Friday, July 28, 2006

PhD Scholarships for Local Universities

This is an overdue follow up from Tony's posting here. I've been emailing some of my non-bumi friends who are currently or have been sponsored to do their Masters / PhDs overseas by local universities and asking them to clarify the differences between SLAB, ASHES and ACTS. Here are some of my initial findings.

Firstly, all of them confirmed that the SLAB scheme is only open to bumiputeras. No surprise there. But one of my friends noted that funding for the SLAB scheme comes from JPA, which is more readily available compared to a university's internal funding resources. What this means is that lecturers who apply for the SLAB scheme, in all likelihood, will have to wait a shorter period of time before being sent overseas to do their PhDs. As long as the time discrepancy between those "SLAB"ers and non-"SLAB"ers is not too great, I don't really see this as a big problem.

Secondly, all of them (a small sample from 3 local universities) did not know about ASHES and / or ACTS. The official name of their scholarship is something like "Skim Hadiah Latihan Cuti Belajar". Their funding comes from the sending university and it includes tuition fees (as well as living expenses and salary), which Tony and I initially thought wasn't included. If, for all intents and purposes, the funding terms for SLABers and non-SLABers are the same, then why have the distinction? Are SLABers more likely to obtain approval for funding to go overseas than non-SLABers? I have a feeling that the answer to this question is in the affirmative.

Thirdly, there is some uncertainty in regards to the distribution of PhD funding among the different local universities. Some have the impression that some of the older and bigger universities (UM, USM and UKM) have more internal funding available courtesy of them being, well, older and bigger. Others have the impression that newer universities such as UNIMAS and UUM have more funding available because of their need to build up their faculties. These two views might not be mutually exclusive. Older and bigger universities might have more funding (in absolute terms) but also more lecturers to sponsor while newer universities might have more funding (in % terms) so the chances for a lecturer to be sponsored is greater in these universities. I guess that's one of the ways in which newer universities are able to attract potential PhD candidates who might otherwise have wanted to go to one of the older, more established universities.

While I welcome the 1.2RM billion allocation for PhD studies, I still have questions in regards to the distribution mechanism both between and within our local universities. How does the Ministry decide the amount a university should be allocated? How do universities decide on who gets sponsorship internally? Which departments and who within these departments should be sponsored? Maybe I need to send out more emails to get my answers.

Of course, I need to put in my usual gripe about how the local universities don't distinguish between the process to obtain US versus non-US PhDs. PhDs in the US usually take upwards of 5 years while those in the UK and Australia take upwards of only 3 years. The reason is that coursework is a required component in the US system while this is not so in the UK and Australia (although this is beginning to change for selected courses in selected universities). The PhD scholarships from the local universities are only for 3 years with a 6 month extension possible upon request. This makes life very difficult for those pursuing their PhDs in the US (which is why many lecturers opt to go to the UK and Australia instead) and they usually have to scrounge for alternative sources of funding for the remaining 1 1/2 to 2 years.

Finally, I also welcome the decision by the Ministry to have more joint post-grad programs (like the one recently established with Nottingham) because it is a way to expose our lecturers to the research environment in a reputable foreign institution of higher learning and at the same time, minimize the cost of doing so. Look for more of these partnerships to be signed in the future.


Anonymous said...

I once met a local indigenous lecturer who obtained PhD from a reputable UK university and specialised on business in South America. She gave a talk to some professors at a leading local university and after half an hour a professor asked her how she obtained her PhD. Apparently, she had been given research work done by someone else to submit it as her work and obtained her PhD that was only recognised for local purposes and not to be used in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Wow!! are doing a PhD just like Kian Ming.:)

PhD is a good exercise. Under ideal conditions it teaches you to do things independently. A good PhD as in Sciences would normally mean long hours in the labs where you do not care about time...holidays or not.

Sadly to say, nowadays most PhD are no longer in that mode. It was such an honour before to work under an eminent researcher and to work in a famous lab or university.

