Friday, April 21, 2006

New UM Vice Chancellor: Rafiah Salim

Well, looks like readers can't wait for postings here on the new Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor. Plenty of comments have been received in my previous post, which isn't exactly related to the topic. :) I've also received a couple of mails requesting my comments on the issue.

So apologies for the delay. I've taken the family back to kampung to visit the grandparents for the weekend. Anyway, I'm still back in Batu Pahat, but I thought I'd put in a quick word on Datuk Rafiah Salim's appointment.

Here's a brief on her profile, based on the little information I've gathered through the various news reports e.g., here and here.
Rafiah is currently executive director of the International Centre for Leadership in Finance and had served as lecturer, deputy dean and UM Law Faculty Dean.

Born on May 13, 1947, Kelantan-born Rafiah made a career move in 1989 to become the head of Malayan Banking Berhad’s legal department. She was Bank Negara Malaysia’s assistant governor from 1995 to 1997 and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management from 1997 to 2002.

Rafiah received her Bachelor and Master’s of Law degrees at the Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland. She obtained her certificate in legal practice in 1980 to become an advocate and solicitor of the High Court of Malaya.
You can also read a glowing reference of her career to date, which was probably the citation given to her when she received her honourary doctorate from Queens Univesrsity, Belfast.

I'm in no position to make a fair assessment on the capabilities of Datuk Rafiah Salim, particularly on her suitability to be the vice-chancellor of Malaysia's premier university. As mentioned in an earlier post to the "mistaken" report by the New Straits Times which suggested that it was Dr Sharifah Hapsah was appointed, "I'm not one who will prejudge her appointment for I hope that she will be able to prove herself worthy of the position given to her."

However, it is interesting to note that the Ministry of Higher Education has not selected a candidate who have received his or her doctorate and has undergone the "full" academic experience. As commented by several readers and fellow bloggers, to a certain extent, this is contrary to the 9th Malaysia Plan's target of having at least 60% of the university lecturers being PhD holders.

It also appears that the criteria of administrative and management capabilities carried a tad more weight that the candidates academic credentials. Was it a case whereby the evaluation committee decided that UM required somebody to whip it into shape first before focusing on the academic aspects (after all, UM is beset with a whole host of non-academic issues as well) or that the management skills and achievements of Datuk Rafiah Salim well compensated the weakness in her academic credentials? As suggested by Kian Ming in one of his earlier post:
As a leader of a research university, one of the VC's most important tasks is to promote the growth of academic excellence in his or her university. Only a person who has had extensive experience within the academic setting would know how to effectively accomplish this objective.
On a slight more positive note, it was revealed for the first that there is an "evaluation" committee set up to selected the vice-chancellor from a shortlist of 11 candidates. The committee comprised of the following individuals:
  • Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali (Chairman), Employees Provident Fund and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s board of directors chairman
  • Tan Sri Syed Jalaluddin Syed Salim, former Universiti Putra Malaysia vice-chancellor
  • Prof Tan Sri Abu Hassan Othman, former Universiti Malaysia Sabah vice-chancellor
  • Tan Sri Azman Hashim, AmBank Group chairman
  • Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Universiti Malaya lecturer
While one can always have qualms on the constitution of the committee, it is a positive step forward by the Ministry of Higher Education to have set up this "independent" committee, and making known its members, to evaluate the shortlist. The first question I have for the Ministry, however, is whether this committee is set up on an ad-hoc basis or one who will look at the appointments of all vice-chancellors in all our 18 public universities? Ad-hoc committees will always have its shortfalls in terms of consistency especially in the event of a change of ministers.

Hence, my 2-cents advice for the Ministry of Higher Education to further improve the process of selection of vice-chancellors:

  • Make permanent a search and evaluation process for the appointment of vice-chancellors (and their deputies) at our local public universities. There should be some form of permanence in the process to instil a culture of transparency and integrity.

  • Enhance the independence and credibility of the "evaluation" committee to be a "search and evaluation" committee. Our local universities should follow the best practices of the world's best universities by advertising the vacancy in the position in the academia globally. Resumes should be collected and headhunters appointed to seek the best for our universities.

  • The shortlisted candidates should then be evaluated by both the university and the selection committee (comprising of eminent academics) before the best is chosen.
I've written more on the "Elusive Vice-Chancellor Search Committee" here.

Irrespective, we wish Datuk Rafiah Salim all the best in attempting to return Universiti Malaya to its former glory.


Anonymous said...

From my understanding, those who received their honourary doctorate shouldn't be called a Dr. So we should addressed her as Datuk Rafiah Salim. Hey, even Americans call George Bush as Mr. President. I think it is a bonus if the VC had the doctorate degree for herself as an evident that she had gone through the tough experience in research work and have the first hand experience in the process to mould UM as one of leading research university in Malaysia. But looking at her academic + industry + corporate + international involvement, I would give her chances to prove herself to be better than wayang kulit VC.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that the vice-chancellor of a university (even one with emphasis on research) must be a PhD holder. May be Universiti Malaya at this stage of its development is in need of a VC who could provide leadership for the reorganization of activities include those of academic nature. In the business world, multinational companies are known to have offered their CEO position to an outstanding individual from a totally different industry. Of course in view of the government's known intention to increase the percentage of PhD holders among the university teachers, it is not surprising that members of the Malaysian public have raised question on the appointment. The new VC will have to display her commitment to (and understanding of) research programs. Even more important, she should play the key role in attracting and retaining outstanding academics/scholars, particularly those of Malaysian origin. She should be brave enough to tell the authorities what had gone wrong and what she proposes to fix the problems. Unfortunately she will be under pressure to improve UM's world ranking, which to me should not be her first priority.

Anonymous said...

"However, it is interesting to note that the Ministry of Higher Education has not selected a candidate who have received his or her doctorate and has undergone the "full" academic experience. "

I am scratching my head on that too. Are they putting more exceptions again to fool the people? Or are they just not good at following the own rules they set?


Anonymous said...

I really think VC should have at least "Dr" in front of his/her name. Can somebody tell me if there is any "world class university" have VC without "Professorship"??? Well, if UM can become the 1st, we'll create history :-)

When gov present RMK9, it's clearly stated they want to have 60% lecturer with PhD. And yet VC doesn't need PhD (?)Or VC just need management skil??

Anonymous said...

a PhD is important to any self-respecting academician. however, there are exceptions to the rule once in awhile. we should give our new VC a try for at least a year before we do our customary public bashing.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how she going to attract renown academician to come here and do their research. How do you expect world class professors to come and place under you when you do not have a PhD? Like what is happening to our public hospital where you have to follow orders from someone who knows noting.

Without these academician how can you improve your ranking.

Anonymous said...

Their objective is to buy Kelantanese votes and she will become first VC of Universiti Kelantan.

As their target of 60% lecturers being PhD holders and for sure they will achieve it. Look at the ways they produce doctors in such a short time (until MMA said they will be over supply soon). In Bolehland, quantity is more important than quality.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...she hasn't step into office and yet so many people started bashing her now. Let's give her 2 years and see if she can prove herself as a great leader. It may be a little bit of a disadvantage that she does not has a PhD...many people will then question her credibility. So what? Another analogy i want to point out here is that many MBA graduates actually work under Uncle Lim (Genting). Does that mean Lim is not a great businessman for not having a MBA?

Anonymous said...

To jw,

Don't compare uncle Lim with a universiti. Uncle Lim is a share holder. His top management are all profesional. Apart from his son, the top man has a PhD in economics. A former deputy governor of Bank Negara is also on the Board of Directors. See Genting annual report.

Gone are those days where you can become a millionare although uneducated. It's a globalise world now.

Anonymous said...

You all are bashing the new vc merely on the fact that she's a malay.... common guys, don't be a racist here... lets her prove herself first, then only we can comment..... she's not even in office yet!!!

Anonymous said...

To anon apr 23, 05:09:17 pm

No! we are not racist here. There are lots of capable malay out there. One good example is Professor Azmi Sharom. And we know very well non bumi had no chance in getting that post.

Anonymous said...

Guys, give her time to restore the glory of UNIVERSITY OF MALAYA. Let her prove that we are wrong.

As in whether a non-bumiputera will ever get such a post, it's a fact. So no point keep on insisting on the issue here. The main concern at the moment is to reestablish our pride, as a MALAYSIAN.

I understand that we are currently being denied certain rights, but how different are we from them if we keep on criticising them?

Why don't you think like this, "what will you do when you met someone who is weak or physically disabled"? Just think that we are giving them a hand laa~ We will live in a much happier state


Anonymous said...

"Give her chance to prove herself"

This phrase has been going on and on. But if you think about it, do you appoint people in such a high position to let them proof themselves? Or do you appoint people in a high position because people has already proven themselves worthy to take that responsibility? Think carefully of this before saying let her proof herself.
As far as I know, she is not the best candidate. Yet she is chosen. The goverment always use the phrase we want the best, yet this is action here is contradictory to everything everyone claimed to be the best.

