Friday, August 04, 2006

New UKM VC: Cause for Hope?

NST and the Star reported here and here that a new VC has been appointed for UKM. The new VC, Datuk Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin, formerly the CEO of LAN or the National Accreditation Board has been on the radar screen of this blog for some time.

She was one of the six candidates on the shortlist to replace Prof Hashim Yaacob as the VC of UM as blogged by Tony here. She was passed up in favor of Datuk Rafiah Salim. When she takes up her position as the new VC of UKM, she'll be the second woman in Malaysia to hold that position.

Firstly, some notes about her background. The Star writes that "Dr Sharifah Hapsah graduated with a degree in Medicine from Universiti Malaya in 1973 and employed as a lecturer at UKM two years later. She also served as head of the medical studies department." NST writes that "From 1975 to 2002, Dr Sharifah Hapsah was a medical studies professor at UKM."

So unlike Datuk Rafiah, Dr. Sharifah actually has an academic background and received medical training. However, her academic record has been questioned by one of our readers here. A google scholar search or even a normal google search will reveal that she has not published anything substantial in her field of training which is medicine. Her latest publication is actually a jointly edited volume with Saran Kaur Gill untitled "Asian Women Leaders in Higher Education: Management Challenges for the New Millennium. Bangi, Malaysia: UNESCO & Centre for Academic Advancement, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia."

I've written about one of her UNESCO publications here and this particular publication deals specifically with the establishment of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) and I was generally positive about the focus of her presentation.

I don't think that a VC has to be a brilliant academic (although a good publishing record to boost his or her credentials) to be a good VC (think Lawrence Summers, for example, the former President of Harvard). Prolific academics who have been well-published don't necessarily make good administrators. So I wouldn't hold Dr. Sharifah's poor publishing record against her. In fact, I'm pretty upbeat about her appointment.

The main reason is that she won't have any excuse of not knowing the standards that the Malaysian Qualifications Agency will set after it is established by an act of Parliament (this will happen fairly soon) since she was the one who authored those standards!

According to that paper presented by Dr. Sharifah at a UNESCO meeting, the three objectives of the MQA are:

1) Develop internationally benchmarked standards for the MQF
2) Assuring the standards of qualification and quality of delivery in both public and private institutions
3) Maintaining the MQF resiter and becoming the reference point for information on qualifications and QA and mutual recognition of qualifications

While we have to wait for the act of Parliament to examine the details of what the MQA is / will be, we can get the general gist of it from Dr. Sharifah's presentation. If the objectives above can be fulfilled, then I'm positive that the local universities will be the better for it.

Right now, Dr. Sharifah is in a strategic position to ensure that the university that she will soon oversee, UKM, will be the first to achieve the standards set by the MQA. I feel more hopeful that Dr. Sharifah would be in a better position to implement substantive change in UKM compared to Dr. Rafiah in UM. Perhaps this will spur greater competititon between the two universities. Only time will tell to see if one has left a longer lasting (and positive) legacy than the other.


Anonymous said...

Excuse me? "I don't think that a VC has to be a brilliant academic... to be a good VC; think [Harvard's] Lawrence Summers." So I am confused. Is Summers a brilliant academic but poor VC (seems to be the conclusion of the Harvard faculty who voted him off the presidency)? Or is he a so-so academic but good VC (but one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard's history, most influential American economist under 40---John Bates Clark Medal---back in 1993, etc)?

You might be stretching just a tad by comparing Dr Sharifah with Larry Summers, UKM with Harvard, and Malaysian higher-ed with the Ivy League.

Anonymous said...

But I agree with the rest of your entry---I am in a giddy glass-half-full mood today. Ask me tomorrow and I'll be much more skeptical of all the qualification/accreditation talk; after all they're mostly talk most of the time, if not "all talk all the time".

Kian Ming said...

Dear Leslie,

Apologies for any confusion I might have caused. I meant to say that Larry Summers was a brilliant academic but didn't manage to do a good job as a VC (at least in the eyes of the Arts and Sciences faculty who vote him out). In his defense, I have to say that he was trying to shake things up by taking away power and funding from the various schools in Harvard. But the manner in which he was carrying out his tasks was symptomatic of a brash, arrogant economist. Perhaps this is a lesson for Dr. Sharifah. You have to be diplomatic as well cunning to implement substantive changes.

Anonymous said...

..The Star writes that "Dr Sharifah Hapsah graduated with a degree in Medicine from Universiti Malaya in 1973 and employed as a lecturer at UKM two years later. She also served as head of the medical studies department." NST writes that "From 1975 to 2002, Dr Sharifah Hapsah was a medical studies professor at UKM."

