First, I thought I'd highlight a peculiar advertisement made by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) recently to attract more PhD holders into our public institutions of higher learning (IPTAs).
The good news is, the Ministry appears to be taking steps to increase the number of PhD holders amongst our university teaching community. But the curious thing is the approach which the Ministry has taken to meet its objectives - that is, via open walk-in interviews! You can read the statement issued by Pn Rubaayah Osman, a public relations officer of the Ministry here.
Temuduga pengambilan tenaga akademik secara berpusat bagi calon-calon yang memiliki Ijazah Doktor Falsafah (PhD) akan diadakan pada 26-28hb Mei 2007 mulai jam 9.00 pagi hingga 4.00 petang di Aras 2, Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur.This method of recruitment of PhD holders raises several questions.
- It appears that these PhD holders are treated a little like factory workers who are asked to turn up at a specific location and just wait for his or her turn to be called. If there are a lot of people, then one would just have to wait a couple of hours longer.
Given the above, do we expect quality PhD candidates from top universities globally to be interested in turning up for these interviews and be treated as such?
And by default, through adverse selection, would such interview proceedings lead to weaker candidates who are not able to otherwise secure academic appointments in other leading colleges making an appearance?
- And secondly, it also raises the key question as to why the Ministry has to take the role of the recruiter, instead of the respective faculties within the universities themselves?
Does the Ministry has the necessary wide-ranging expertise to interview candidates of all specialisation on the spot? How could intelligent discussions be held if the relevant experts are not present to discuss the relevant subjects?
Worse, if the civil service administrators are playing the role of recruiters, would they even sufficiently understand university demands of lecturers and researchers?
And if these potential candidates are just required to turn up to submit their documents, instead of a thorough interview, wouldn't it have been better to request that they submit their applications either online or by post first so that the right expertise can be arrange to conduct the interviews. Otherwise, for many of these candidates who may well be outstation, would have to travel long distances just for a meaningless interview exercise.
- Finally, should the role of recruitment to left to the relevant universities to decide? Is there no more autonomy in our universities to decide on their own recruitment?
Would these new recruits, once posted to the universities, be subjected to "marginalisation" from the existing lecturers?
- Firstly, the University recruiters are reluctant to recruit qualified PhD candidates as lecturers in their universities. The reluctance is understandable in that the decline in the quality of our local universities over the past 2 decades have resulted in many unqualified and poor quality academics occupying positions of "power" within the university administration. As the patronage culture within the universities become ingrained, appointment of top quality academics, most of which are PhD holders become scarce for such appointments would be detrimental to their own positions.
Hence, the Ministry while recognises the need for more PhD holders to be academics in our IPTAs, things are not moving on the ground. MOHE which lacks the political will to force reforms within the universities, then decides to take the less painful route of recruiting these PhD holders directly for placement in the universities.
- Secondly, it was also very very interesting to note that the statement released by MOHE specifically mentioned that:
Bagi calon calon... yang mempunyai pengalaman kerja di sektor kerajaan atau industri amat dialu-alukan terutamanya di kalangan bukan bumiputra.
I am very encouraged by the action taken by MOHE for it is certainly extremely rare for Government recruitment advertisements encouraging applicants from non-bumiputras, instead of otherwise. It is a clear recognition that there is a drastic shortage of non-bumiputras in our public institutions of higher learning.
However, when this is reflected with the earlier point, it lends credence to the fact that not only are the incumbent university authorities not recruiting sufficient PhD holders, they are also biaised against the recruitment of non-bumiputras, making it necessary for the unprecendented move by MOHE to step into the recruitment process to "remedy" the shortcomings.
Will the new recruitment process bring unexpected and other detrimental side effects? Or will it even attract the quality PhD holders which it seeks to do?