Friday, November 25, 2005

How to be a Professor?

General prodecures for promotion of local professors: (Comment given by PROF DR JAMAL H. HASHIM, a professor at a local university) (TheStar, pg 32, 24th November 2005)

  1. A lecturer has to apply for the post of associate professor or professor.
  2. He has to list all his academic and professional qualifications as well as his achievements in teaching, research, consultancy and administration.
  3. His application will go through several stages of internal and external screenings.
  4. His greatest hurdle is when his curriculum vitae is reviewed by local and foreign reviewers, and his publications by local and foreign assessors. These are professors at established local and foreign universities in the candidate’s field of expertise. (So, no matter how much a university wants to award a professorship, it normally does not do so without sanction from independent external reviewers and assessors.)
  5. The final hurdle is a gruelling interview by a panel made up of internal and external members to review his qualifications, excellence and comments from external reviewers and assessors.
This practice may vary from one university to the next.

Towards Knowledge Societies

This is a summary of an article appeared in the Star In.Tech, pg 2, 24th November 2005 written by Koichiro Matsuura (Director General of UNESCO)

Key points:

Are we on the threshold of a new age? The scientific upheavals of teh 20th century have brought about a thrid industrial revolution: The new technologies that are essentially intellectual technologies. This revolution, which has been accompanied by a further advance of globalisation, has laid down the basis of a knowledge economy, placing knowledge at the heart of human activity, development and social change.

Does 21st century will se the development of societies of shared knowledge?

There should be no excluded individuals in learning societies - for knowledge is a public asset that should be accessible to all.

Five obstacles stand in the way of the advent societies of shared knowledge:

  • The digital divide - The number of Internet users is close to 1 bilion, yet 2 billion of people are not connect to an electricity grid and three-quarters of the global population have little or no access to basic communication facilities.
  • The cognitive divide - even deeper and much older, constitutes a major rift between North and South, as it does within every society.
  • The concentration of knowledge - particularly high-tech knowledge, as well as large-scale scientific and educational investment, on restricted geographical areas, reinforcing the brain drain from South to North as well as North-North and South-South directions.
  • Knowledge exists to be shared - but once it is converted into information, it has a price. How is the necessary balance to be struck betwen the universality of knowledge, implying accessiblility to all and respect for intellectual property rights?
  • The development of societies of shared knwledge is today hampered by deepening social, national, urban, family, education and cultural divides affecting many countries and by the persistent gender divide reflected in the fact that 29% of girls on the planet do not attend school and that women are under-represented in the societies.
To overcome these obstacles, the nations of the world will have to invest massively in education, research, info-development and the promotion of learning societies.
Practical solutions proposed:

  • Invest more in quality education for all to ensure equal oportunity.
  • Government, the private sector and social partners should explore the possibility of introducing progressively, over the 21st century, a "study-time entitlement" giving individuals the right to a number of years of education after the completion of compulsory schooling. In this way, everybody would have access to lifelong training and would be given a second chance in the case of having left school early.
  • While increasing investment in scientific research and in quality research geared to future challenges, there is also a need to promote practicl and innovative approaches to sharing of knowledge, such as the colaboratory. The new virtual institution, telescoping laboratory and collaboration in one word, enables researchers to work together in cross-frontier scientific networks.
  • The need to promote linguitic diversity in the new knowledge societies and turn to account local and traditional knowledge.
Knowledge is like love - it is the only thing that grows by being shared. (An African proverb)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

5% Foreign Students for Local Universities

As per today's news:

For the first time, Malaysian public universities will be opened to foreigners, with 5% of undergraduate places in critical courses being allocated to them.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh described the move as a social obligation to nations with which Malaysia had exploration rights, especially for petroleum.

Other highlights:

Dr Shafie said the ministry was also looking into rating universities based on disciplines and not under a general ranking as published by Britain's The Times Higher Education Supplement.

“When the faculties are highly-rated because they have good lecturers and researchers, then students are more likely to enrol there, resulting in better quality teaching and research,” he said.

Dr Shafie added that the ministry was currently coming up with a paper on the proposal.

He added that the Government's goal for 70% of lecturers in universities have PhDs by 2010, against the current 29.7%, was a tall order.

As a short-term measure, the Government would be beefing up the number of academics by hiring more foreign lecturers with PhDs.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Angpow, Camera Phone and more....for UPSR 7As

Imagine having angpow, latest technological gadget, a trip to Hong Kong and more to come....for being the top student in the UPSR examination for a 12 years old student. This is what being reported in the newspaper today.

I vividly remember when I was a 12 years old boy, no angpow or any latest tech gadget when I finished top 5 in my class. During the primary school, what I still cherish is the memory of getting a small Lego set from my mum each time (for a few years) as a motivation or reward for being top in my studies.

When it comes to SRP (older version of PMR), a small bookmark from a senior is my most precious memorabilia. No big party, no big present for someone who scored A1 in all the subjects, eventually being the top student in the school, may be the top in the state or may even in the country.....hahahaha.

Time is changing now.....! Should we shower our children with such expensive gifts as rewards for their great examination achievement? Are we teaching our children with the conditional love (if they perform well, they will be rewarded with great rewards)? May be in the future there will be more stories about how high achievers will be rewarded with more extraordinary kind of rewards. Eventually the rewarding system will keep on evolving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Are you doing the right thing, Mr Academician?

This is an reply from a fellow colleague on the topic that I had posted earlier at: What is the real work of a university academician?

I referred to your blog, and some of the academician work that you have listed are:

1. Teaching
2. Research
3. Send papers for publications
4. Developing new curriculums based on the industry, economics and social needs
5. Supervising students on theses or research works
6. Write books
7. Attending or presenting papers in the conferences
8. Attending meetings
9. What else? ...

While I agree that these are some of the tasks that an acdemic perform, I feel that it is more important to emphasise the function of an academic. In a nutshell it is to remain relevant and useful to the industry AND society.

When academics are disconnected with the needs of society and the industry, we end up in the situation where:

  • We teach well, but taught the wrong content,
  • We research with accuracy but our findings are valueless to the society industry
  • We develop curricullums and conform to all the quality standards, but we end up teaching in an excellent manner the wrong paradigms to our students
  • We supervise research, but we merely quantify with SPSS what has happened historically when we should be developing concepts that help us manage in a chaotic world.
  • We write books for the sake of publication, but never measure it with the acceptance by industry.
  • We organise academic conference for academics so that we all can pay the conference fees and present our papers, never mind that nobody in the industry will want to pay the low fees to come and hear us speak.

The tasks that we list out will grow longer and academics will do more but produce less, as academic bureaucrats wrestle with "controlling" the situation by making us work towards all the wrong Key Performance Indices.

Carrying out the tasks of the academic is futile unless the work and graduates that we produce are relevant to the industry. We may have to stop and re-examine our role in the industry/society and country.

Are we doing things right when the Human Resource Ministry have to retrain our graduates, where no one believes in our SRP/SPM straight As students, and where HR managers sneer at our high percentage of 1st class and 2nd Upper Honours students who behave like diploma holders.

What do we say in reply to all the opinions that the public lay before us. Is it true that we are in an ivory tower still in blissful denial? Or should we become an academic like Peter Drucker, Kaplan and Norton where the industry look towards for guidance in a highly competitive world.

Any prizes for guessing why 90% of the top universities in the world are found in USA and Europe?

Our real work starts when we come out of our state of denial and re-connect ourselves back to the industry.

Something for FUN

What Advanced Degree Should You Get?

Try out this link:

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Leave research work and concentrate on teaching?

An opinion posted by a concerned parent on TheStar, 12th November 2005.

AS a parent I am rather confused by the letter “Distracted from their real work”, (The Star, Nov 10).

The writer seems to suggest that university teaching staff should be promoted based on their research and publications.

Isn't that a conflict of interest here?

How do teaching institutions ensure that staff actually teach with enthusiasm and dedication, and not in a perfunctory manner for the required time and then leave to concentrate on their own research?

After all what incentive is there to teach if your promotions are based on your research?

Furthermore if teaching staff have enough time on their hands to carry out research, why then do we have 60,000 unemployed graduates, who are apparently so poorly trained that they have to be retrained?

Why was the time spent on research not used to teach weaker students?

After all is it not the duty of the teacher to make sure that every student who walks out with a degree is well trained and competent?

We can always leave research to career researchers and scientific staff.

What do you think?

My personal opinion:
If the lecturer concentrating on the teaching alone, we are just imparting the 'done' work or "textbook" subject content to the students.

Research helps to links the theories with the applications especially in the real society or business environment. For social, scientific or business- related researchs, lecturers and students play a major role in discovering new ideas and knowledge - after all university is a powerhouse of knowledge - where new knowledge should be generated and shared.

I would say the lecturers should strive a balance in term of teaching and research. Teaching without doing a research is just like transfering the textbook syllabus to the students. Research without the teaching will limit the sharing and development of the new knowledge.

I strongly believe that it is the VALUE CREATION that each and every lecturer should possess and undertake to assist the students to manifest their potentials and to help the university to become the powerhouse of knowledge, which will drive the development of the society and the nation.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What is the real work of an university academician?

1. Teaching
2. Research
3. Send papers for publications
4. Developing new curriculums based on the industry, economics and social needs
5. Supervising students on theses or research works
6. Write books
7. Attending or presenting papers in the conferences
8. Attending meetings
9. What else? ...

An entry in Opinion column (The Star, 10th November 2005)

Distracted from their real work

Being an academician, I would like to give my opinion on why the majority of Malaysian universities are not in the ranking list of the world’s top universities.

The fall of Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia in the ranking list, with the exception of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), of the Times Higher Education Supplement is not really a shock to me.

In fact, I feel it is quite questionable how the three universities were listed in the first place.

Most local universities nowadays don't follow the norms of a university.

They do not use paper publications and citations as the main criteria of appraisal any more.

Each year, we see professors and associate professors being appointed with hardly any good international journal publications to their credit.

I don't think citations are considered at all in appraisals in any of the local universities.

Other important criteria such as appointments to the editorial board of international journals and programme committees of international conferences weren't considered.

The local universities are more interested in participating in exhibitions such as those held in Switzerland, Britain, Germany, Korea and the United States.

They are more interested in bringing home the gold, silver and bronze medals given by the organisers, which hardly have any value.

Over the last few years, there have been many academicians who were appointed as professors and associate professors just because they obtained gold medals in these exhibitions.

How could the two or three judges who are not experts in their respective fields and who evaluate research work have so much influence on our local universities' appraisals?

Moreover, these evaluations were done within five to 10 minutes and yet we see so many local universities are so proud of the gold medal achievements from these exhibitions which are more appropriately termed as “trade fairs.”

A paper submitted to a high-level international journal would normally take weeks and months to be reviewed by experts and professors from the same discipline from well-established universities.

The paper would then need to be revised before being published, if it does not get rejected.

However, there is a high possibility that the paper might be rejected.

Compare this difficulty of getting published in high-level journals to that of getting a gold medal at these trade exhibitions.

And yet we see vice-chancellors publicly rewarding the gold medallists from these exhibitions each year.

One way to measure whether a research has made any breakthrough is to do a survey of the hundreds of university researches which won gold medals over the last few years.

How many of these researches have actually been commercialised and brought revenue to the universities?

I think the Higher Education Ministry and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry should stop local universities from participating in these exhibitions.

Academicians should be doing high-level academic work and not participating in trade fairs.

I want to ask whether Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Oxford or even our neighbours, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, ever participated in these exhibitions at all to be ranked as the top universities in the world?

Kuala Lumpur.

More updates on University Ranking

A search committee will be established to identify the best candidates to head public universities as well as the setting up of a leadership academy to train lecturers.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh said a university’s success was a reflection of the quality of its leadership.

“We must select vice-chancellors who are capable leaders as well as acknowledged academics in their fields and who are committed to making the university a centre of knowledge. "

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Salleh Mohd Yasin said that having a search committee would augur well for local universities that want to become leading institutions.

“Overseas, the appointments of vice-chancellors are largely based on their leadership abilities as well as academic prowess. Now that we are practising meritocracy, we should select the best candidate for the job.”

Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob said he welcomed the proposed establishment of the leadership institute as lecturers were not trained in administrative matters.

“I think it’s a very good idea as we want only the best. This is also true when selecting a vice-chancellor to head a university,” he added.

Dr Shafie announced that the Government aimed to attract foreign academics of high calibre. Other steps include:

  • establishing a pool of academics and researchers who were active internationally,
  • creating incentives for successful researchers, and
  • boosting students’ soft skills.
(The Star, 10th November 2005)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

World University Ranking - UM and USM...... The Debate Goes On

For more than a week, much has been debated on the quality of the local education standard after the "disastrous downward" perfomance for the nation most prestigious university - Universiti Malaya (from 89th to 169th) in The Times Higher Education Supplement.


UM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob said that the marks the university obtained is more significant than its ranking. UM scored 0 in the employer survey and highest (33) for peer review. The university also scored low in citations (1%) and international students (7%).

“I think that universities have taken the ranking exercise more seriously this year and this has resulted in many of them improving their positions greatly.

“I am not worried because we are still within the top 200 and for the first time a Malaysian university has broken into the top 50 in the arts and humanities and the top 100 in the social sciences.”
(The Star, 30th October 2005)

The vice-chancellor noted that there were more than 30,000 universities worldwide and UM still managed to be in the top 200.

“I want to share my happiness with you that although there are so many universities in the world, we are number 169,” he said, citing other top universities which had dropped by many notches."
(The Star, 2nd November 2005)

At the same time, our nation 2nd ranked university (Universiti Sains Malaysia) was marginally out from the top 200 list, dropping from 111th to 200th.

USM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said that the addition of new criteria such as the employer survey could have contributed to the sharp drop in the university’s position.

“Our poor standing could also be attributed to the fact that we are a relatively young university compared to UM which is 100 years old. They have built up a stable reputation in that time.”

Prof Dzulkifli also cited the poor staff-student ratio in Malaysian universities.

“Over the past years we have doubled our intake. USM now has 35,000 students including 28,000 undergraduates but the number of lecturers, about 1,800 has not increased in tandem.”
(The Star, 30th October 2005)

An immediate action by USM:
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) has engaged a London-based consultant to report on the reasons for USM being dropped from the list of the world's top 200 universities published in The Times Higher Education Supplement 2005.
(The Star, 8th November 2005)

How about UM?
UM continue to highlight its "outstanding" ranking in the campus billboards on being:

45th in Arts and Humanities,
82nd in Biomedicine and
83rd in Social Science.

Pak Lah:
The Prime Minister wants Universiti Malaya (UM) to study why its ranking among the world’s top 200 universities slid from 89th position last year to 169th this year.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he was sad to hear of the drastic drop for the country’s oldest university.

“I hope UM will take the necessary action to rectify it.”
(The Star, 30th October 2005)

Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said :
"...there was no question it must be improved but questioned the accuracy of the survey, especially when a number of respondents were foreign lecturers and students."
(The Star, 30th October 2005)

Let's hear from our Opposition Leader, Lim Kit Siang:
"...the drop in ranking showed “the deep and prolonged crisis of higher education” in the country and urged the ministry to end its “denial syndrome”."
(The Star, 30th October 2005)

Universiti Malaya’s vice–chancellor should be reprimanded for not being worried that UM has dropped 80 places in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Ranking 2005, said Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang.

Lim said the Cabinet should censure Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob for his public pronouncement that he was “not worried” and instead felt “great happiness” over the decline of the university’s position in the international ranking.

He also described the situation as “prolonged and worsening crises of higher education” in the country.

In a statement yesterday, Lim called for ministers to highlight the matter during the Cabinet meeting.
(The Star, 6th November 2005)

3 points e-mail proposal to cabinet on world-class universities: (Kit Siang's blog)

Firstly, the establishment of Royal Commission on World-Class Universities in Malaysia, not headed by former government servants but eminent academicians, such as Royal Professor Ungku Aziz, former UM Vice Chancellor Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, former Vice Chancellor of Hong Kong University Professor Wang Gung Wu or distinguished academicians like Dr. Chandra Muzaffar and Prof. K.S. Jomo.

Secondly, the appointment of the “best and brightest” to lead the universities, whether as Vice Chancellor or Deans, starting with the appointment of an outstanding university academic as Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya.

Thirdly, the repeal of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) to restore the critical faculties of inquiry, meritocracy and academic freedom to usher the return of an university ethos of academic excellence, social awareness and national commitment by academicians and students with the ability to know the difference between right and wrong and the passion to right injustices.

Let's give it a thoughts and strive to improve the quality and professionalism in our teaching, syllabus and education system.

Note: This write-up is a selective excerpts from the newspaper articles and personal blog, used for personal reading and do not meant for any offensive or controversial opinion.

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