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Shafie – your response to  UM and USM’s plunge in  the 2005 World University Ranking?


Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

Parliament , Monday): Everyone who turned to page 14 of today’s  New Straits Times with  its full-page  interview and  headline “I continue to do my job” with Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr. Shafie Mohd Salleh expected some cheer after the bleak and gloomy news in the past two days after Friday’s release of the  Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Ranking 2005 which saw University of Malaya (UM)  plunging 80 places from 89th to 169th position while University Sains Malaysia (USM) fell more than 89 places and was knocked out of the Top 200 Universities ranking altogether.

Will Shafie at last come into his own and demonstrate that he is not some “medicine man” as many had regarded him in his 18 months in  the newly-created post of Higher Education Minister but a turnaround artist for the whole host of public universities led by the University of Malaya,  erstwhile “the nation’s premier university”, with plunging international academic standards and reputations.

If NST is not the masthead  of UMNO’s own media empire, one would suspect the interview as a set-up to embarrass Shafie in the wake of the nation-wide shock and outrage at the atrocious showing of the nation’s premier university in the THES World University Ranking 2005.

There was not a word about the nation’s shame and infamy in the World University Ranking 2005.  To be fair, the interview could have been conducted before the release of the Ranking in London on Friday, but both Shafie and NST should have the sense to know that the interview would have been rendered completely irrelevant unless updated with his response to release of the World University Ranking 200-5 which highlighted  the deep-seated  higher education crisis in the country in general and the  the plight of UM and USM in particular

Does Shafie agree with the University of Malaya Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hashim Yaacob that there is “nothing to worry” about the THES World University Ranking 2005 despite UM falling 80 places to 169th  and USM disappearing completely from the List or will he publicly repudiate him to set new national and international benchmarks for Vice Chancellors in the public universities in the country?

Shafie’s interview merely recycled the failed  recipes which have brought about the decline and fall in international standards of reputations  of public universities, marking their failure in an important aspect of global competition – that of tertiary education.   

Shafie made two  statements in his interview which are particularly objectionable:

# His statement that a committee has been set up to look into the review of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), which he first announced in Parliament in response to my query during the  winding-up debate on the 2006 Budget last week. However, Shafie had promised me in Parliament that he would  constitute an independent and credible review committee including representatives from reputable academicians and representatives from the civil society.  Shafie has clearly broken his word in proceeding to set up the review committee and urging it start review of the UUCA, without consultation on its composition and terms of reference or accountability to MPs  whatsoever.

# His inability to justify the “hush-hush” over the findings of the Zahid Committee report on the future direction and policy of higher education. Shafie said: “The report will be made public but not now.” Can Shafie explain why?  It is understandable though unjustifiable in not making public the Zahid Report because it is not meant to be released to the public, but if the Zahid Report is to be eventually  made public, why not now instead of two,  five or ten years later?

Shafie must be asked whether he has any clue as to why and how to halt and reverse the plunge in academic standards and standings of UM and the other public universities in the country!

For a start, can we hear from Shafie  his full thoughts and responses to the THES World University Ranking 2005 vis-à-vis UM and USM and the “nothing to worry” mindset and philosophy of the UM Vice Chancellor to the plunge of UM in the World University Ranking 2005?                     



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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