So of course she would get the bashing. It is only normal. Since she accepted the post, she should have known she will be under strict scrutiny, aggresive criticism of the public and high responsibility to be able to delivery what people wanted. That is what high post is and the draw backs here, since her predecessors screwed up badly.

No we are not being racist, but we want the best to take over. Is that too much to ask?


Anonymous said...

When it is the Ministry, and not the University, who searches and appoints the VC, one can only expect and conclude that the appointment is a political one. And when you only look into your own backyard pond to find 'the right candidate', then you are not really looking for the best available but only the best from your backyard.

Most VC searches are usually done on a much wider scale and most credible University will do a worldwide search or at least an international search and invite applications and recommendations. But I suppose in Boleh land, we as usual, look only for jagoh kampongs.

I personally think Puan Rafiah is over rated. Sure she has her accomplishments but a deeper analysis really shows some that some of her achievements are really bloated.

Her rise to Dean of the Law faculty was really at a time when the Law faculty was undergoing development and expansion and her rise was due to her politcal affiliation and patronage which helped her alot.

She was then helped by another benefactor Ahmad Mohd Don, the then MD of Maybank, to be the head of the bank's legal department. After barely a year there and achieving nothing much in the Division (she really had not much practical legal experience), she was moved to head Human Resources, which surely must be a slight demotion of sorts, where she can do less damage. She looked at and dealt with HR adminstration from the legal view point. Nothing much here really but to see the implementation of certain staff benefits which any ordinary but experienced professional staff could do. But hey, she took full credit for it but it was her team's effort really and her staff were really sore with her.

When Ahmad Don was appointed Governor of Bank Negara, she coaxed her patron to take her with him. The gentleman agreed and she was appointed an Assistant Governor (one of many Assistant Governors and stepping over many heads) and head of legal for a short stint and was then again moved to Human Resources to 'revamp and motivate' the staff. New brooms at the Central Bank must sweep clean' to impress the government. She tried 'change management' there which really caused a lot of serious resentment and havoc. She was an outsider and her personality again did not go down well with the staff. But what was important was that her 'patron' was pleased with her. What is always important is to keep your bosses and the power brokers happy and you are protected. She left the Central Bank in 1997, barely 3 years after joining it.

Her appointment to the UN was also another crafty move by her. (Her position as Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources is really no big deal. There are literally hundreds of people with the rank of ASG in the UN and its many agencies. And there are also hundreds people in the 3 ranks above the ASG e.g. Under Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries etc, in the UN network. The ASG is actually the lowest rank).

The UN does make a lot of appointments and it ensures that all nationalities are fairly represented. It regularly appoints people based on representation, not necessarily on merit alone, so long as the candidate is well, qualified to a certain extent. Vacancies at the UN are often offered to governments who will then look for suitable candidates. For Malaysia, there will always be someone from the central bank at one of the world agencies like the World Bank (there is someone there at the moment) and so on. These positions and appointments are regularly offered and made, to ensure that all nationalities are adequately represented.

Puan Rafiah was feeling the heat at the Central Bank and was looking for a way out. She was aware of the opening at the UN and through the good offices of the Governor Ahmad Don and other government patrons, she put in her application and was successful. Obviously her bloated and glorified CV of her achievements in HR, her strong recommendations and her recent senior positions all helped and paid off, never mind the real chaos she created and left in her wake.

She spent 5 years at the UN. The UN as you would know, is another institution where there is considerable bureaucracy and considerable wastage of resources. So much inefficiency and mediocrity and the world body is constantly wracked by scandals of fraud, impropriety, inefficiency and favouritism. Everybody there enjoys the good life and rub each other's back. So don't think everything is well there. They just enjoy the benefits of reputation, prestige and power. So if you manage to get in, you got it made. You moved in high society, meeting the top guns, you get invitations, you enjoyed life. And worked a little.

After completing her term, Puan Rafiah returned to the country and tried to wrangle a top government position befitting her rank in the UN, possibly even as governor of the central bank.

Her patron, Ahmad Mohd Don, had in the meantime had to quit or risk being sacked to take the blame for mismanaging the Bank in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis. His policies did not go down well with the Prime Minister Dato Mahathir who implemented the fixed exchange rate and exchange controls. Dr Zeti was appointed as Governor to carry out the governments directives.

