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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Apex University - UM or USM?

Googled around, but haven't seen an announcement yet.

Background here for future reference - http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/8/29/nation/22195944&sec=nation. Also covered in Education in Malaysia blog here - http://educationmalaysia.blogspot.com/.

Extract below:

Friday August 29, 2008

UM and USM lead the way


PETALING JAYA: Both Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Malaya (UM) are frontrunners to receive apex university status.

Many believe that by virtue of its history and status UM would be the natural choice but USM may spring a surprise.

In last year’s Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, UM was the highest ranked at 246, followed by USM at 307, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) at 309 and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) at 364.

UM was the only public higher education institution to obtain a five-star rating in the Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions 2007.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is expected to announce the name of the university selected under the accelerated programme for excellence (apex) when he delivers Budget 2009 at the Dewan Rakyat today.

A selection committee headed by former Universiti Malaysia Sarawak vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamad Zawawi Ismail short-listed four universities – UM, USM, UKM and UPM.


He had said the country would select one or two apex universities, which would be granted more autonomy and resources to create an environment that would attract the best students and faculty.

Two comments:

1. Where is UiTM on the short list? *grin*

2. Whilst the concept of having one or two Apex Universities is extremely welcomed, my greatest fear is that politics have a way of screwing the implementation up. Like Tony, I prefer to see two (2) universities selected, to provide competition.

The goal must be unanimous and must be very clear to all. Is it to break into the Top 100 Universities in the world? It can be fine-tuned. But make no mistake - the global competition is intense. In the THES, UM is only ranked 246 currently.

The Apex University must be completely independent of politics.

Meritocracy must be the primary culture in the university. The VC and the entire management team positions must be staffed by the best and given complete backing and autonomy to do what they think is best to achieve the primary goal. The students must be screened for the best. You have plenty of other universities to pick up the rest. The Apex University concept must never be compromised for any reason whatsoever.

Reverse the brain drain. If necessary, head hunt for the best in the world and bring them into Malaysia. They will not be cheap, but they'll be worth it a million times over in the long run. There may also be a few potentially world-class lecturers hidden somewhere due to politics. Identify them, promote them, and allow them the freedom and the space to do what's necessary.

I believe we have the raw material to make it possible. Ironically, it requires strong political will in order to not interfere politically. The only question is will our political leaders share this goal? Or will they be merely paying lip service, as they have done for decades?

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