Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Scholarships

I've not heard of this scholarship before and was surprised when it was featured in today's NST but I'm glad that these 10 receipients are able to go overseas to pursue a post-graduate degree. It seems that this is part of an overall trend where more and more scholarships are being provided by different bodies (both public and private) for talented Malaysians to go overseas to pursue their post-graduate studies. I hope that this trend will continue.

The NST report only said that 5 of these recipients were pursing Masters degrees while the other 5 were purusing PhDs, all in the field of science and / or technology of their choice. It didn't list down where every individual was heading to with the exception of these two individuals: Nik Noor Jehan Nik Mokhtar, 22, who is heading to Oxford and Yee Wen Huei, 24, had chosen to pursue his Masters in Automotive Engineering in Michigan University, United States. These 10 were selected out of a pool of 283 applicants.

It is interesting to contrast this scholarship with those offered by the JPA. I suspect that all (or almost all) of the 283 applicants were applying to or had already applied to specific universities for specific courses before applying to this Yang di-Pertuan Agong scholarship. Tony has argued, quite convincing, that the JPA should only offer scholarships to individuals at the STPM or college level and not at the SPM level and furthermore, that the JPA should offer scholarships only to those who have offers from established universities. I think that this is a much better use of resources and incentives and it should certainly by applied at the post-graduate level.

I'm sure that part of the selection criteria for this Agong scholarship included whether the applicant already had a firm offer to a graduate program overseas and whether these programs belonged to well known universities (or universities with established programs). This immediately weeds out those people who are just 'thinking' of pursuing a post graduate degree but have not taken the necessary steps like researching different programs, taking the necessary graduate exams (GRE, GMAT, etc...), and applying to their universities of choice.

Of course, we cannot be sure of what the exact selection criteria of this scholarship is and whether all the recipients were headed to established schools or programs, without more information but I'm fairly confident that the individuals chosen are highly motivated and talented and are serious about their post-graduate studies.

It is also interesting to note that they are not 'bonded' to any organization but are only required to come back to work in Malaysia, whether it is the public or the private sector. I think this is a very open minded policy but I also hope that there will be some punitive financial measures associated with not coming back to Malaysia (like paying back a substantial portion of the scholarship upon deciding not to come back). After all, if we have the carrot, we also need to have the stick.

Good luck to this pioneering batch of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Scholars and may they do themselves, their family and their country proud!

12 comments:

julthefool said...

Hello, sorry for posting an unrelated comment but this seems like a good place to ask this question:

Does anyone know where I can find the LAN/Ministry of Education conditions for University College status? In particular, I'm interested in finding out if there are any conditions laid down with regards to the number of hours a lecturer should teach, maximum student/lecturer ratio, etc.

I don't speak Malay unfortunately, so anything in English would be good, but I suppose that that is not very likely...

Thanks in advance

julthefool said...

um sorry - if you like you can email me at jul AT julthefool DOT com

Anonymous said...

Kian Ming,
I am sure scholarships, whether we are aware of them or not, are important in helping bright individuals in need of financial assistance and thus welcomed. However, I am a bit sceptic on the selection process. Having a look at the pic in NST, it looks like 9 of them are malays and 1 non-malay.

Admitting that I have no clue whatsoever of the selection criteria, I am doubtful that only 1 chinese is successful from a pool of 283 applications, not to mention the absence of indians. So am I to believe that chinese and indians have fared poorer than their malay counterparts? The composition of recipients is way too homogeneous to even consider this as based on quota.

Anonymous said...

maybe the malays are 'smarter'?
he he he

Anonymous said...

Well, god knows who is smarter anyway. We can't expect this kind of policy to be discontinued immediately.

The good thing is that "they are required to come back and work in Malaysia," which is rather relevant to our current context. They will have to get a job based on their abilities, and companies will hire them because they need these people! They will not be bonded to certain organisation or company at all, and will not put into a cold room like some scholars.

Hope more organisations will emulate such concept and be more transparent in selection criterias.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should have the " Dato Zakaria MPK scholarship too"

Anonymous said...

Greetings.

I happen to be one of the recipient of the scholarship to pursue a PhD at Oxford University. Overall there were 3 Malay males, 3 Chinese Males, 3 Malay Females an one Indian female. The selection criteria were solely based on merit in which the candidates were assessed on academic and other aspects as well plus the interview performance. The notions that there bias based on race is therefore incorrect and this type of insinuation must be condoned.

nyonya_tan said...

i wonder. does jpa really know which institution is the best for certain courses? it's a bit annoying (rasa nak cepuk je orang kat counter tuh) to show them the offer letter from one of the best schools in your field and being brushed aside as, 'senang kan nak dapat offer pergi uk?'. just because that school is not as well known as the oxbridge, lse, or ic, doesnt mean it's not a respectable institution related to certain fields.

i might apply to cambridge solely for the name cambridge even if it doesnt rank the best for its architecture program. but what's the point? just to have the name cambridge on my name card later on?

this shows that jpa is just lazy to do some ground research and is downright unacceptable la. we're talking about the future of our young people here mah. why cant they go and ask the people in the industry before making stupid sweeping statements like that?

am sorry if this comment digress from the topic. i'm just pissed off.

Anonymous said...

ya.....I'm one of the applicant.
One tips to get the scholarship is "Oversea" and "famous". Then you have 50% more chances than local U applicants.

Anonymous said...

I wonder... do you need a scholarship to pursue PhD post-graduate studies? Cost of PhD studies at least in the US are provided for by the university in which you have been accepted for PhD studies. The greater need would be for undergraduate studies, and perhaps at the masters level for post-graduate studies.

Anonymous said...

I know a bit bout phd studies in US, usually you won't get scholarship from the university straight away for master/phd (by research). You still have to pay tuition fees and everything just like anyone else, but they will make sure they have enuf part-time research assistant positions for you to contribute and get enuf $ to cover your fees + living cost. Over the years, as you are doing better, then you will get scholarship. Think of it another way, research asst is a crucial learning experience for your future academic pursue if you are really keen on the phd->post-doc->professor path.

On the previous comments by the recipient to Oxford, congratulations to you. But on both of you heading to Oxford, I don't see any-at-all publication records in any international journal. I wish you can correct me if I am wrong as this is important for the prestige of the scholarship. And a simple search found that only Reena a/p Rajasuriar has published one international-referred journal. Judging by international standards, to be qualified a really good PhD candidate, ones must at least have 1-2 publications in international referred conference/journals. And what kind of merit you are talking about if it's not by international standards?

Anonymous said...

That's true. Compare this to the Gates Scholarship, it seems like the only prestige of this scholarship is that they get to meet the Agung =p