Forward    Feedback    

Rafiah faces her greatest challenge in her two-year contract  as Vice Chancellor to restore University of Malaya to its former heights to be at par with Universities of Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne  ï¿½ never mind about taking it to  ï¿½greater  heights�


Media Statement (1)

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Saturday) : I congratulate Datuk Rafiah Salim for her appointment as Vice Chancellor of University of Malaya, breaking another glass-ceiling for woman in top positions in the country.

Her appointment coincided with the announcement of the appointment of the first woman deputy Chief Police Officer � Senior Assistant Commissioner (II)   Zaleha Abdul Rahman as Malacca deputy CPO.  It is good to see the breaking of more and more glass ceilings faced by women, as in the recent appointment of a woman as Federal traffic police chief � Senior Assistant Commissioner (II) Nooryah Md Anvar.

However, as I have stated  both inside and outside Parliament, I would have preferred her appointment to be the result of being  �the best person for the job, regardless of ethnicity, gender or even nationality�, instead of being �the best woman for the job�, to demonstrate that the  Prime Minister�s Ninth Malaysia Plan commitment to create a Malaysia with  �first-class mentality� and �world-class universities� is fully understood and implemented at all levels of public life.

The announcement of Rafiah�s appointment as the new UM VC has found most academics in the university quite dumbstruck � as she was not really regarded as the favourite  for the post, although she had been publicly listed as one of the three short-listed woman candidates, the others being Prof Datuk Dr. Sharifah Hapsah Shahabudin, National Accreditation Board CEO and Prof. Dr. Mahani Zainal Abidin, Higher Education Department deputy director-general (management sector).

This is because Rafiah does not have a Ph.D � at a time when the Prime Minister had highlighted in his Ninth Malaysia Plan speech in Parliament  the importance of getting 60  per cent of academics in public universities to possess  Ph.Ds by the year 2010 � and was not a full professor during her 14-year service in UM from 1974 � 1988, ending as Dean of Law Faculty.

Be that as it may, I wish her the best and all success, as she has a very challenging and even unenviable task.  In her immediate comment, Rafiah said:

"It�s a great challenge and I feel that UM is a great institution with a whole lot of history. There are brilliant people in the university and I will work with them to take the university to greater heights."

Rafiah needs to be corrected. Her greatest challenge in her two-year contract  as VC  is not to take the nation�s premier university   to �greater heights� but  to restore UM to its former heights first, when in the sixties and seventies it was regarded as a world-class university at par if not better than the universities of Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne.

This is a very tall task � with University of Malaya  having fallen so far behind in international rankings  of universities excellence, even trailing behind Thailand�s Chulalongkorn University after falling 80 places from 89th to 169th placing in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World Universities Ranking 2005.

Although Rafiah�s appointment has caught everyone, in particular the academics in UM,  by surprise causing them to be dumbstruck even a day after the announcement, she can rely on considerable goodwill, support and expectation from the majority of academicians who want change and reform to stamp out mediocrity and arrest and reverse the decline of academic  excellence and standards down the decades.

She should leverage her  vast and varied experience in Malayan Banking, Bank Negara and United Nations as Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management 1997-2002 and her last appointment as executive director of the International Centre for Leadership in Finance (ICLF) to restore an academic culture and environment where academic freedom, quality, excellence, creativity and greatness can flourish.

Returning to University of Malaya after nearly two decades, Rafiah should bring a breath of fresh air to clear the campus of the many camps and factions which had been formed to promote their self interests instead of the university�s academic excellence and international repute.

Among the first changes she should effect to put University of Malaya on the track back to its  former heights are:

  • firstly, to de-politicise the nation�s premier university, whether among academicians or students; and
  • secondly, to remove the culture of fear stifling academic freedom and creativity caused by the Universities and University Colleges Act,  the Statutory Bodies and Surcharge Act and Aku Janji requirements by getting the support of the Prime Minister and the Higher Education Minister to suspend their operation for two years.


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

Your e-mail:

Your name: 

Your friend's e-mail: 

Your friend's name: