Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why finding a genuine PhD is not easy

In light of the popularity of Tony's recent post on dubious PhD faculty members in private colleges, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on why it's difficult to find faculty in private colleges who have genuine PhDs.

First reason - there are not that many people with PhDs in Malaysia in the first place. I'm not sure what the actual numbers are but I feel confident in saying that the proportion of Malaysians with a PhD, a genuine one that is (as opposed to conferred honorary doctorates or PhDs from the International Irish University), is relatively low, especially compared to developed countries. This problem is especially compounded as Malaysia is trying to expand its higher education enrolment, both in public as well as private universities, at such a rapid rate.

We can all do a simple mental exercise. How many people in our extended family can we think of who possesses a doctorate degree of any sort? How many close friends do we know who have a doctorate degree? How many of them are currently teaching or working in an education setting whether public or private?

I did this exercise myself. I realized that I'm the only person in my extended family who's currently pursuing a doctorate degree. (I have a younger cousin who's already gotten his doctorate from Wichita and his working there now) Among my circle of friends, the people whom I sorta grew up and went to school with (not including my academic friends I met while I was working in Malaysia), I can think of only 4 who have completed or are pursuing doctorate degrees (not including myself). Of these, one is still in Harvard, one is working in Shell in the Netherlands (PhD from U of Sydney), one is working in London with Amex (PhD from Cambridge), one is working in a bio-tech firm in Malaysia (PhD from Oxford).

My friend from Harvard will probably end up in the academia but in the US, not back home in Malaysia. The only one who went back to Malaysia isn't anywhere near an academic institution.

The second reason, in my humble opinion, as to why there are very few PhD faculty (especially teaching faculty) in private colleges / universities in Malaysia is that the job prospects are not particularly attractive, especially when compared to the investment, both financial and intellectual, which one has put in to get one's PhD. The pay isn't particularly attractive, especially compared to alternatives in the private sector, you have to teach large classes in the profit drive private colleges, you have little time and funding for your own research, which should be the driving force behind those who want to be in the academia.

The third reason - The few PhDs who end up in private colleges usually end up in administrative positions instead of in teaching positions because of their relative seniority and experience.

But, with so few people and so many positions, it is not surprising that some private colleges end up recruiting people with dubious PhDs in an effort to boost the credibility of its programs. But frankly, my wife and I were a little surprised that KDU, which we thought was a relatively well run private college, would have so many suspect PhDs in its faculty. So if a relatively well known private college like KDU is guilty of this practice, how about colleges who are not so well known, especially some of the fly-by-night outfits or those who are not located in Selangor / KL and are thus out of the spotlight?

One of our readers recently asked us if we knew what requirements LAN needed from the private colleges in terms of the qualification of their teaching staff. Tony and I don't know since the requirements are not exactly well publicized or transparent. But it would be interesting to find out what these requirements are and how many private colleges actually fulfill these requirements. (Note: We are still eagerly awaiting the 'rating' of private colleges by the MOHE to be released)

Obtaining a genuine PhD is a long and hard process. Not many people choose to go down this path. It takes at least 3 years and sometimes much longer, especially if you are in the US. There are not many universities or programs which will fund a foreigner for the entirety of one's PhD program. (Some US universities are the exception) The few who do end up going overseas to do their PhDs usually stay overseas because of better job prospects. Those who return home to Malaysia usually end up doing something in the non-academic private sector because of more attractive financial returns.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. I think there are some private colleges which are trying to develop into real research universities with good teaching faculty who have genuine PhDs. I don't think all the private colleges will adopt this model but some are moving in this direction. The push has been foreign universities which have set up branch campuses in Malaysia, namely Monash and Nottingham.

I don't know much about Nottingham and their faculty but I do know some people in Monash. I checked out their small Arts department, under the School of Arts and Sciences, and found that all of their teaching staff with doctorates are genuine. (Note: A sure sign of having dubious doctorate is when one doesn't even bother to list the university from which one obtained his or her doctorate from, such as the boy genious Dr. Jacky Chin Siew Yin from KDU)

Incidentally, someone alerted the management in KDU and the result is that the profiles of their staff, highlighted previously by Tony, have been taken down.

So maybe there is a silver lining in this cloud of dubious PhDs. Hopefully, the dubious PhDs won't drive down the value of a genuine PhD, if not my ongoing efforts at obtaining one from Duke will be in vain. :)

In the meantime, be vigilant in looking out for these fakes. And don't forget to drop Tony (tonypua@yahoo.com) or myself (im_ok_man@yahoo.com) an email when you do!


Anonymous said...

I think both of you KM and TP are doing a great service to the people in highlighting and exposing the state of the private colleges and their dubious PhD academics
Let the private colleges be aware that they are now being monitored by both of you and better come clean, instead of trying to fleece the poor parents money

elegant lily said...

Hi there.

One important problem is that there are too many colleges and universities in the country. It's not a problem unique to higher education as the biotech industry is in a similar situation. There is plenty of hard infrastructure but a serious shortage of human capital aggravated by brain drain.

The problem of why it is so hard to find genuine PhDs would not have arisen had there been more control and regulation over the higher education business. And no, LAN does not help much here because they always announce their inspection rounds weeks before the actual inspection is conducted. By then, colleges would have been well prepared with fabricated documents to make themselves look LAN-friendly. Moreover, the LAN inspectors are only as good as the lecturers they inspect and they don't strike me as very intelligent individuals.

Liberalising higher education and allowing more education players to come on board only makes sense provided one can find suitable academics. Here, we are doing the former without much due attention to the latter.

While there are only few genuine Malaysian PhDs, as you have highlighted, it is quite harmless to employ foreign professors to teach in Malaysia. If NUS had relied only on Singaporeans, they would not have been as successful as they are now. But hiring expats can be costly. Don't expect any private college to do that because they are not even paying the local staff enough to retain and attract talents. The public universities, meanwhile, still have a responsibility to carry out social engineering so an influx of really talented foreigners would threaten the rice bowl of the complacent and incompetent local academics.

On another point, what the country needs is not just genuine phds but those who possess sound and brilliant minds to create new ideas and knowledge. There may be genuine PhDs in Monash Malaysia's business school for instance, but only a handful are research active. The staffing problems for these foreign universities in Malaysia boils down to looking for those who not only possess phds but are also enthusiastic about research. IT is hard to find genuine PhDs. It is even harder to find PhDs that do good pathbreaking research.

Anonymous said...

It is really disheartening to see dubious PhD's out there when there are Malaysians overseas who really work very, very, very hard to excel in what they do, and to go through obstacles to obtain a PhD. I am in my 2nd year of PhD in the United States, and I really wonder when I eventually do get my PhD, do I have to 'prove' I was here, in a legitimate and recognized university, just because of people who have already tainted the name of PhD holders?

Anonymous said...

It seems not only here that postgrad. choose industry over academia. We read that even UK faces this problem. So one of the challenges our local universities management face in order to support and sustain their teaching base will be how best they can package remuneration & rewards system to attract outside PhDs to join them and also how to retain their own existing PhDs & PhD students

Anonymous said...

This would not have happened if MOHE and LAN do their job strictly and efficiently....

Anonymous said...

Interesting. i've always wondered about how some fellas could obtain a string of degrees without any effort whatsoever.

I know of another real PhD holder. Dr Goh Chee Leong PhD (Otago), HELP University College.

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, get real, man. Education has become a commodity and education and business have fused to become one.

Education is no longer like before, a place of high moral and trust for the sake of pursuit of knowledge. So high sounding, eh?

In Malaysia, all IPTS are there for business, which means to make money. How? High income and low investment or salary of staff. By hook or by crook, get more students, even by dubious advert and self trumpeting.

Don't expect the Quality people or LAN to check so-called dubious PhD holders in IPTS. Most likely a number of the officers there may also have PhD from the same source, alumni lah, sama-sama. I Dr you pun Dr. Semua play-play saja and OK! Be happy.

Anonymous said...

Genuine PhD holders from reputable universities will tend to show their high scholastic ability during teaching.

One professor of mine in UK once used to quote that it is of utmost importance that the PhD candidates are well trained and examined by real authorities or expert in their fields cos the PhD degree is the highest degree that can be awarded by the University by formal training, and that these PhD graduates will go all over the world becoming ambassadors of academic excellence reflecting the university which awards the degree

Anonymous said...

Agent Provocateur (Tue Nov 28, 03:50:45 PM) said: "Genuine PhD holders from reputable universities will tend to show their high scholastic ability during teaching".

I beg to differ. There is a difference between teaching and researching. Genuine PhD holders will exhibit scholastic ability in rearching or leading Research Project. But to be able to teach, they need to be trained in methodology in teaching, and also presentation skills.

I have a few colleagues who are PhD degree holders, with a fair collection of publications. But they often get poor student evaluations at the end of the semester. A look at their evaluation forms reveal comments like "He cannot express concepts to us in simple terms..", "She cannot bring the subject down to our level..."

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. A good PhD does not implies that he/she is a good teacher.

Is Me, The Student

Anonymous said...

Yes, PhD is not a passport for the holder to become a good lecturer.

Many PhD holders are poor lecturers because they lack pedagogical skills or are nerds without social and communication skills or simply lack a good understanding of the topics that they are lecturing.

They should realise: 'You never really understand something until you try to teach it'. And when you don't understand something, you can't teach well. Worse, you mislead your students by giving them wrong stuff.

Just be ready for an imminent flood of PhD graduates from our IPTA, which are competing to outdo each other in producing larger number of PhD graduates. Don't forget too PhD from OUM, a dime a dozen!

Many of our local PhD graduates cannot even write a proper sentence in English without grammatical and spelling errors! Actually, many of our IPTA professors, who graduated from foreign universities, also cannot write properly in English. Sigh!

One cannot help wondering whether our 'eminent' IPTA professors really understand the scholastic papers in journals that they read and transmit the cutting-edge information accurately to their students. No check and balance here.

Anonymous said...

OUM phD's...A dime a dozen???

By 2020 we will be having the most PhDs in the world!

Malaysia bolih!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, here is a somewhat unrelated question. Do anyone know what is the starting salary for a lecturing position in public or private university ? I have a PhD from Nottingham, UK (not the Malysia campus) and 3 years postdoc experience in Harvard Medical School, USA. I had also co-authored several paper in international journal including Nature Cell Biology and Cancer Cell. It would be much appreciated if someone can provide some information so that I can make a decission whether I should stay oversea or come back for lecturing. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think otherwise. I think there are very many Malaysians with genuine PhD qualifications. Whether they believe in the system I am not so sure.

A true academician tends to be rather easy to predict. He/She will be attracted to a place which is straightforward, values independence and provides necessary commitment to research excellence. Based on my (limited) experience, as far as private universities in Malaysia is concerned (apart from MMU, Uniten), only Nottingham comes close to achieving this (I'm sorry but UTAR =KTAR). But general socio-economical factors which impact on research performance (read grant applications, plagiarism) would easily turn the genuine PhDs away.

Anonymous said...


For public universities, the salary scale is set by Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam, but I believe there is room for negotiation as to where you start on that scale - anywhere from DS (Darjah Syarah?) 45 (about RM3K/month, including allowances) to DS52 (more than RM5K ditto) from what I hear. If you are really interested in going back, I suggest that you talk to people who are presently in the system. Salary shouldn't be your only concern though.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (Wed Nov 29, 02:40:32 AM): PhD + 3 years postdoc experience, optimistically you may get between RM5K to 7K per month salary in IPTA (public uni) or IPTS (private uni) in Malaysia.

You are on probation and most likely you will work in a department whose head has not heard of Nature Cell Biology and Cancer Cell; neither the dean knows Nature Cell Biology and Cancer Cell. They know how to answer to the call of nature.

If you are in IPTA, your first priority is not getting your research gear up and ready. You have to sign 'Aku Janji' form and attend induction courses and other silly civil-service based classes to be educated about stuff totally unrelated to your scientific career, so that you are well prepared to take exams that you must pass for your confirmation and promotion later.

Then you have to cope with grant applications from various sources like IRPA, SAGA, etc.

When you are finally ready to carry out your world-shattering frontier experiments, you have to cope with unexpected power cut and zero water supply, which happen a bit annoyingly too frequent.

Meanwhile, the clock goes tick tock, tick tock and you discover that your brilliant virgin scientific ideas got published by your competitors in Nature, Science, Cell, PNAS, EMBO Journal, etc.

After one or two years, you may make a bold decision - cut loss, give up science, and go into politics (the best exponential rising path is to join Umno Youth or Puteri or Putera, if you qualify) to salvage your bright future.