1. So, did she graduate with a basic MBBS or some other post-grad qualification? Does UM offer one?

2. She became a lecturer 2 years later, with almost no clinical experience and proceeded to head the medical studies dept?

3. There was no further mention of her attaining further qualifications before she became a professor. Could the authorities fill us in?

Anonymous said...

As they say it in show business....the show must go on!!

All these stupid developments going on in our education system is not an exception, but a carefully program or plan for self destruction and the anhilihation of our once glorious education system

Mind you, they will succeed, irrespective what our intelligent bloggers here or public write!

Sometimes I often wonder, are we running out of the right calibre candidates to fill our universities academic positions?

Anonymous said...

I think u need more than just merely appointing a new VC to turn things around.

There are too many influence in our universities' development, be it from politicians, universities' staff, existing laws and regulations, the undergraduates' own attitude. One have to look at various issues like funding and staffing as well.

To inject vast improvement, wholesale changes must be made. Appointing a new VC is just not sufficient.

Anonymous said...

You seem unaware of the academic background of Datuk Rafiah Salim. Her brief profile is on the UM website. She was on the academic faculty of Law in UM from 1974 to 1987, when she was Dean of Law. In 1994 and 1995, she was Adjunct Professor of Law at UPM.

Anonymous said...

How many research papers of hers appeared in class1 or 2 peer reviewed journal?

Can Prof Lim answer that?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone thought that the good Dato' Dr Sharifah Hapsah who authored the MQA be allowed time to get the MQA running before posting her off to become VC of UKM.

What is it that the current VC of UKM can do for the MQA which he couldn't do for UKM.

All points to a game of chess and strategies long before your blog on her appointment.

It makes no sense that the author of MQA, who was to spearhead the much needed changes in the quality assurance processes in higher education institutions as a whole be neutralised in an ivory tower.

Her successor for MQA - the predecessor of the same ivory tower. Does it make any sense?

Anonymous said...

In answer to anonymous, I think that the VC of UKM's tenure had ended and indirectly they were telling him you are not doing a good job so off you go but for safe facing purposes the decision makers had to decide where.

The spotlight shone upon a Dr to be the miracle worker to help heal the decline in UKM's academia but something has to give and in this instance, the victim is the MQA itself. CEO LAN has to leave a premature baby to medicate a stubborn old patient, not an easy task even for a good Dr.

It is not incidental that the lateral exchange is effective upon the expiry of his tenure.

This practice of transfers convenient to decision makers who wants to make a mark is nothing new and the rot continues....

Anonymous said...

Frankly we don't need to speculate or get excited over the motive of this swapping of positions between two individuals. Life in both UKM and MQA will continue without much change for the better. Just a change in the chief cook or chef of mediocre ability, the dishes remain the same. Malaysian-style of dealing with things, shifting Malay administrators from one musical chair to another, boldly justified by the setting up of an unknown open search committee to show how democratic the government is.

As long as our political masters and chief civil servants do not change their attitude and do not understand what underpins excellence, quality, competency, and global competitiveness, while dwelling under the coconut shell of ignorance bliss and the narrow confine of ‘ketuanan Melayu’, ignoring the vast talents of all Malaysians and foreigners, nothing we do will change for the better. All efforts, aimed at improvements, are doomed to fail at the outset. Sorry for the negative sentiment, but we have to be realistic and see all the failed efforts around us.

Compare our efforts with those in the tiny red dot down south. In The Sunday Times (Aug 6), “Foreign talent critical to S’pore: DPM”. “Singapore must continue to attract foreign talent. We should encourage those who can contribute to settle down here. This is the way to enlarge the economic pie. There will then be more for everyone to share.”

Commonsense statement, right? To Singapore, foreign talent includes talent from its north, i.e., Malaysia.

At the same time, Malaysia actively excludes its own non-Malay citizens from contributing meaningfully to its growth, while talking about brain drain and brain gain. Truly mind boggling at the wayang that our political masters and chief civil servants are staging. Selling sand at a profit to Singapore is considered to be an act of treason or antinationalism. However, driving or exporting talented Malaysians, whom the government and parents had spent vast sum of money in their education, to Singapore free of charge (because they are neither wanted nor appreciated in Malaysia) is not an act of treason.

We are a generous neighbour, as TDM often passionately espoused: “Let’s practise the ‘prosper-thy-neighbour’ rather than ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policy!” How considerate we are to our neighbours. What a wonderful world we live in!

Anonymous said...

LAN in the mid 1990’s was established purportedly to overseer quality in higher education in private colleges and universities.

To streamline the process of quality assurance, the head of the Quality Assurance Division in 2004 namely Dr. Sharifah Hapsah mooted the idea of an umbrella body for LAN and two govt agencies to come under a new umbrella to be called MQA.