PhD today are more staying with your work for a long period of time. There is no real mental, physical challenges to encounter. No grand masters to work under. It is a real experience to work under supervisors who have proven themselves by having DSc or Nobel prize winners or members of FRS. It makes a big difference in changing your attitude towards research
And vivas are really very important. At the end of the day when you have to defend your thesis againsts the assaults by the external examiner will leave you sweating, shaking as you spar with the 'authority' of that subject. I assure you that you will remember those sweet moments of your viva throughout your life.


Now the supervisor and the examiner are "kawan tolong kawan'

Anonymous said...

From stories i heard, it is better first of all, one learn the skills on how to manage PhD supervisors first ..if not 8 years also not enough to finish the doctoral process :)

Anonymous said...

actually, phd candidacy is NOT fixed across all the different fields. there are some areas where coursework and viva is not part of the pre-requisite, even at prestigious universities as oxford and cam.

3 yrs is the usual duration for UK universities followed by a 1 yr master. US universities usually articulate from MS to PhD hence giving the "illusion" that it takes a minimum of 5 yrs. as in the case of KM, he should have applied directly upon his completion of Bachelors instead of taking his Masters over at UK before taking up his candidacy in a US institution. so indirectly, he lost a yr for his Masters as US universities usually do not count postgrad credentials attained out of their respective Unis. also, the duration greatly varies between different areas, and pending on satisfactory progress.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Regarding SLAB from JPA, it covers tuition fees and allowance for single only, so additional allowance for family members (if any) will be covered by university. If i am not mistaken, tutors are also sponsored by internal fund from university. Generally, who gets to go first depends on lots of factors such as seniority, number of lecturers in your department,i.e if your department has enough lecturer to cover your teaching load etc. The Dean or HOD will recommend based on above criteria whom should go for PhD the following year. However, if you can secure external funding from overseas, or at least a fee waiver, then the chance of getting paid study leave approved is high even if it is not your turn yet.
The SLAB/JPA scholarship is dependent on the PhD offer. If the offer is for 3 years (UK, AUS..), then the scholarship is for 3 years only, with maximum of two 2 6-month extensions possible.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the anon who posted the long winded article in the commentary. I really enjoyed what's written by the author. Can you provide the source of the article? I think I'm kind of inspired and enlightened by the post from the author's perspective.

Anonymous said...

dear ken (Sun Jul 30, 04:03:06 AM) and others,
i believe anon (Sat Jul 29, 01:30:41 PM) was referring to the bestselling book written by Thomas L Friedman, but not sure which chapter it was excerpted. i've only reached chapter 3 of that book :)

to kian ming and tony,
thanks for blogging and feeding us with all your "investigation findings", info, knowledge etc.

Anonymous said...

Hm.. tony.. any comments on Sri Cempaka's FOUR!! page advertisement?

It seems that you never comment on secondary schools before.

Anonymous said...

I suspect there is definite demarcation between SLAB and non-SLAB schemes. If not, why create the name SLAB in the 1st place...

Like any other things created by BN govt, ceteris paribus, they only serve to differentiate between "you" and "us".

But one thing good about this, we then can compare the numbers between SLAB and non-SLAB.

Just my observation, however, one distinctive feature about SLAB. The scheme takes in their candidates after the first degree i.e. anyone who completes first degrees can apply for SLAB.

This goes without saying that our brothers/sisters under SLAB have chance to do their masters and PhDs with funding from govt.

While the other group of bro/sis can only apply for non-SLAB schemes once they have master's degrees.

Just an obersevation. I stand to be corrected !

Anonymous said...

Recent posting in LKS's website give raise to the pertinent question of excellent student with
PNGK of 3.92 could not secure a place of Pharmacy at IPTAs..

Recent reports indicate that the University Entrance Unit (UEU) sidelines STPM, and give prorities to Matriculation students.

STPM examination has been a traditional route of entering local universities. And students doing STPM are either
(a) students whom cannot afford to go to private universities; or

(b) students whom are denied any entry into matriculation.

If STPM is the only legitimate examination conducted and recognised by BN govt for entrance
into our IPTAs, the above action by UEU undermines the interest of Malaysia if best performers of STPM are not being recognised.

The Minister of Higher Education
has the duty to inform Malaysian public the break-down of Matriculation and STPM in all the 6 major courses i.e. Medicine, Pharmacy, Law, Dentistry, Economics and Engineering.

