The question wasn't so much the fact that the new appointment wasn't given prominent treatment by the press, but the uncertainty as to whether the recent ad hoc reforms made during the appointment of Datuk Rafiah Salim as the vice-chancellor of UM was continued.
Before his appointment replacing outgoing Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan whose contract ended in April, Datuk Dr Syed Arabi Idid was the Dean of Research at IIU. The question then is, whether this is another case of "in-breeding" as per previous vice-chancellor selection process.
The Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Mustapa Mohamad had earlier promised that the search and evaluation committee structure will persist for all subsequent vice-chancellor appointments for our local public universities. He had explained that since there were “always hearing complaints about the appointment of vice-chancellors. A permanent body is the best way to solve the problem.”
I was also most impressed with the recommendations made by the Zahid Higher Education Report with regards to the appointment and selection of vice-chancellors. While the Report has certain blatant weaknesses which I've yet to blog about, this was an aspect of the report which made absolutely sensible and necessary recommendations.
24. The Committee recommends that the appointment of Vice Chancellors for post-graduate and undergraduate universities be carried out through advertising openly in order to obtain the best candidates. Vice Chancellors should be appointed on two-year terms and be given competitive salaries, with the proviso that their services can be renewed, extended or terminated at any time.On top of that, the Report even recommended that the contracted vice-chancellors be assessed strictly for performance:
21. The Committee recommends that an obligatory condition for the recruitment of leaders at all levels in IHE is outstanding achievement, which is reviewed and evaluated annually based on Key Performance Indicators (KPI).The recommendations above appears to have been lifted directly out of my personal recommendations made in the post here. Unfortunately, I can't claim credit for them as the report was obviously written before I penned my personal thoughts, although it was published only subsequently. The key however, is the fact that the recommendations were clearly universal in their support, be it by senior academics or by silly armchair critics like myself.
25. The Committee recommends the creation of Key Performance Indicators as the instrument to gauge the performance of Vice Chancellors. This evaluation procedure should be included in their service contract.
Hence it is extremely important to hear from MOHE on whether the same evaluation committee which was used to select the vice-chancellor of UM was also utlised for the recent appointment at IIU. Was there consistency in MOHE's policies, many which has been recently positive, or have things reverted to “normal” once the spotlight on the ministry's policies has dimmed?
In addition, given that the Zahid Higher Education report has been submitted to MOHE for nearly a year now, shouldn't MOHE be making its stand known with regards to its official position on the report – the recommendations which will be supported and implemented, as well as those which are to be rejected?
Is MOHE for instance, supportive of the recommendations 21, 24 and 25 above with regards to the search and evaluation of new vice-chancellors as well as the monitoring of their performance? If yes, what is the expected time frame which we will see the reforms implemented?
We'd like to hear from you, Tok Pa. Tell us that the reforms on our higher education system are taking place in a steady and certain pace.