Those with good memories would have remembered that the former Minister of Higher Education directed that the Aerospace Engineering programme which was taught for a number of years at Universiti Putra Malayisa (UPM) be "moved" to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). The result of that move was an acrimonious behind the scenes battle between the Minister, the Universiti Board of Directors and the then vice-chancellor of UPM, Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zohadie Bardaie.
In fact the unilateral move by the former Minister of Higher Education which was done without reason or rationale upset Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zohadie Bardaie so much that he publicly chastised his "superior" with a pantun. The former vice-chancellor finally stepped down and was replaced by his deputy towards the end of last year amid allegations of being forced to resign.
It now appears that UPM will retain its Aerospace Engineering programme after all. According to a report by the Star, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said "the Cabinet had decided to let the university continue running the programme."
“UPM can continue running the programme as no staff have been transferred to UKM yet,” Mustapa said after a closed-door meeting with all 18 public universities’ vice-chancellors, rectors and their deputies on the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP)...Those with even better memories will also remember that during the period just before the sacking of the previous Minister of Higher Education, there was another controversy over the replacement of another vice-chancellor, that of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) whose contract ended in January this year.
At one stage, it all looked extremely bleak for the UTM vice-chancellor, Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zulkifli whose contract was unlikely to be renewed apparently due to a strained relationship with the then Minister, despite having plenty of support at the campus. However, in a surprising turn (which I never got the chance to blog about in detail), Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Zulkifli was retained. A few days later, the former Minister of Higher Education lost his place in the cabinet. We can only assume today, the retention of the UTM vice-chancellor wasn't his call. The question is - who made the call?
Might Tok Pa have been prepped for the position influenced the outcome or was that a call made by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi himself? For that matter, the former vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya whose contract wasn't renewed last month insinuated that the decision not to renew the contract was made by none other than Pak Lah himself. Did Tok Pa play a part it that as well?
Whatever the case, it does appear that the short legacy of the former Minister of Higher Education has come to a real end and we are seeing some significant changes taking place (for better or worse). Let's just hope that there are more and better changes to come, starting with the selection process for the next vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya.