University of Malaya urgently needs a new Vice Chancellor who does not regard improving its present 89th ranking among world’s top universities to No. 50 in 2020 as a great challenge, but is prepared to be fired by the greater challenge of aiming to have the nation’s “premier university” ranked within the world’s top 50 by 2008!
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Friday): Bernama reported that at the University of Malaya’s 100-year anniversary celebration yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak threw a challenge at the university to raise its current 89th position among the world’s top 100 universities to 50 by the year 2020.
The national news agency reported:
“At the function, Universiti Malaya Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr. Hashim Yaacob was seen giving a slight nod, indicating that he agreed to accept the deputy premier’s challenge.”
The University of Malaya urgently needs a new Vice Chancellor who does not regard improving its present 89th ranking among the world’s top universities to No. 50 in 2020 as a great challenge, but is prepared to be fired by the greater challenge of aiming to have the nation’s “premier university” ranked within the world’s top 50 universities by 2008!
The University of Malaya is oft referred to as the nation’s “premier university”, but there has been a great change in the meaning of this term, as in the early decades, it alluded to its internationally-recognised academic excellence and reputation but in the past two decades, it has only come to mean that it is the best of local public universities, despite itself suffering unchecked erosion and decline in academic standards, quality and excellence.
This is best highlighted by comparing University of Malaya with University of Singapore, as both are celebrating their centennial anniversary this year, since both universities share a common origin in the establishment of King Edward VII Medical School in 1905.
When Najib cited University of Malaya’s 89th ranking among the world’s top 100 universities, he was referring to the global ranking of the World’s 200 Best Universities of The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) in November 2004, which listed two Malaysian universities –University of Malaya ranked No. 89 and Universiti Sains Malaysia ranked No. 111.
In contrast, University of Singapore - the twin of University of Malaya - was ranked No. 18, and Singapore had two universities ranked among the world’s top 50 universities, the other being the Singapore Nanyang Technological University (ranked No. 50).
As the Vice Chancellor presiding over the University of Malaya’s centennial celebrations, Dr. Hashim Yaacob missed the historic opportunity to spell out the causes for the nation’s premier university falling 71 places behind the University of Singapore in academic quality and excellence, and the remedy and strategy to restore parity of academic standards and excellence, as in the sixties and even seventies, University of Malaya was in the same international bandwidth as the University of Singapore in academic standards and quality.
When Singapore has two universities in the World Top 50, and Australia, regarded as “the powerhouse of higher education in the Asia-Pacific region”, has six of its universities in the Top 50 or eight in the Top 60, it is shocking that Hashim is content with the challenge of 50th position for University of Malaya, the nation’s premier university, in the year 2020, which means that he need not be responsible for anything in his remaining tenure as Vice Chancellor.
How can University of Malaya students in particular and Malaysians in general be fired by the vision of “Towering Malaysian Personalities” and “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when the Vice Chancellor of the “Premier National University” is content with such pygmy vision and challenge?
In my speech in Parliament on December 1, 2004, I had asked the Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr. Shafie Mohd Salleh for a five-year masterplan to develop Malaysia into an international centre of academic excellence by ensuring that at least three to five Malaysian universities are recognized as among the world’s top 50 or 60 best universities.
Hashim should resign as Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya and his post put up for international competition and offered to the candidate who could put up the most convincing case and strategy to rank it among the world’s top 50 universities by 2008. It is better to try and fail with such a high goal then to be content with Hashim’s pathetic satisfaction to improve University of Malaya’s global ranking from No. 89 to No. 50 in 15 years by the year 2020.
MPs regardless of whether from government or opposition should unite in the forthcoming Parliamentary meeting to call for a national higher education blueprint aimed at ensuring that at least two Malaysian universities should be ranked within the World’s Best 50 Universities by the end of the Ninth Malaysia Plan in 2010 – University of Malaya by 2008 and a second university by 2010.
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur,
Deputy Chairman of Parliamentary
Caucus for Human Rights
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur, Deputy Chairman of Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights
& DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman