Readers may remember an article in published in the Sun during the peak of the UM rankings debacle, also blogged here, where Azmi made little attempts to hide his disdain of the university's administration with his typical colourful language and dry humour.
Now that UM is at 169, the same thing should be done instead of the hopelessly silly PR exercises of spin doctoring which has the appearance of the self same peacock waving its moulted feathers in desperation.Well, Associate Professor Azmi is at it again. This time he wrote an open letter to our new (and hopefully much improved) Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Mohamad Mustapa (more affectionately known as Tok Pa).
Azmi pleaded with Tok Pa to take steps to right the many wrongs in our universities. He highlighted several issues which stands in the way of making our universities truly “world-class” as opposed to Datuk Kapten Professor Dr Hashim “world-class”. He highlighted 4 simple points:
- Universities are not hampers
Universities are not rewards to be handed out. It has happened in Terengganu and the same has been promised to Kelantan. “Vote for us and we will give you a university.” This may make political sense, but it does not make any academic sense.
- Universities are not fast-food joints
They should instead be high-class restaurants. Universities have to be elitist in order to produce quality research and graduates. An elitist university means that only the best candidates are taken in as students and only the best staff are hired. Classes and exams can then be pitched at a higher standard.This point I like, although I must say, I'm not a fan of high-class restaurants.
Furthermore, the resulting smaller student numbers mean seminars and tutorials can be truly conducive to discussions, and lecturers will have less of a teaching burden in order to concentrate on research. This is not to say that higher education as a whole must be elitist. There are other forms of higher education institutions that can cater to school leavers who don’t make the cut, such as polytechnics and community colleges.
- If you love your universities, you must set them free
You must be aware of the University and University Colleges Act – that wonderful piece of legislation designed to ensure that university students are little more than secondary school pupils. You may not be aware, however, of the Statutory Bodies Discipline and Surcharge Act which affects academics who are the employees of statutory bodies.
According to this law, we can’t say anything for or against government policy without getting ministerial permission first. The simple fact of the matter is that universities should first and foremost be the birthplace of ideas and original thought, discussion and debate, and this can’t be achieved with such laws hung around our necks.
- Universities need Mandelas
If there is one thing that Malaysian universities need, it is good leadership. And by a good leader, I mean a Vice-Chancellor who has the qualities of an outstanding intellectual, manager and diplomat, who can ensure that academic principles are paramount, not political expediency.“Self-aggrandisement and base toadying” - he can't be referring to his vice-chancellor right? No, no, Assoc Prof Azmi can't be that dumb to shoot himself in the foot! Oh, and before he signed off, he made one additional request:
That promotions are given based on merit, not patronage. That students are treated like adults, not children. And finally, that the university is run on the highest ideals of civilisation and intellectualism, not self-aggrandisement and base toadying.
Why don’t you just leave the day-to-day running of the universities in the hands of the universities? I bet the Ministry has enough on its plate without having to decide about trivial things like professorial promotions and the approving of leave for academics to go to conferences and holidays overseas.Tok Pa, are you listening? Don't forget to also read his earlier article. Plenty of useful pointers there.
It's quite unbelievable that the university authorities as well as the powers that be can tolerate a reasoned, moderate, rational, vocal, even-tempered and academically passionate persona like Associate Professor Azmi Sharom in university campuses. Too bad the stem-cell cloning research thingie in South Korea didn't turn out to be what it was. Otherwise, we could just have put Assoc Prof Azmi into the duplication process :).