On the other hand, if you are as smart as you claimed and have guts to face rewarding challenges, then, my boy or girl, go south - the little red dot (which most likely will give you a starting salary in S$ more than the equivalent RM of a professor in IPTA in Malaysia, and you pay less tax, and no 'Aku Janji' to sign, and no civil-service based classes to take, and ....!) - or other leading nations in the world!

Smart people must know how to make smart choices. Good luck to you.

coleong said...

Thanks for all the information regarding the salary scale of local IPTA and IPTS. I appreciate it very much. As for now, I still have 2 more years to stay with Harvard before I made the decision where to search for a better career path. As you know, Harvard is extremely competitive and it normally take someone about 10 years (in average) to get into a tenure position (i.e. assistant professor). Even if you achieve that, most of the assistant professors are pure researchers and they are not involved in any teaching just yet (may be 1 or 2 lecture in a year). The teaching is either conducted by associate professor or professor. These are really people who are leader in their field and have their own insight about things they know and not just follow the textbook.

Now, people like me (i.e. postdoc) who has published in various international journals is very common here and it doesn’t really qualify me to be promoted to instructor or assistant professor. Perhaps it will take many more years and many more Nature/Cell paper to do so. Imagine, you’re competing not only with the wise guys in Harvard but also people from around the world. The same go to MIT and other Ivy leagues universities as well.

The reason I’m thinking about coming back to Malaysia is simply because I belong there. My family and friends are there and I would like to, one day, come back and provide the knowledge that I’ve learn so far. I don’t know whether it’s a noble idea or it’s a total career suicide. But the reality is that, wherever I’ve been so far, UK and US, nothing compared to the people back home who are always cheerful and friendly. The bottom line is that, it’s always better to stay oversea when it comes to career development and job opportunity. But the fact is that, family and friends are equally important as well. At least I’m not the only one who feels this as some of the Malaysian I met also shares the same dilemma (i.e. to live in oversea or go home). Perhaps Singapore is the best alternative for us as it offers good career opportunity as well as convenience to travel back home to visit our parents and friends. Therefore, it’s not surprise that many talented people has move to Singapore for good.

Finally, one last word to those who possess the dubious degrees, you should feel ashamed of yourself as other people have tried really hard to achieve what they have. Remember, it’s a criminal offense for providing wrong information. You can probably get away with it so far but the truth will one day be uncovered.

Anyway, many thanks to Charis Quay and Little Bird. I’ll take into account what you’ve said as well as others who are currently in the IPTA/IPTS system to make my decision. Thanks.

Someone who just want to make the Malaysian education better

Anonymous said...

I think those people who are conferred honarary doctorates should be ashamed if they insist being called Dr.
They should be ashamed if their degree abbreviation or Dr title is not bracketted

These people dont earn the degree through harg work and long years of academic study!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, coleong, you should also consider the following:

These days we do get Malay students with high CGPA, 3.8 and above out of 4. They are keen to do research and sign up as higher degree students. However, don't expect Malay boys and girls to work in the lab alone together after office hours or during weekends when the building is empty of people (yes, don't find this shocking - actually quite common here; most lecturers and professors work 8.30 am or later to 5.45 pm or earlier; relax lah). Doors must be open too. Takut nanti kena tangkap khalwat atau zina by JAIS or other religious enforcement officers, experiment or no experiment.

Also, after your return from the US, be prepared for a cultural shock when you use the toilet in our premier universities. Don't expect the toilets to be like those at Senai International Airport, JB, which has model toilets (if only toilets in Malaysia are like those there). You will be so damn lucky if you can find a dry, clean, ammonia-free toilet with tissue paper, liquid soap, hangers, mirror, lighted bulb, and functional door and flush. You will soon wonder why toilets here are always wet and why things are always stolen from toilets here. You may soon have constipation problem for avoiding the use of toilet during office hours.

Looks like you are into cancer research and the little red dot has the giants that will excite you in cancer research: Professor Sir David Lane, Professor Yoshiaki Ito, Professors Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins, and others at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Biopolis, the research and development hub where you can wonder along Nanos, Genome, Helios, Chromos, Proteos, Matrix, Centros, Immunos, and Neuros and bump into other giants like Professor Edison Tak-Bun Liu, Executive Director of Genome Institute of Singapore. And here, the lights remain on for 24 hours each day. No need to carry your marriage certificate while working in the lab and no khalwat to worry too.