Dr Zeti was in no mood to accomodate Rafiah Salim in her ranks and in her central bank to continue what she left behind previously.

So the International Center for Leadership in Finance under the auspices of the central bank was formed to get rid of her. Big title but the center is nothing more than another run of the mill training center. Many people have not even heard of it or what it does. So there Rafiah stayed biding her time for another big move.

And there you have it. She is now the VC designate of MU, the Universiti, not the football club.

Obviously, the selectors have been hoodwinked and impressed by her previous posts. They have not really gone deep enough to find out what she really did achieve when warming all those seats.

So she will move to where she started off. I already hear alot of rumblings in Pantai Valley where praises of her have been rather very muted especially among the senior staff. Her presence is not really eagerly awaited and enthusiasm rather missing.

But she, Rafiah Salim, is the new captain of the ship.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I would say, let's wait and see. A few of the commentators say give her sometime. I think that's fair.

To be successful, she needs to overcome an anti-progress culture that is firmly in place. She needs to be a politician as well, as I am sure some whispers, a few statutes, lobbying, vested interest would affect her decision making and actions.

She hails from a techinical environment, I think. Now she needs to be techinically inclined as wella s politically savvy.

By the way, the public may not have the full grasp on her term of reference and powers. We can't make a correct judgement, anyway. Unless the media actually report on her progress as a VC and the environment in which she is working.

I am no expert in local univercities. I only know enough to persue my accounting qualification outside local univercity, that's all.

Yes, notice also that non-malays are not good enough to be short listed for consideration, what's new?

Anonymous said...

People with honarary doctorates should not be addressed as Dr XXX but as (Dr) XXX.

Anonymous said...

Let's give her a chance to prove her capability...It's not her fault anyway to get chosen..The main thing is we have no confident "how" she get chosen. Some people are very talented in preparing CV, very long..and glooming CV..

Anonymous said...

So, what happen if she fails? Anybody care to tell me what is the solution going to be?

Anonymous said...

If she fails again, the public will carry on their routine bashing against the VC and perhaps, Mustapha as well, just like what we did not long ago =D

Come on folks, this is Bolehland = Boliaoland

Anonymous said...

So much for bashing, like what people say, talk until your mouth produce foam, these people will still insist they are doing the right thing.
If she should fail, they would first initiate damage control by keep claiming that they have achieved something. 2 years of tenure, like everybody said is not enough, she is gonna stay longer and longer and longer. Then things would be hopeless.
I think I will exercise my right as a citizen in the next election to put these people on the edge on what they are suppose to do.

Anonymous said...

"I think I will exercise my right as a citizen in the next election to put these people on the edge on what they are suppose to do."

How are you going to do that? Vote for opposition? Another 13/5/1969 ?

Come to think about it, we don't really have much choice in this country. Things won't change for the better, and the citizens are obligated to their "taste".

Anonymous said...

"How are you going to do that? Vote for opposition? Another 13/5/1969 ?"

Only people who dare not go for the change will say things like this. I am not obligated to their taste. So I know my rights to exercise my rights to vote. For you, from what this statement, I can tell that you just want the 'biarkan' kind of attitude in life. Well good luck with it. You earned.

Anonymous said...

With the coming of the new VC for UM, I am wondering why suddenly Rom Tamjis and associates are so quiet?

Have they made their "oath of Allegiance' to the new VC? Or are they busy trying to find new recipes to ' butter' the new VC?? hehehe

Anonymous said...

To anon ue Apr 25, 11:07:36 PM

Seems like you are still living in a complacent environment where you think no changes is needed. All is right when everything is so wrong in front of your eyes. Have you actually been following the news lately on how corrupted these people are? If we want for the best of our future, we do our best, we play our role and we demand for the best. I am sure that is how it applies for the person who is in the VC position as well.

What anon Wed Apr 26, 01:53:39 AM said make sense too, he is stating the obvious where poeple should have done but didnt do. We are citizen, we should exercise our rights to improve the civil service. How do we do that? We vote. We pay attention to what is going on in the parliaments, pay attention to what is going on with to what the new VC can do. If they didnt do well, they need to be replaced one way or the other.

Unknown said...

She was a bad VC proven by the new VC Gauth Jasmon who uses international standard used by the UK and China, citation approach and make UM top 200 this year. Rafiah had promoted wrongly all female lecturers that she liked, some sort of chronism, some of them whose citation is below 50 but some men with citation above 50 and even 190 were not promoted. Luckily, these men and other deserved ladies were promoted accordingly recently.