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Urgent motion in Parliament on Monday on the THES World University Ranking 2005 on University of Malaya plunging from 89th to 169th position and USM falling out of the Top 200 Universities bracket from No. 111 position last year
by Lim Kit Siang
In my notice to the Speaker, I said:
“The plunge of more than 80 places by UM and more than 89th places by USM, and the failure of the other 15 other universities to be ranked in the THES Top 200 Universities reflect a deep and worsening higher education crisis, plummeting from a country with world-class university status in the sixties to one associated with academic mediocrity despite expansion of one to 17 public universities in the past four decades.
“For the first time, Malaysia’s premier university lost out to Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University and there are 17 Australian Universities which are internationally regarded as better than the premier Malaysian university.
“It is a national shame when it appears that any university in Australia is better than the best in Malaysia when Malaysian human capital and talents are no less inferior to Australians. If we lose out, it is in our system of governance and educational institutions.
“The THES Ranking is a serious reflection of Malaysia’s losing battle for international competitiveness with the rest of the world, which holds far-reaching implications for the country’s future progress and success in achieving the Vision 2020 objective of being a fully-developed nation.
“In the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s annual Academic Ranking of World Best 500 Universities, not a single Malaysian university had been able to be included the past three consecutive years.
“It is Parliament’s duty to hold an urgent debate.”
After my email to all Ministers last Tuesday reminding them of the fundamental principle of collective Ministerial responsibility which imposes on every Cabinet Minister the individual responsibility for major policy failures and scandals, (which did not reach all Cabinet Ministers as there are still Ministers who do not have any email on their Ministry’s official websites), I had expected a vigorous and far-sighted strategy to address the deep and worsening higher education crisis in Malaysia after an intensive Cabinet discussion on Wednesday.
It is most disappointing that the Cabinet meeting was a dismal failure, as there was no bold and courageous step to halt the rot, arrest the decline in university excellence, standards and quality and put the universities back on the long hard road towards world-class status and eminence.
All hope now rests on one person to give a new sense of direction, leadership and vision to the mess that is now the public university system in the country. He is the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was unable to chair the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday because he had to be in Africa for the Southern Africa International Dialogue. Can Abdullah rise up to the challenge?
The failure of the Cabinet on Wednesday to provide a new strategic leadership to resolve the grave universities crisis is another example why more and more Malaysians are alarmed at the drift and lack of direction of the present government, apart from a surfeit of sweet-sounding rhetoric.
It is sad that the country is being led by a team of Ministers who lack not only fresh ideas and new energies, but suffers from a terrible blindness to recognize the grave dilemmas facing the country, whether educational, international competitiveness, nation-building, good governance or national integrity.
How can the Cabinet, for instance, continue to allow the University of Malaya (UM) Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr. Hashim Yaacob to exploit the names of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Higher Education Minister for his personal glory by putting up their photographs on giant billboards in the campus grounds to claim their endorsement for UM’s abysmal outcome in the 2005 World Top 200 Universities ranking?
I specially visited the UM campus yesterday to find out whether the seven giant billboards, including the three using the photographs of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Higher Education Minister, which had been put up on 31st October ( two days after the release of the THES World University Ranking 2005) had been removed.
I was most surprised to find the seven billboards still standing in the campus, making me wonder as to what was the purpose of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday when it discussed the THES World University Ranking 2005.
So long as the billboards are not removed, they constitute public endorsement by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Higher Education Minister for UM’s continued descent in university excellence, standards and quality – raising big question marks about their sense of judgment, wisdom and leadership.
Malaysia must be the only country in the world where the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Higher Education Minister could collectively praise their public universities not for gaining international fame but the reverse. Do the Malaysian leaders want to create another world record of “Malaysia Boleh” when government leaders rush to give praise for failures rather than success?
The seven billboards in UM are billboards of shame and dishonour, to the UM Vice Chancellor, the UM, the three leaders displayed on the billboards (PM, DPM and Higher Education Minister) and to the country.
Everyday the Billboards of Shame and Dishonour are allowed to stand in the UM is another day of the failure of UM and the government to return UM to world-class university status and an indictment of the seriousness of purpose of top government leaders to steer Malaysia to greater international competitiveness to face the challenges of globalization.
I will monitor the seven billboards of shame and dishonour in the University of Malaya and will highlight them in Parliament if they continue to stand in the university campus as they advertise the urgent need for the removal of the UM VC and a total revamp of the UM administrative leadership.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman