who was reportedly not renewed - has been renewed! But since it's quite "out of topic" for this post, I'll blog about it in the next one :-)

The newly "re-appointed" vice-chancellor celebrated the new lease of life by making a move to "re-brand and internationalise" UTM.
“These professors will help to lift the name and status of the university and make it more well-known,” he said, adding that each faculty will have at least three top professors. The professors, who include those from France, Italy, the United States and England, will serve in all 10 faculties of the university.
Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zulkifli even went so far as to say that he would like UTM "to be like Oxford or Cambridge". One of the first moves, probably more symbolic than anything else, is to have all sign boards to have English versions in addition to Bahasa Malaysia.

More interesting, good news for the students, but bad news for laggards of the English language in the university's academia - the vice-chancellor announced that "our professors will also have to adapt to having discussions or meetings in English".

Nevertheless, the vice-chancellor seems to have started on a spirited note. Lets hope that the move to recruit foreign academics is a serious attempt to boost our teaching faculties as well as research capabilities and not something silly like boosting the international teaching faculty to improve rankings.

The vice-chancellor should take the recruitment process one step further. Whoever recruited should have their academic resume published for public analysis to establish their credibility as indeed being "top academics" from the West.

2 comments:

mwt said...

It is laudable to have these foreign professors around to in order to raise the standards and boast up and “lift the name and status of the university and make it more well-known”

But how long will they last? With a higher standard, the consequences would be a higher failing rate for sure. And do you think the Umnoputras will tolerate this state of affairs? The percentage of the required professional graduates will not meet the quota, and so it will be back to square one.

They cannot be alchemists that convert base metal to gold. The raw materials must be suitable as well.

Why-me-worry? said...

All these piecemeal efforts are useless and nonsensical, as well as wasting efforts, unless we tackle the mother of all problems facing our society. We have to admit that the mother of all problems in our bolehland is the unwillingness of the government to treat all citizens equally and to use our talents equally. Because of this twisted practice, we don’t have the best people, who have vision and passion, running the country, planning the big picture in a holistic way, and charting brilliant long-term policies to move our nation forward.

As long as the present scenario is maintained, no matter what we do (e.g., by employing high quality professors from overseas), things will not get any better. Any foreign top professor with any sense will not accept a position in our public universities. The maximum monthly salary (e.g., say RM14,000) of our public university professors is less than the maximum monthly salary (e.g., say S$7,500 = >RM16,000) of a polytechnic lecturer in Singapore. A university professor in Singapore would easily earn S$15,000 per month. So, even if a foreign top professor would sacrifice his earning power to take up a position in any one of our public universities, what academic pleasure can he derive? He would be surrounded by largely Bumiputra colleagues and students who are comfortable with BM but not English. He would be teaching students of diverse academic abilities, from very good to very bad. He would be conducting research in an environment that has no good record of research culture. On top of these, he would also have to deal with internal politics and incompetent Bumiputra superiors, who are supposed to evaluate his performance (ala SSM)! What a joke! So, dream on UTM or any public university.