Wednesday, December 21, 2005

University Colleges Offering Own Degrees

The private education scene in Malaysia is set to become more complex with the "entry" of many new university colleges into the local scene. Many members of the public (myself included, initially) are confused as to what a "university college" mean. Is it just an upgraded status to distinguish them from the run-of-the-mill colleges? Or is it something more than that?

Out of more than 500 private colleges in the country, there are currently 10 institutions categorised as "University Colleges" (UC). The first UC was Kolej Universiti Teknologi dan Pengurusan Malaysia in 2001, followed by 4 more in 2003 and the rest in 2004 and 2005. These institutions are:
  • Asia Pacific University College of Technology and Innovation (UCTI)
  • Binary University College of Management & Entrepreneurship (BUCME)
  • International University College of Technology Twintech (IUCTT)
  • University College Antarabangsa Sedaya International (UCSI)
  • HELP University College (HUC)
  • Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College (KLIUC)
  • Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KISDAR)
  • Sunway University College (SUC)
  • Kolej Universiti Teknologi dan Pengurusan Malaysia (KUTPM)
  • LimKokWing University College of Creative Technology (LUCCT)
To provide a clearer picture - which I regret to say that the website of Ministry of Higher Education was totally uninformative (I had to dig all over the place) - I'll elaborate a little further on the structure of private higher education in Malaysia. Private Higher Education Institutions (IPTS) can be placed in 2 broad categories.

The first is IPTS (Non-University Status) such as Taylor's, Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU) etc. These outfits are authorised to issue internal certificate and diploma qualifications. They are also authorised to conduct franchised degree programmes (e.g., twinning degrees) as well as other external semi-professional and professional qualification (e.g., ACCA etc.).

The second category is IPTS (University Status). This category can in turn be split as 3-types - Private Universities, University Colleges and Foreign Branch Campuses. Both private universities (e.g., MMU, UTP, UNITAR, UTAR etc.) and UCs are authorised to award their own degrees and other qualifications. Branch campuses (e.g., Nottingham University) on the other hand, will award identical degree programmes as the host university.

Hence the main "change", when say, Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology gets "upgraded" to UC status is that they no longer need to rely on their foreign franchise partners to award degree certificates. They are now licensed to print their own certificates. :-)

So, the million dollar question is this - are these UC degrees any good? To be very fair, it would be wrong to generalise the quality of these degree certificates. Like universities, there are bound to be the "good" ones as well as the "bad" ones.

But UCs face additional problems and complications from a different dimension which will add "extra" challenges for them to prove their worth and quality.
  • While local public universities have a track record to speak of, which means we can quite safely evaluate them (as I have over the past 7 years, evaluating their graduates), there is no track record of UCs for the purposes of evaluation. Students taking the UCs option, are to a certain extent taking a risk as there are no hard evidence to judge the quality and outcome of the UC degree programme.

  • UCs are profit motivated. Compared to other private universities such as MMU and UTAR, where profit may not be the main motivating factor in the provision of higher education, profit is a major element of consideration at UCs. Many of these UCs are owned by large conglomerates such as Sunway, Selangor Properties, L&G, Sapura etc., who are beholden public shareholders who are only interested in the investment returns. Some of the head of these schools are called CEOs, for goodness sake!

    And as we all know, excessive focus on profitability and a management focused on short term performance will result in substantially poorer quality of education. A college overly focused on lowering cost will end up with weaker lecturers who are paid less, and poorer facilities. Conversely, if they are overly aggressive in increasing revenue, students of all shapes and sizes (figuratively speaking) will be admitted and awarded degrees.
Listen to some of these "CEOs" do market-hype talk, and you can understand what I mean. In the Star on Monday, the CEO of BUCME, "Joseph Adaikalam debunked the belief that these university colleges would find it difficult to market their home-grown programmes compared with the overseas ones."
“Our own programmes are proving to be more popular. This is because we offer very unique qualifications, including a degree in entrepreneurship in which students actually start their own business as part of the course.”
He'll probably not tell you directly that the reason may be due to substantially cheaper costs (since they no longer have to pay franchise and royalty fees to foreign universities) or whether there is a lower or easier entry requirement the UC degree instead of the foreign one or whether the college subsidiese the funding of the students "own business".

Hence, while it is likely that a couple of the 10 UCs (probably more to come in the next few years), are possibly credible, it is difficult at this stage to tell the goods from the lemons. A student will be taking some significant risks in signing up for UC degree programmes. Before, these degrees may still be moderated by the foreign university partners (not that these partners may be that great), UC degrees will not have any such controls at all. Visit some of the UC websites, and you can immediately tell their (lack of) quality.

In addition, if the candidates are seeking to pursue their education overseas after their first degree, their choice of postgraduate universities is likely to be limited as these UCs are unlikely to have their degrees recognised out of Malaysia at this time.

And finally, as highlighted before here and here, if the UCs are offering degree programmes in just 3 years after SPM, give them a serious miss.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps another guideline one could use would be how well accepted these degrees are overseas?


Anonymous said...

Most of these university colleges still don't issue their own degrees for most of their students, in particular the obscenely commercial ones.

You see, in Malaysia, you need to be connected to build a university college. Not only that, a whole lot of regulation would keep you back if you issue your own degree. As a result, those going into the business are those interested doing business.

Anonymous said...

SPM-NS-? says

I have just finished my SPM and is looking for a degree.

I have an interest with this programme which is not accreditated by the BEM/IEM but their new programme did meet the requirement of accreditation such as a 1 year foundation and 4 year degree, CO-OP placement scheme and others.

Part of it's advantages is that it does not require a credit in Additional Mathematics as their admission requirement. This could be the factor that could add more admission of those that are weak in Additional Mathematics. This might be the alternative to those that failed or pass or did not take Additional Mathematics. I didnt do well in my Additional Mathematics so this might be one of the easy alternative for me to get an engineering degree without going through Alevels,Stpm, which will take a longer time.

The disadvantages is that it is not recognized by IEM/BEM, only approved by The Ministry of Higher education to conduct their programme. This means that student who took the programme are like guinea pigs being tested on the success of their programme. The college will not lose anything as the students are the one paying the fees. As a result the students have to show the best result and achievement in hope to help their UC being accreditated by BEM so that their degree is recognized.
One thing made me wonder how did UCSI attain the UC title with their really,really small laboratory facilities. INTI college which has alot more facilities and bigger laboratories did not get the UC title. I asked INTI about it and the claim is that "We(Inti) had applied for the UC status and it was done batch by batch. Sedaya got it because they are the earlier batch. We(Inti) may get it next year." When enquired with Nilai International College(Which also has a good facilities) their reply was " Sedaya is longer established so they get it."

I felt there is a risk in taking UCSI's degree. If their(UCSI's) degree is not accreditated by the BEM that means I won't be a recognized engineer with their degree.

Sorry if I made this blog into some career advising centre but I really need some advice.

dysha said...

hey hi.just would like to know why Lim Kok Wing University is not in the list of accredited university by BEM?

So does that mean that programmes offered by LKW uc is not recognised? i'm curious n disturbed as well coz i am taking up software engineering in LKW..:(