Hope your chromosomes are excited and start to swim in your cell nuclei!

Anonymous said...

Hi coleong,

After 5 years as postdoc in Harvard, why would you want to go to A-STAR and work under the famous names and be told what to do? If you really want, come home man and set up your own research team & make a name for yourself! If you are really good, go where nobody has been instead of joining the “band-wagon” research culture! If you look at high impact research work that could win Nobel prizes, most of them were carried out when the researchers were less than 35 years of age.

Richard G.

coleong said...

Hi Richard,

That's exactly what I'm thinking as well. I know Sir David Lane and others in A-Star are world class researchers. However, my ultimate goal is to establish my own research group to answer some of the most fundamental questions and translate those basic knowledge to the clinic. If I were to move to Singapore or somewhere else, I would prefer to be offered a PI (principal investigator) position rather than another postdoc as you just pointed out. If I were to continue on for a second postdoc, there are many choices that I could consider, i.e. Cold Spring Harbor, Cambridge and etc. One could just imagine there is just too much knowledge to learn in different field and it is almost impossible to learn everything throughout the lifetime. If one want to be successful in their research career, they have to focus on topics that is most fundamental and relevant to the disease, tackle all the problem along the road and get to answer what is actually going on and how to treat them. And as pointed out by little bird, my focus is mainly in cancer biology and translational research. There are so many ideas I have generated along my PhD and postdoc training that I wanted to pursue, but was limited by lack of funding and time. One could only do so much in a day. I’m not hoping to win a nobel prize or even anything close to that level. But, I really want is at least make some impact either in our understanding of the disease or improve the current treatment of cancer.

Anonymous said...

Hi coleong,

As you have said: “As for now, I still have 2 more years to stay with Harvard before I made the decision where to search for a better career path.”

You are now in the best university in the world. Make the most of what you can for the next 2 years. The educational scene in Malaysia and the region is changing so fast (if you look at what has happened in the last 2 years), it will most certainly be unrecognizable in 2 years time. You do not have to make a decision now. Just keep track of developments and good luck!

Richard G.

Anonymous said...

Oh, damn, silly me, did I say go to IMCB to work under the eminent scientists?

Go there to feel the excitement going on there. If you are really good, go and work with them, rather than for them or under them. Be a PI there. Both basic and translational research are being done there.

The difference between Malaysia and the little red dot is people. People who walk the talk and provide the essential management and leadership that translates to real, positive action. The organisation must provide dynamic support to individuals to enable them to realise their dream. Malaysia = NATO (no action talk only) or HALP (hot air leakage plenty).

Oh, well, smart people know their destiny.

Anonymous said...

coleong, ultimately, the decision is yours, likewise the consequences. lulu hopes that you return and make a difference. educate and inspire those who truly want to learn. convince and convert those who don't.

Anonymous said...


I worked for a few years in Malaysian RND after getting my masters. I found that besides the pay, there are a hosts of issues that are discouraging.

1. RND management is abysmal
2. Basic scientific knowledge is low generally
3. Difficulty in procurement
4. Most peers have other priorities
5. Difficulty in securing grants

The biggest problem that I found after working in it myself and talking to many other people is that the lack of reward or even sometimes punishment for excellence. One example that is pretty obvious is Prof. Wong who first identified the Nipah virus. I think he was with UM, where the medical fac still has considerable number of non-Malays.

Now that I am finishing my phd overseas, I find myself, again with a dilemma. Discussing things with my Chinese (mainland) and Korean friends, I envy them because they can decide to go back and set up thier own labs and pursue their own area of research.

Going back to Malaysia just brings back nightmares for me.

Dear CoLeong, I often wonder how difficult it is for a foreigner to succed in the US? I know it is very competitive but it must still be better than Europre, UK or even Japan?

coleong said...

In general, US offer a very good opportunity for research both in the academia as well as in the industry. At the same time, it’s also true that the research culture in US is far more competitive than in UK. The bottom line is that if you’ve good idea and support, people will listen to you. The hard work do pay off sometimes. But hard work is not enough to guarantee a success in research. You need to have insight in the field you’re doing, ask the most relevant question and sensitive about what is going on around you. I know a lot of researcher coming from UK or Europe for postdoc in US as a stepping stone and then back to their home country for a better tenure position. It’s easy to get a job as a postdoc in the academia but it’s very difficult for one to establish a tenure track position or to get an industrial job. It’s especially more difficult for people like who do not have a green card as most of the big research grant do require a US residentship/citizenship. Anyway, it’s a very good experience and probably the most productive time in research I’ve experience so far.

Now, regarding your question about how difficult it is for a foreigner to succeed in the US? My answer is that it’s probably the same as in UK and Europe (not sure about Japan). But, one advantage that US can offer is a good opportunity to start. The academia and industrial is always looking for fresh graduate. Unlike UK which the market for fresh PhD graduate is almost saturated, US has a far more demand for PhD than UK or Europe. But to be successful, as I said, you need to show a really outstanding performance/achievement and a very good network. It’s the same for UK or anywhere else as well. So, it’s not a good idea to consider US as a good stepping stone and while waiting for a better opportunity to come. Good luck in your PhD. Cheers

Anonymous said...

I think it is difficult to get a lectureship in the developed countries, due to the large number of postdocs from all corners of the world. It is not uncommon to see 100-200 applicants for a single academic position nowadays. Since you guys seem to be in the science field, I suggest visiting sciencecareers.org for the very good forum and articles and get some advice on how to tackle these challenges.

It is true that armed with a foreign PhD it is easy to obtain an associate professorship in some obscure university in China. But I disagree that one could then 'set their own labs and pursue their own areas of research' due to the sheer number of competition there. The science in China isn't laughable anymore, and many good Chinese scientists have returned home and dominate the research scene. So if you are a freshie in an obscure university then tough luck.

To coleong, I am somewhat surprised to see that you are basing your decision to return to Malaysia on salary alone (at least this comes through from the way you worded your comments). I would say you could safely get 6-7k/month, which I think is very comfortable, but the more challenging question is, say you are offered 8k or upwards, are you willing to face what little bird has described for the sake of the money? The socio-economic policies continue to be a challenge (assuming you are of certain race/religion), and the future looks quite uncertain. I would stay in the US, or Canada for that matter.


coleong said...

While it’s true that it will certainly be a lot of obstacles to overcome in research as well as career development if I were to come back to Malaysia and work in local university. In fact, my previous mentors as well as friends who are currently lecturing keep me posted on the situation back home. As I mentioned before, career is important but so do family. I like my family and friends in Malaysia and I like my country. Even though we saw a lot of bad comment about the current development in Malaysia but still, it’s where I belong and where I would like to settle ultimately. It’s perhaps easier to just leave the country and search for greener pasture overseas. In fact, a lot of people that I know had already done so. If everyone think the same then the country will be further deteriorating. By saying so, I’m not implying that I’m such a selfless person who is willing to sacrifice everything to my country. However, if there is a good opportunity, I would really like to make some contribution and “repay” (i.e. balas budi) to the society who has brought me up along the way. Even though there are a lot of issues with the government, university administration and etc recently, it’s still our very own country. We did get our free education when we’re young and grew up in a safe environment with our family without which we won’t be able to achieve what we’re now. Imagine people from other part of the world that are in war, riot, poverty and etc. They don’t even have a choice. The reason that some of us are able to go to overseas is not simply because we’re cleverer or brighter than others but because we are given a choice and opportunity (by our country and family) to have an improved life style. We should be thankful to the society and country for what they had enabled us to achieve so far. It’s the same for our parent, our ancestor who also sacrificed a lot to make what we’re now (some might thing that it’s worthless but I appreciate their effort very much). We should ensure that our next generation in our country should afford a better life as well than we’re now. Isn’t it what this blog is all about ? or is it just a way to give our rant to the government. We know the current education system is not good and far from perfect. Those of us who know of a better system from UK, US or other part of the world has pointed out again and again how bad our system is. And we all know that. Who is going to change it ? Who is going to improve it ? We know our government probably not going to do much in a short term may be because the resource are far stretch out or may be they just don’t care. If we totally depend on the government to help us, isn’t that similar to our very own government to certain extent, simply waiting from the top to give the direction in a totally non-competitive environment. To me, I think the knowledge that I’ve learned so far will have a far better value to be contributed to my own country as compared to other developed countries which a person like me is everywhere. We should make a different while it still can and not to let it rotten until it’s too late to be rescue. This is one part of my thought.

