8 Oktober 2014, UKM Bangi - The argument of university ranking once again hits Malaysian atmosphere when The Malay Mail Online has reported that Malaysian universities are not in top 200 global ranking while Singapore has improved in its ranking.1 This issue is a concern for Malaysians, especially Lim Kit Siang who has been consistently criticising Malaysian Education System and recently slammed The Minister of Education due to the failure of restoring Malaysian Education image to its glory after 5 years.2 UM and UKM were in the highlight, as these universities were found boycotting from participating in The Higher Education World University Rankings assessment. Lim Kit Siang personally does not agree with the decision even though both administrations have expressed their reasons for boycotting.3 Fahmi Zainol, President of University Malaya Student Association (PMUM) personally agrees with these universities’ actions and stated that these universities should rather be praised.4
UKM HAS ITS PLAN
It is always an honour to know that UKM was the only Malaysian University that was in the top 20 QS World University Ranking for university below 50 years Old5 and recently has increased its position from 269 to 259 in the QS World University Ranking 2014-2015.6 However, as the President of The National University of Malaysia Students Union (PMUKM), I felt ashamed that UKM did not participate in the Times Higher Education World Universities Ranking (THE). It appears as such a student who did not seat for the final exam after struggling for the whole year, only wasting time and money. The question of being selective in assessment aroused; normally if you were truly excellent, you will remain excellent regardless of different assessment.
Is UKM really avoiding this assessment and do nothing about it? The new Vice-Chancellor of UKM was appointed on 1st January 2014 as Prof Datuk Noor Azlan Ghazali replaces Tan Sri Dato’ Wira Prof. Dr. Sharifah Hapsah binti Syed Hasan Shahabudin.7 From his talk, he was really concerned about the challenges of maintaining UKM in a realistic way to compete with other universities globally. As UKM regain Research University and Autonomous University from The Ministry of Education, UKM is driven to be more self-dependent instead of government-dependent as such previously. As one of the other top universities in the world, UKM must generate their own wealth and stop asking for more funds from the government.
To become one of the top universities in the world, 6 Key Result Area (KRA) was established and special department was formed to ensure UKM will follow the track. STRATEGI-UKM which is directly under the Vice Chancellor was officially launched on 1st May 2014 to monitor UKM towards it success.8 The 6 KRA are:
- Graduan Beridentiti Nasional, Berkompeten dan Berdaya Inovasi
- Penyelidikan dan Inovasi yang Berimpak Tinggi
- Perhubungan Strategik dan Perkongsian Pintar
- Tenaga Kerja Kompeten dan Inovatif
- Penjanaan Kekayaan Strategik dan Intensif
- Prasarana Ilmu yang Kondusif
This shows UKM willingness to go in depth to keep the university coop with other top universities. Is this indicator/6KRA suitable and will contribute for better UKM ranking in the future? Let’s compare this KRA with the THE methodology in assessing university rank. The THE was based in true performance and neglecting a methodological change, they will asset 13 performance indicators that are divided into five different fields which are 9:
- Teaching: the learning environment (30%)
- Research: volume, income and reputation (30%)
- Citations: research influence (30%)
- Industry income: innovation (2.5%)
- International outlook: staff, student and research (7.5%)
From just a quick observation, the KRA was covering the performance indicator that was made by the THE. This shows that UKM was in the track and is available to be assessed by THE, thus UKM should have no problems to get to the top university spot ranking. Why still boycotting for this year? If the reason was the limited evaluation period upon establishment of STRATEGIC UKM, then what happened to the UKM TRANSFORMATION PLAN (2008 – 2018)? According to the transformation plan, UKM should be in Phase III where “accelerating to be the leading university of the world” moving to Phase IV in 2018 where UKM will achieve 100% of its Excellence Indicators in Governance, Leadership, Teaching & Learning, Academia and Research & Innovation.10 It is not fair to say that our universities are not doing anything good and did not create any potential of progress. I urge Lim Kit Siang to praise and support out local universities especially UKM for its vision towards excellence. Yet, the question is, “what, how, who and when is the problem?” and why our universities keep falling?
What is Happening in our University
As stated both in UKM 6KRA and the THE performance indicator, university’s culture, environment and research were the main contributors towards the university excellent. Taking the side of culture and environment of most public universities in Malaysia, the environment was not helping to most students for them to explore more on variety of fields. Well, what would be the value of our university then when the discussions in “jalanan” and “kedai mamak” concepts have seem to be increasing every year. Students felt that the culture of wisdom is zero right inside the campus.
There are so many political interventions inside of our university. I still remember the 1998 great debate that was conducted in UKM between UMNO VS PAS and yet since then, there was no more. The appreciation of scholar was bias, only scholars who are in the same political agenda are being acknowledged. For instance, Dato’ Dr. Haron Din who was the Deputy Dean in the Islamic Studies Faculty, UKM (1977-1985) was never being invited to UKM again even though he lives cross by the campus. The value of knowledge is absolutely zero due to political interventions. Alumni who are in the opposition were not acknowledged as much as alumni who are observed as neutral or “the same political view”.
In the area of research, our university cannot provide the demands. Some of the research needs to be conducted outside of the campus as universities are unable to provide with the right equipments. But this situation can either be an advantages or disadvantages. Then what left is, researchers need to find suitable base facilities research in order to make the research possible. This situation in fact will limit the university research output. Besides that, unequal assets in research studies would occur. Research based on science and technology was given the privilege compared to studies based on economic, sociology arts which have also lead to shortage of research publish every year. There are also some of our academicians who felt that publishing paper is not that important for his/her career. All of this matter needs to be handled first.
Personally, for what really happening in the university, the plan cannot be run very well. What will happen is, some may benefit from it and some other will not, and this situation will not lead to the university’s achievement in mass scale.
UKM must participate in THE world ranking next year for a better evaluation on its performance. STRATEGIC-UKM must engage with more bodies or individuals in order to achieve the 6KRA and lead towards excellence. For breakthrough, UKM shall invite personal like Lim Kit Siang or others for an open engagement regarding the university’s rank and performance. I believe UKM can be spotted back on the top 200 World University better than 2006 in which UKM has made at 185 place of the QS-THES World Ranking.
Mustapha Kamil Husen Abdul Kadir
MPP Fakulti Kejuruteraan dan Alam Bina Tahun 3/4
YDP PMUKM Sesi 13/14
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