Therefore to say different chefs coming up with the same dish in this instance might not be altogether correct when one chef sourced out her own ingredients for a special concoction to be cooked up as a feast for all.

As a mature student involved , my research points to the fact that the chef of the MQA spearheaded the idea for MQA which was to streamline quality assurance processes positing itself with a framework that is rigid in its standards yet flexible enough to accommodate creativity in its adherence. Her concern would be if the MQA is substantive enough, to continue with the analogy , to see if there is enough salt in the dish and adjusting it accordingly.

However, even before she can put her hand to the kuali, someone took away her kitchen.

Yep, the gall of some highly influential people, for even before the proposed MQA Act is to be tabled in Parliament to replace the LAN Act, Dr. Sharifah Hapsah synonymous with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency is forced to abdicate her position in an exchange with the VC of UKM - for what purpose !! - but to make history for becoming the second woman VC in Malaysia. This was
after only a short tenure of less than 8 months as LAN CEO.

I agree with Anonymous, sense it does not make but pointedly a covert design and the sleight hand of someone with an ulterior motive.

One wonders if the 5 man search committee purportedly people of intellect and esteem could have even considered her name without taking into account the bigger picture on the landscape of higher education in Malaysia.

I should think the first person to be surprised by this new appointment would be DR Sharifah Hapsah herself.

On the face of it, there is little rationale or any rhyme or reason for a lateral exchange of positions except .... to see someone's political game being played out ...and something bodes ill ...

What the little red dot has to offer is becoming not only attractive by the day,,,but imperative for those seeking quality education.

Anonymous said...

According to, Universiti Malaya has established a Quality Assurance Management Unit (QAMU) on 27th July 2002 with the aim of managing and coordinating the activities associated with UM Quality Management System (UM QMS) based on the framework and requirements of MS ISO 9001:2000, in operation since June 2001. UM QMS encompasses all core processes in UM, which include teaching and learning, research and consultative activities and other supporting services.

After having implemented 5 years of MS ISO 9001:2000 and 4 years of UM QMS, UM should be “A National Research and Referral Centre for Quality” (Vision of QUAMU). Is it?

If UM is now truly a quality university, then we will all have faith in QAMU, the MS ISO 9001:2000 Certification Body (SIRIM-Private Limited), and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

If not, we will have lots of questions and negative thoughts in our mind!

What about Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, in terms of all round quality?

Anonymous said...

Learn From History

Having the monopoly to offer ISO by SIRIM is just a guaranteee of a very easy way for SIRIM to get money...lots of it, by just selling the rubber stamp.

If SIRIM really do a simple audit as it should be...UM wont qualify for an ISO

Just look at the fiasco at various faculties and units of UM. Just read LimKitSiang's Blog...a letter written by CTH about the state and standard of teaching in UM Faculty computer. Its a joke!

If you go to Science Faculty, I think SIRIM will have a field day looking at the hundreds of NC's or non compliance..

But dont worry, UM will get its ISO as SIRIM will get its fees. A bit of harmless drama or play acting is good.... and UM know it will get the ISO and SIRIM will continually get its ' cash cow'

The one got cheated will be the public.

I often wonder what that AMCAL building is doing all these years in front of Geology building. Has it been at least once audited by SIRIM ISO?

It would be good if the exercises in UM or any other universities ISO be made public. We as the tax payers have every right to see what happened to our money.

The last VC BillBoard Hashim has given us good value for our money by building huge bill boards at every corner and junction in the University..Can UM say how much they spend on the Billboard propaganda blitz?

Anonymous said...

Do you realized that its more easy to control the quality of our universities when:
1 Universities were fewer in number
2 A balanced teaching teaching staff consisting of chinese, indians, malays and expatriates
3 When research fundings are fewer so that every one had to compete hard or use their heads more to do research
4 Quality of students were good and only the best enter thro one way,,,by HSC?
5 More autonomy with less interference from politicians
6 Fewer but more deserving professors awarded only to those that really proven them selves academically?
7 There were no ISOs or QC and everyone knows wat they are doing
8 When lecturers are proud of their specialisms and respected by their academic peers local or abroad
9 When quality external examiners are invited from over seas and not the so called local 'experts'
10 When most lecturers are fully qualified with Phds and not some half baked degrees such as Msc which is one year and not by full research?
Wat say you...learn from history??
Respect u for your knowledge and experience?

Pardon my ignorance but all the while i thought ISO is for ensuring quality of products from manufacturing sector?
Nowadays ISO seemed to be concerned with problems such as:
1 This chair should be in next room
and other mundane insignificant exercises