Thursday, December 29, 2005

Universiti Putra Vice Chancellor Shortlist

Following the controversial resignation of Datuk Dr Mohd Zohadie Bardaie from the position as the vice-chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) a month or so ago, apparently the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) shortlist for the position is out. The 6 shortlisted candidates according to the New Straits Times are:
  • Professor Datuk Hassan Said (MOHE Director-General)
  • Professor Dr Nik Mustapha Raja Abdullah (UPM)
  • Prof Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi (UPM Deputy Vice-Chancellor)
  • Associate Professor Dr Azali Mohamed (UPM)
  • Prof Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin (MOHE Deputy Director-General (Management Sector))
  • Datuk Dr Sharifah Hapsah Shahabudin (MOHE) Quality Assurance Division director)
It was also mentioned that the first two names are the "front-runners" for the job. I don't know about you, but it definitely doesn't (on first impression) look like a pretty shortlist.

As blogged here back in November 15th, MOHE was under some amount of public pressure to reform the higher education system in Malaysia after the public uproar over the Universiti Malaya rankings debacle.

In a move that was applauded, it was then announced by the Minister of Higher Eudcation, Datuk Dr Shafie Salleh that he was setting up a "search committee" to select future vice-chancellors of Malaysian universities. There were even calls for foreign vice-chancellors to be appointed.

It was at the same time that the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr. Mohd Salleh Mohd Yasin raised that "overseas, the appointment of vice chancellors are largely based on their leadership qualities as well as academic prowess. Now that we are practicing meritocracy, we should select the best candidate for the job."

However, based on an initial read of the shortlist, it doesn't appear to be the work of a credible search committee. It does appear however, one would have the best chance to become the vice-chancellor of a university not through academic leadership and "prowess", but by becoming one of the director-generals in the Ministry. That way, the Minister gets to see you everyday, hence increasing the chances of being appointed!

Alternatively, to become a vice-chancellor, you may be appointed from within the university, although other criteria remains unclear. How is it that an Associate Professor got himself into the shortlist would be beyond many of us.

The MOHE needs to do three very important things at this stage.

Firstly, it needs to disclose who are the parties in this "search committee" which has come up with a shortlist with many shortcomings? Does it comprise of the Minster himself and his men in MOHE?

And secondly, MOHE needs to disclose the criteria used to shortlist this candidates - I'm surprised that of all the qualified candidates throughout Malaysia, 3 of the supposed "most qualified" appears to be working as senior civil servants in MOHE. It looks very much like an incestuous shortlist.

Finally, MOHE needs to publish the qualities and achievements of these candidates for the purview of the public, particularly the academics to ensure that whoever appointed will have the necessary credibility to exercise their duties. There is no better time for the Ministry to begin practicing the necessary and much overdue transparency in the promotion exercises in the academia.

These "demands" are not new, nor are they unique to this blogger. Parties within the academia have been calling for the above changes to be made. Read this post for the comments by the Deputy Dean of Law Faculty at University Malaya, Associate Professor, Azmi Shahrom.

The Minister of Higher Education has requested recently to be given a "chance" to make the necessary changes to the higher education system for he has only had two years on the job. The search for a new vice-chancellor for a local public university is a low-hanging fruit to for Datuk Dr Shafie Salleh to demonstrate his will and intent in reforming the system. If he is not able to even make these simple changes to the system, then the question will be why should he be given the "chance"?


Anonymous said...

Dear Tony and readers,
I think you should take a look at this:
Making Ethnic Citizens: The Politics and Practice of Education in Malaysia. By Graham Bell, Oxford University. This is the most impressive paper I've ever seen by a foreign researcher regarding our education system. Even some of the facts are unknown to me until I read the paper!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, private_undergrad.said.
I went to the site that you recommended and like you said, it was very impressive. Look at the amount of books and papers (including MOE's) which this foreigner had to plough through.

The keris wielding is so familiar - is it an UMNO youth strategy to win the hearts of hard-core Malays since those using this tactic seem a little set apart being overseas educated... more of "I'm with you guys, don't fear" huh?

Anonymous said...

We can't do anything Tony. Make noise? Demonstrate? Riots?

We can't do a f**g damned thing!

Anonymous said...

Dear all,

A truly democratic country that practices meritocracy will never happen in MALAYsia. So, we should be taking care about ourself more than our "country" eventhough people will say we are selfish and not patriotic. What is the use of patriotism when your country ignore you?