Now, another part of me, however, is a more materialistic and practical. It’s about how much I could afford to sacrifice for the idea I mentioned above. The bottom line is, I’m willing to accept a lesser prospective in term of career and financial consideration as long as my family can afford a good life back home. That’s why I need to take into account the salary offer from the academia. I know it will be a set back in my research career and that’s why I’m not ready to be back soon, at least not in another 2-3 years time, until I’ve established myself in the scientific community and prove that I’m qualify and good enough to provide a high quality service to my country men.

Anonymous said...

Stop ranting laaa...

If you feel like coming back, then come
If not, no need to come!

Nobody is going to be aware youre ' missing' or not. Even if you dont come home, they wont missed you

Things here will remain as it is, with or without you

Anonymous said...

Hi coleong,

“In fact, my previous mentors as well as friends who are currently lecturing keep me posted on the situation back home.”

Keep doing that. You are very lucky to be your present position. Many of us never had a choice and some will envy you.

When you are ready to come back, and you want to explore opportunities in local universities, let me know. I might know somebody that can make you an offer.

Richard G.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your advice.

The situation in Japan is not-ideal. Although they are hiring many people in industry after a decade of economic slump, industry actually prefers masters. Japan is experiencing a glut of phds and the government had to hire many postdocs through special programs. Also, due to declining birth rates, many minor Universities are experiencing problems of getting students, a fair number had to rely on foreign students. Sometimes 50% or more.

Having said that, there are a few Malaysians that did well and went on to earn permanent positions in academia. I remember a Prof. Prava who was invited back (by no less than the King of Malaysia himself) to Malaysia to head a new institute in brain science.

Anonymous said...

wah....Richard G powerful!!

Anonymous said...

sorry actually it is

Prof. Ishwar Parhar

Anonymous said...

Hi coleong,

You may be interested to look at the following website on latest Brain Gain programme. By the time you are ready to return to Malaysia in a few years time, you may match the profile to enjoy the Brain Gain programme benefits.


The latest programme has been revamped with the help of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and it is hoped that it will overcome some of the problems of the earlier programmes as highlighted in the following website.


Good luck.
Richard G.

coleong said...

Hi Richard,

Many thanks for your information. I'll look into it. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a delusion that the grass is greener in other countries. You have to be very independent, your colleagues are as good if not better than you, so you have to constantly work hard and improve (even if they are crap, being a foreigner means you have no choice but to work hard anyway), the culture is foreign, your hair is black, the food is not as good and being an academic/scientist means poor, poor life (wealth-wise).

Compare that to the land where the standard of the academic playing field is so low and conmen with dubious qualification can earn their money, such that with decent but genuine qualification you beat them hands down. There are many who work all their life and can't even earn half of that RM6k/month. And being a Dr. earns great respect while there are countries where every Tom and Dick involved in any sort of education call themselves a Professor. So negligible fish overseas but taiko back home.

Each land poses different sets of opportunities and challenges. The grass is no greener, only of a different kind. There is even artifical grass, which one can colour as wished (social reengineering in the kind of Hitler and apartheid). If you are still guessing, I suggest you become more proactive and visit local institutions and talk to their heads or even interview for a position. The information you receive is tonnes more helpful than sitting behind the computer and speculating about salaries.


Anonymous said...


I agree with Anonymous above about being proactive. Another thing you can do is attend conferences in your field in Malaysia and talk to the people there: teaching staff, postgrads, vendors...

Something I will be exploring when I'm a little closer to finishing is whether it is possible to do some short-term lecturing at home before going on to my postdoc.

Basically I think there is no substitute for in-person evaluation of the situation. All the best.

coleong said...

Again, thanks for all the advice. I'll seriously considering your point when it's time to make a decission. Just for your information, I graduated my undergrad from a local public university and has been working there as tutor/MSc student for about 6 months. Although I didn't finished my MSc simply because I was offered a full scholarship to pursue my PhD in Nottingham, under supervission by one of the most distinguished scientist in the field of experimental cancer therapeutics. Having experienced different working environment in Malaysia, UK and US had really open up my eye on the issues that we're facing these days. Anyway, thanks a lot for your input. I really appreciate it. Cheers :)

Anonymous said...

I hope this thread isn't dead yet, but I'm a Malaysian starting my MS at UW-Madison (no, I'm NOT a JPA scholar). Would any of you older and wiser people like to start a Malaysian Biologists Support Group or something? Another Malaysian kid linked me to this page and we're both moaning and sighing about our career prospects now. Advice/unofficial mentoring/moral support would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently lecturing in a private college in Malaysia. Sadly the case is that most of the lecturers are not qualified to teach and most of the time are most by management to teach subjects/levels that they are not qualified for due to shortage of staff/cutting cost.The saddest part is the management doesn't really care about quality of staff or improvements rather the quantity of students you bring in.
They do not follow LAN requirements and when LAN comes to investigate the whole college staff and management become actors/actress in this huge play.(which im embrassed to be a part)I know for a fact that there is a lecturer whom does not even posses a degree but is teaching/lecturing what more a PHD. But frankly speaking there are NO Phd holders at my college and master holders are almost extinct. Private colleges like these and many others are a far cry from the actual intention of education. The only hope left is the private and local universities.

Anonymous said...

I am also currently lecturing in a private college in Malaysia. At our college, the minimum requirement to be a lecturer is Master degree. Lecturers are assigned subjects to teach based on their Masters area of spcialisation. Therefore, not all private colleges have lecturers who are not qualified

Anonymous said...

My advice is if you think you can get a lectureship and you think that you have a fair chance of getting a big research grant to do what you want, I believe you should stay overseas.

With your qualification, most of the senior lecturers (including the head of department) might feel threaten by your CV. If you are too qualified, you will not be able to obtain a lectureship in local public university. One of my friends was rejected because of that.

If you WANT to return home, keep an eye of non-university jobs available within your field in Malaysia. That's what I have done after 3 years of postdoc in UK.

I think in the industrial setting, since you have 3 years of postdoc experience, you should expect to get between 6K-7K. However, I dont advice you to do more than 4 years of postdoc as a rule of thumb if you want to make a transition into non-academic setting within your field.

Anonymous said...

Hi!I will further my MSc studies in coming May. As i know, not much companies are looking for PhD holders. For a fresh PhD, how much can we expect from either private companies or lecturers?
My research is focused on AI or Biometric area. I have decided to move my way until PhD. Any comments and advices will be appreciated. Thanks

Anonymous said...

The big picture reveals that very little fundamental research is being done in Malaysia. The industrialized countries have set the standard because they have focused on fundamental research. This kind of research reveals new insights and is a key driver of technology. Although painstakingly difficult to execute and time consuming, it is an enlightening process. In my opinion, a Ph.D. researcher with several years of postdoc experience should focus on institutions which conduct such research. Limited teaching is essential for a good research career.. because as Richard Bach says "we teach best... what we most need to learn"...

Anonymous said...

Generally i would say even those IPTS offered postgraduate program like Master degree is also not properly run and the lecturers in those colleges are rather not very knowledgeable,i would say after dealing with the Malaysian local lecturers for my post graduate programme (IT), i was rather disappointed with the fact that from my knowledge of more than 30 years from a different industry (construction and architecture), I work on various project from KLIA, KLCC, etc and the final research which i have conducted can be turn down just for the sake that it might not be relevant to the IT field. However they fail to understand that such ideas can be applied in my field, thus the ability to change the industry (construction & architecture) as a whole. I was suggesting the fact that the usage of IT and knowledge management within the construction & architecture field. Rather not feeling disappointed, i went off to Australia and manage to complete my Masters in UK. This i say, Malaysia's education system is in a declining mode.

Anonymous said...

Hi, although the latest comments were posted few years ago but I do hope that some one out there is still aware of the dubious PhD among the lecturers. I have recently noticed a big wave of the Indians so- called PhD holders (I mean those that really come from India but not Malaysia) have started to take positions in the tertiary institutions in Malaysia. However, most of them that claim themselves as "expert" in certain fields were unable to carry out simple research or even explain the basics to the disciplines of their expertise. To my surprise, some managed to camouflage their disabilities and managed to secure their job for one or two years in the institution. So in every 1 or 2 years they will try to apply for a higher position and increase their competency (both title and salary) in the field. Worst still, it would be extremely hard to find proofs of their qualifications and publication records as many of them in India have the same names. I am not sure what would this cause at the end of the day but we should take this very seriously. This does not only highlight the incidence of dubious PhD holder in our country but it is affecting the fair chance of genuine PhD holders in securing a job in Malaysia. Hope there is someone of you that is aware of this matter too.