I asked the question in my post as to whether this committee will be an ad-hoc committee, just for UM or a permanent one for all public universities in Malaysia.
The first question I have for the Ministry, however, is whether this committee is set up on an ad-hoc basis or one who will look at the appointments of all vice-chancellors in all our 18 public universities? Ad-hoc committees will always have its shortfalls in terms of consistency especially in the event of a change of ministers.Almost as it on que to the question I raised, the Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed (Tok Pa) confirmed that “the Government-appointed search committee which picked Datuk Rafiah Salim for the post of vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya last week will become a permanent one”. But lest I take credit for Tok Pa's confirmation (after all, Tok Pa reads blogs now), it was actually Sdr Lim Kit Siang who did the questioning in parliament. :)
The committee comprised of:
- Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali (Chairman), Employees Provident Fund and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s board of directors chairman
- Tan Sri Syed Jalaluddin Syed Salim, former Universiti Putra Malaysia vice-chancellor
- Prof Tan Sri Abu Hassan Othman, former Universiti Malaysia Sabah vice-chancellor
- Tan Sri Azman Hashim, AmBank Group chairman
- Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Universiti Malaya lecturer
[w]e are always hearing complaints about the appointment of vice-chancellors. A permanent body is the best way to solve the problem.This is absolutely correct and I'm happy that the Ministry has decided to take this approach. While some of us might like to quibble over the constitution of the committee (I personally thought that it should comprise of more senior respected academics, and not necessarily Malaysians), it is a great first step. However, it is by no means the only step required to improve the quality and suitability of our universities' vice-chancellors.
As a summary of some of the suggestions which have been raised on this blog for some time, the Ministry needs to:
- Establish the independence of the search and evaluation committee to ensure that the only criteria used for selection is the candidates' ability to improve the quality and standard of education at the relevant university, and not instead, the candidates' political links or connections.
- The exact terms of reference of this committee should be identified and published. I'm half-suspecting that the current committee was set up in a rush given the circumstances, especially with Tok Pa being appointed only 2 months ago.
- The quality of the committee members should be improved over time with greater emphasis on prominent and high-achieving academics. There's no reason why foreign “world class” academics could not be appointed to identify quality academics with sufficient intellectual prowess and administrative experience to lead our local universities. The current committee is constituted by a few personalities which are more prominent civil servants or businessmen, with insufficient academic understanding and experience.
- The shortlist of candidates should not be provided by the Ministry of Higher Education. For the exercise which identified Datuk Rafiah Salim as the best candidate for UM, there were apparently 11 persons who were considered. Nothing has been mentioned as to how these 11 persons were identified. The shortlist should instead be derived from the applications which are sourced from advertisements made globally in search for the best available candidate.
- Finally, there should be a consistent set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set up to monitor the performance of the vice-chancellors by these same committee members. Without a common set of KPIs, one will find university vice-chancellors spending time and effort on publicity and glory trails such as participation in trade shows to collect colourful medals instead of focusing on hard research to be published in internationally respected academic journals.