Monday, June 02, 2008

More endowments needed

Saw this report a couple of weeks back about a businessman, Datuk Ghazali Mohd Yusoff, who gave UKM RM1 million to endow a chair at the Institute for Environment and Development (Lestari) at UKM in memory of his mother. We need more endowments of this nature as part of a long term plan to wean our public universities off public funding. It's a model which most universities in advanced countries led notably by the US (UK and Australia are getting into the act as well) where public funding is being slowly cut and fees are increased at the same time as endowments which can be used to fund chairs and decrease fees for needy students.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the need for endowment in public universities, what I also want to call for is transparency and accountability. What's to stop some unscrupulous folks in the university from misusing these funds, or worse, channel them into their own personal accounts?

In my university Unimas for example, the Student Affairs Dept actually had the audacity to use funds meant for student activities to organize their own little 'Sukan Staff'. And to add insult to injury, they actually told that straight to our faces after rejecting our request for funds to go for a debate competition.

If that doesn't have corruption spelled all over it, I don't know what has.

Charis Quay said...

Even given transparency, I would give money to certain places I've attended but not others based on the way they spend the money. Essentially the unis have to convince the public that they are worth giving money to. And also make it easy to give. Sitting there and asking for money isn't going to work. (Even asking Tony and Kian Ming to post something saying people should give more isn't going to work... ;-) )

Convincing people to give is the job of the 'development office' at American universities. It's not the only way to do things, but we could learn a lot from them. Just for instance, I receive more often than I really want to letters (increasingly e-mails instead) about the state of my 'alma mater', why I should give them money AND specific projects I can give to. In contrast, the average UM alumnus wouldn't know what to do even assuming s/he wants to make a gift. And I think most UM alumni wouldn't feel comfortable giving because they don't know where the money is going.

Also, making alumni feel like part of the community is something many American universities do very well and this makes them inclined to give even if they know this is 'marketing' really. E.g. I still have my e-mail account from my undergrad institution, library privileges etc. How often do I actually use the library (and thus represent actual cost to the uni)...the *one* time I visited after graduation I took out books just as easily as if I were still there, but it's the feeling that in principle one still has access to one's favourite armchair in the 'libe' and that one is somehow still there that makes people give. (I believe that in any given year, something like half of all living alumnae make donations. For UM, it's probably 0.001%?) I don't know where the development folk learn these things but they seem fairly straightforward in retrospect and presumably our public uni administrators can take some short courses or something, assuming there is the will to move forward in this direction.

Unfortunately one thing that will be very much more difficult for our unis to implement is making people feel 'ownership' while they are in residence...for lots of reasons already mentioned in this blog. People don't give money to a place where they were unhappy, restricted or made to feel foolish.