Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Positive changes to the UUCA

Read this on the Star today. Tok Pa announced that there will be significant changes in the UUCA or the Universities and University Colleges Act soon and these changes will be reflected in the amendments to the UUCA Act 1971 which will be tabled in parliament soon. I think this is positive news, especially for those who have been advocating for significant change in this area. But do these changes go far enough? I think we'll have to wait and see until the actual amendments are tabled.

Some of the changes reported in the Star include:

1) Lecturers do not need to ask for permission to speak on academic matters
(Not really know what this means except perhaps to say that a lecturer can express his or her views about certain academic policies in class?)

2) Removing provisions for the automatic suspension and dismissal of students convicted of criminal offenses and substituting them with the university’s discretion to proceed with disciplinary measures.

3) Decriminalize student disciplinary laws (which means offenses already classified as criminal under other legislation will no longer be classified as such under the Act)

(I think 2 and 3 are similar and I guess that if a student is charged / arrested under the ISA or the Seditions Acts, it means that he or she will not be automatically suspended by the university?)

4) Provide for fairer student disciplinary procedures

5) Provide for staff and student representation on the university’s governing bodies.

6) There are also proposals seeking to enhance the roles of the board of directors, senate and vice-chancellor and to provide for more accountability.

(6 is consistent with the the National Higher Education Action Plan blogger about here)

Other more controversial issues which have not been reported include:

1) The ability of students in universities both public and private to engage in political affairs including joining political parties, a right which should be afforded to all active citizens who are above the age of 21 and are eligible to vote

2) The fairness of campus elections including allegations that 'pro-government' factions or groups have received the support or aid of university administrators

So far, I've been slightly agnostic in regards to the impact of 'student activism' on the quality of a university. I don't think student activism is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to be a world class university (or even an 'Asian class' university). LSE was a hotbed of social / leftist activism in the 50s and 60s but is now one of the most 'capitalistic' of British universities with lots of business tie-ups, a higher number of foreign students to increase the revenue and so on. It was a well known university when it was a hotbed of activism and it has gone from strength to strength under a more 'capitalistic' model. Berkeley was the center of the 'flower-power' movement in the US in the 60s and is still one of the more 'radical' campuses in the US (thought nothing like what it was in the 60s) along with Columbia but Harvard and MIT were by comparison, much more 'conservative'.

NUS in Singapore is clearly taking the more 'conservative' approach of making NUS a world class university by providing lots of monetary incentives to attract good people and promote good research but keeping a close tab on political activities of both students and lecturers. (For those who want an insight to the workings of the Spore government against lecturers, just google 'Christopher Lingle' and you'll see what I mean)

While I don't think student activism is highly correlated with the quality of a university, I'm convinced that having academic and student freedom to organized and freely express their thoughts is a necessary condition towards establishing a world class university. NUS will encounter resistance when it tries to break into the ranks of recruiting world class academics some of whom might not like working in a country where political freedoms and freedoms of expression are restricted. Different universities in the US and the UK have taken different routes towards making themselves world class but all of them have one thing in common - that there is academic freedom for students and lecturers to express their thoughts and views and to organize if and when necessary. Hence, the UUCA needs to be reformed such that it can be part of an overall package of initiatives to improve the level of academic freedom in our public universities. I can imagine that in a situation of greater academic freedom, UM, given its location in KL / PJ, will have greater student activism compared to let's say UUM in Sintok. But both universities will have the opportunity to create an environment which is conducive to academic freedom for both students and academics.

I think some of the moves made by Tok Pa in terms of reforming the UUCA should be applauded. But given some of the restrictions he faces (both internal, within the university system and external, within the constraints of the BN, especially UMNO), I won't be surprised if the amendments to the UUCA won't go far enough, at least for now, to create an environment where students and lecturers can freely express their views and opinions.


Anonymous said...

Knowing the way the present BN or UNMO led government, it is a miracle if they want to change the UCCA laws. It is besides the ISA and OSA one of the effective mechanisms to keep everything in check!

Come on KM, election is just around the corner so there will be lots of empty promises abound just to snare the voters

Anonymous said...

That's just the way it is
Some things will never change
That's just the way it is

- the late Tupac on Bruce Hornsby's The Way It Is

Avitov said...

Malaysia- Is it a good destination to learn English?
A fellow press friend of mine yesterday asked me which country, Malaysia or Singapore, is good destination to learn English. I advised her to study in Singapore, where I studied English too five years ago, a safe country that has strict rule of law. Malaysia is a country where an innocent Mongolian woman was shot to death and exploded into pieces by military-use C4 explosive fastened to her body. I will say this sentence to everybody asked me about Malaysia. This will be recalled for the people of Mongolia every time we think of Malaysia.

Malaysia is no longer a destination for Mongolians either to study or travel. I heard a number of Mongolians going Malaysia to study has been decreased a lot since last year when our beloved mother of two was killed in a jungle outside KL.

I have been to Malaysia actually, when I was studying in Singapore. I remember that when I was under passport control at the Singapore-Malaysia border, a Malay passport controller smiled at me and told me "Bat Khaan! Genghis Khan!". He said something to his fellow customs officers in Malaysian and told me "Welcome to Malaysia!". My first impression on the country of Malaysia had this wonderful start. I felt like I was the first Mongolian coming to Malaysia. We will not hear this nice welcoming from a passport controller of Russia now, a country what we believed as "brother in steel friendship" for over 70 years in the past under Soviet ally.

At that time, how can we know that a Mongolian woman will be killed in this country brutally and her entrance record will be deleted from immigration database. Personally, I think these people, Baginda and his family, including the two police officers and Najib Tun Razak in who gave the order, are the most disgusting people on the globe as same as those terrorists who killed thousands of people on September 11, 2001 by using civilian airplane as missiles.

Who authorizes those people to use airplane as missiles? Who authorizes those people to use military explosives to kill an innocent woman?
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” –Edmund Burke-

Anonymous said...

IMHO, this blog is fast losing it's appeal, direction and effectiveness.

Crying shame because I use to like it it it's glory days.

Guess you guys are just too busy.



WY said...

yes..with tony getting really busy on the grass-root level, and kian ming on the 2nd yr phd, things are certainly not as rosy as it was.

I still think this blog gives a really good read, and pointing out some stuff that i don't really know otherwise.

Btw, kian ming, you shouldn't read too much into the empty election promises. as with all elections...they re just promises...

Anonymous said...

Just imagine what we can do instead with the RM100 million we sent to outerspace:

1 Buy hundreds of life saving kidney machines to help thousands who have the disease buy cannot afford the treatment

2 Buy a few more VAD needed ti support the lives of those awaiting for heart donation

3 Build old folk homes shelters for those that once contributed their life to the nation but now suffering in poverty and easily forgotten

4 Help to buy drugs and provide medical services for the poor and those that cant afford

Why waste these valuable money and even planning to send more to outer space? Dont those involved have conscience or sence of humanatatian values? Perhaps all of them are bathed mountain high in cash that they are oblivious of the pain and suffering of the masses around. People everywhere now are finding it hard to pay for their basic needs and yet those in power still want to waste good money into space?
Where are the conscience?

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