We demand transparency in the intake of university students!

Excellent STPM students should NOT be denied of their choices of courses! Period!

Anonymous said...


Kuhan Chandru said...

Phd in 3 years is possible. It depends on how you can familiar yourself in that ammount of time and the subject matter involved. The key here for me is to get hold on the methods of your research, it also depends on the supervisor commintment in gettin all the neaded materials and equipment. So if you are familiar with your work and your supervisor is upbeat. There is always a chance to finish in 3 years

Anonymous said...

Dear Dracula77,

You don't really need a year to do your thesis write-up. If you do, then I suppose that you are not a prolific journal contributor and you would struggle to produce good publications when you work as an academic (well, assuming that you are planning an academic career)....My suggestion is that you try to publish at least 3 papers in international peer-reviewed and ISI-indexed journals while in the process of conducting your experiments..If you have done that, your impending vivavoce will only be a formality as publications in high-impact and indexed journals would mean that your work has already been accepted by international academic peers....A PhD in three years is very possible...provided that you have proper support from your supervisor, a factor which I reckon, is of the utmost significance.....

Anonymous said...

Getting a phd is just a getting a "P" plate to be a researcher. One has met minimum requirements to conduct research that is all.

and phd is not a jail term but the maturity of a person on a field of knowledge. The longer one takes to complete their phd the more unlikely one is motivated/able to complete.

Top universities are making people to complete their research degree in shotest time possibile, not the other way round. KM you should stop comparing UK and US system. Both have their virtues.

Anonymous said...

Doing PhD is kacang laaa!!
Just shake a few test tubes and over 3 years you will definetely get a PhD


Anonymous said...

Kian Meng,

from what i know (I might be wrong) - slab is offered before a candidate become an academic staff and hadiah latihan after the candidate became an academic staff.

For hadiah latihan - not only uuniversity offer the slots but also other gov. department. May be department with research base like SIRIM, MARDI, MINT etc.

Anonymous said...

PhD in 3 years is possible with full commitment and hard work. In UK, most universities do not require work to be published in journal before submitting your thesis for examination. In certain countries and universities, there is a minimum requirement of publication before one can submit. This may be why not many can finish in 3 years. But, certainly publishing before you submit helps a lot in writing and oral examination. However, most Malaysian academics can finish within 3 years in UK....they must be really good... then how come they are not that good and productive once they go back to Malaysia?

Anonymous said...

Learned bloggers,

Just wonder , may be kian meng can comment. What do you think about publishing articles before submitting the thesis. I thought phd is your unpublished work. Only upon graduating with the phd then only one can publish what ever the findings are in ISI journal or etc.

Kian Meng,

Personally I think joint post-grad programs is good as u pointed out. However, the government may want to consider the hardship face by the candidates especially those with family. Moving in and out, schooling. Afraid much time will be waste to settle with family matters.

Anonymous said...

July 31, 2006 18:03 PM

Govt To Secure World Recognition For Matriculation Colleges

KUANTAN, July 31 (Bernama) -- The government is working on securing recognition from renowned universities of the world for matriculation colleges in the country, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Noh Omar said.

He said such recognition would enable students with matriculation qualification to continue with their studies in institutions of higher learning abroad as well.

"We have had discussions with several foreign universities, including in the United Kingdom," he told reporters after launching the Matriculation Co-Curriculum Carnival here last night.

He said the government would also hire foreign lecturers to teach in matriculation colleges as part of the ministry's effort to obtain the recognition.

He also said that the government was building three more matriculation colleges under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, in Selangor, Kelantan and Terengganu which did not have such institutions.

Gosh, what are we going to do?

Kian Ming said...

Dear Ah Piau,

Publishing before you submit your thesis is dependant on your field. I know some friends in Electrical and Electronic Engineering who have to be published (usually co-authored) in IEEE (the field's most well-known journal) before they can finish their PhD. I know most of my friends in political science are planning or have published papers in journals before they finish their PhDs. It's a good way to test if your ideas can pass muster in the academic world and also a good way to build up your CV to apply for your first job.

Overall, I think it's a good idea. No harm to have a few publications under your belt before you're finished with your PhD.

Anonymous said...

It is odd to expand and expand the matriculation program...

it is supposed to be a program that provides handicapped (in golfers's term) to those rural boys/girls to have easy access to our IPTAs..

Now we make it as if it is a main stream entry mode..

What on earth is going on to our education system?

Are we sideline the authentic mode of entry i.e. STPM?

Anonymous said...

Matriculation and STPM systems: these are obvious grand designs to discriminate people based on race.

Our Malay-dominant government is pretty smart, churning out grand schemes that overtly favour Malays but not stating the obvious.

By declaring that a matriculation A = an STPM A, and then taking much, much more matriculation students over STPM students into professional courses in our public universities (in fact, matriculation is now the mainstream qualification of intake into our public universities), our Malay-dominant government has found a brilliant way to achieve its objective of Malay-dominant entries into professional courses based on an open, competitive, and meritocratic selection system! Most matriculation students are obviously ranked higher than STPM students for them to be offered places in professional courses, e.g., medical and dental, in our public universities.

Voila, based on this wonderful scheme, our Malay-dominant government has declared to the world that Malay students are smarter and more brilliant than nonMalay students!

Poor STPM students - work harder and longer (an extra year), and end up with fantastic results that do not automatically open doors to professional courses in our public universities. They are just sacrificial lambs and pawns in the grand solution of our forever-manipulating civil servants!

So, nonMalay students, to avoid heartache, be smart, avoid STPM, and apply and appeal for the limited nonBumiputra places in matriculation. Just take the charitable crumbs and move on with your lives. You have better chances to professional courses through this route than STPM. Be realistic. C'est la vie!

Anonymous said...

The problem is, very few non-bumis get selected for matriculation.

Anonymous said...

If they don't want non-bumis in local unis, then we won't get into it. STPM is still well regconised, so get an impresive result and leave the country. Have a bit of dignity and stop fighting for those useless matriculation courses.

Anonymous said...

well..I agree with you, LimKH..

Only 10% or less non-Bumi get selected for matriculation..

In statistical terms, it is a self-selection bias to begin with...

Can our self-selection pool compared with the best-of-the-best of foreign expatriates when the globalization floodgates open...

Be fair to STPM students!

Anonymous said...

ai yaa,

from discussing PHd suddenly go back to stpm ha.

pls get back on track

Anonymous said...

ah piau,

This blog is about education issues in Malaysia. STPM is definitely an issue here, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is possible to complete a science-based UK PhD in three years, but a lot depends on the subject area. In life science research, for example, responses to experimental treatments in the test subjects might take time, and such work cannot be rushed. I was given a two-year scholarship by my employer for a biological MSc. After starting on my project for a few months, I asked my supervisor what the minimum duration was to complete a PhD. He thought that, in exceptional cases, a biological PhD could be completed in two and a half years. I wrote back to ask for an extension of six months, promising to complete my PhD by then. When my employer agreed, I had to make good on my promise. Did I manage to complete in two and a half years? Not quite. I took two years and eight months, but I am grateful that my employer did not quibble over those two extra months. I published six research papers in mainstream journals from my work, the first few appearing before I had completed my thesis. Was that made possible by the fact that “everything is ready for student” as Dracula77 wrote? No, the research project was new and no other student was working on the same topic. In fact, one of the most requested paper reprints from the work was a ‘Method’ paper that described a new procedure that I devised. But I was fortunate to have a good supervisor. I also had a supportive wife who (although she held a full time job) took care of the cooking and the flat. How does one complete a UK biological PhD in less than three years? Essentially, by setting a target and working towards it. Day in, day out, I was almost always the first student in the laboratory and the last out, rain, snow or shine. That did not necessarily mean it had been all work. The wife and I took time off to see a fair bit of the country. On the first summer break, we toured seven European countries on our own by train. The next year, we toured north-western US and Canada, thanks to the advent of the Laker economy flights. (For those too young to know, Freddy Laker was the pioneer of the no-frills airline.) Although I had submitted my thesis and completed the viva by the time I returned to Malaysia, I had not satisfied the university’s minimum PhD residential requirement of three years. I had to wait to receive my degree by post.