The first step towards quality higher education is to remove all restrictions on freedom of expression casted on our universities
While the position is a quantum leap of 40 spots from its position in 2010, there are still a lot to catch up by UM as National University of Singapore (NUS) is always ranked top 50 in any ranking although the two universities started on equal footing at the same time.
Research activity is one of the many factors contributing to the improved ranking of UM in 2011. The university needs to provide more resources and allocations to academicians and researchers to publish papers in high impact journals like the Thomson ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) which includes citation databases covering thousands of academic journals, such as the Science Citation Index, the Social Sciences Citation Index and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index.
Although it is reported that UM published some 1800 academic papers in 2010, it is still far behind NUS as the prime university from Singapore publishes more than 5,000 academic papers a year. Even from 2006 to 14th February 2011, UM only publishes 9,053 papers whereby Thailand’s Mahidol University and Chulalongkorn University publish 21,035 and 16,928 papers in total. The two universities in Singapore ie NUS and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) publish 116,608 papers and 52,122 papers respectively.
Besides, the federal government should allow more freedom to researchers, lecturers, professors and even university students to engage in academic discussion, debates and even researches on sensitive issues. Such openness is imperative to nurture a culture of questionging, to always question the truth by asking the right questions. University is a place to pursue and develop knowledge. The time is high now for Malaysians to discard the mentality that universities are merely places to provide graduates to fill in the blanks in the industry. Instead, teaching qualities of our varsities should couple with strong capacity in developing knowledges for the benefit of mankind. Malaysians, including the business sector should in return support the university’s role in developing knowledges so as to improve the value chain of our industry and economy.
One point that Malaysians should not forget is that University of Malaya, like other public unversities in Malaysia, is also tied down by the notorious University and University College Act which highly restricts students’ freedom in expressing opinions and challenging the views of the authority.
The first step towards quality higher education is to remove all restrictions on freedom of expression casted on our universities. I am sad that the Ministry of Higher Education, despite all the talks for the past few years, has not even tabled any amendments in the Parliament to amend the Act as they had promised initially. Our stand is that the Act itself has long exceeded it shelf live and ought to be repealed. It is even more worrying that our univerisities could be placing more weightage on securing better ranking, ignoring the fact that there are still all forms of restriction against university students.
University students in Malaysia are still regarded very much as secondary school students who cannot think independently even though they are termed “mahasiswa” in Malay which literally means the “great graduate”.
Our students must be givern the room and encouragement to explore their capabilities and capacities. Management of our universities should place equal importance on science, arts and social sciences in order to provide a balanced education for our students.
This is biggest challenge for our tertiary education especially for University of Malaya, the university that prides itself as the oldest and the most established institution of higher education in Malaysia.