Academics call for broad, sweeping reforms to transform Malaysian universities into world beaters

Fundamental institutional reforms must take place to ensure Malaysian universities and academics reclaim their autonomy to power society and the country out of the pandemic and into a new world.

These reforms, according to the Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak), can be achieved through the establishment of a Committee on Institutional Reforms of Higher Education.

“Among the key issues that need to be addressed by the committee are reviewing all university constitutions, rules and decision-making processes to ensure they conform to internationally recognised standards of practice, and are in harmony with human rights, academic freedom and university autonomy,” said Gerak.

“The committee will study and propose ways to reduce red tape in universities, review the present Higher Education Ministry’s obsession with KPIs (key performance indicators), review the role of accreditation agencies like the Malaysian Qualifications Agency and Malaysian Research Assessment, re-evaluate the promotion criteria for academics, and promote a new university culture that values openness, discussion, diversity and democratic decision-making.”

Gerak said the committee should have the status and powers of a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

In a memorandum that was sent to Twentytwo13, the education body said local higher learning institutions have, for far too long, been under the yoke of the Higher Education Ministry. The top management in universities rarely speaks independently, let alone analytically.

“This relationship needs a reset, from the current overt hierarchy and political subordination, to one of mutual respect and critical engagement,” said Gerak.

Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad was re-appointed Higher Education Minister last week. She previously held the post for 18 months before resigning at the height of the political imbroglio involving Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s beleaguered Perikatan Nasional government.

As such, Gerak said Noraini must push for proper governance and reforms.

Twentytwo13 understands the memorandum was handed to Noraini last Friday. Copies of the memorandum were sent to the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Mazlan Yusof, director-general Datuk Husaini Omar, and opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Gerak urged Noraini to replace all politically appointed vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors, chairman and board of directors, and establish national search committees to appoint new university top management.

“The university Senate is another body that has been long dominated by patronage politics of top university management. Its composition should be opened to academics not holding any administrative role, who are freely elected to the Senate by their peers.

“The posts of registrar, chief librarian, bursar, director of assets and chief of information, must also be redesignated as contract positions payable via an allowance that is separate from the permanent service and salary grade positions of senior bureaucrats to ensure those who underperform would not continue to occupy these positions.

“A rotation of such positions will also allow for fresh ideas within the system.”

Gerak also called for the repeal of several draconian laws, including the Universities and University Colleges Act, and Act 605 of the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act with legislation that protects the freedom of university students and staff in their academic pursuits – underpinned by fundamental protections of freedom of thought and expression.

The group urged the ministry to look at equal opportunity and access to all stages of education, with the aim of replacing monolithic ethnic criteria with other fairer measures.

“The enrolment of university students should also reflect the diversity of Malaysian society (ethnicity, religion, gender, class and age) and admissions be based on merit, along with an affirmative preference given to students from disadvantaged and special needs backgrounds,” it added.

Other areas in need of reforms were the mundane practices that restricted diversity in thinking and teaching.

“Academics should be allowed to focus on teaching, research and writing. More time must be allocated for academics to do research and design their lessons and assessments by reducing administrative bureaucracy.”

Gerak added the ministry must play a proactive role in addressing issues revolving around higher education brought up specifically by the pandemic. This included holding talks on maintaining hybrid classes and addressing mental health issues among students, parents, and university staff.

Here are Twentytwo13’s news highlights.

HISHAMMUDDIN TO MEET MINISTERS SOON OVER EASING OF RULES

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein will meet Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, and Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa to discuss relaxations to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) as Malaysia is expected to enter the endemic stage of Covid-19 next month.

The senior defence minister, in a statement today, said the government was in the midst of reviewing relaxations in the SOPs to enable people to move around freely and return to their daily routines. Instate travel and the reopening of more sectors were among the new rules that were being discussed.

Hishammuddin also said he would instruct the National Security Council to ensure that the SOPs were clear.

EXPEDITE VACCINATIONS FOR 18 AND UNDER, URGES JOHOR GOVT

The Federal government has been urged to expedite the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines for those aged 18 and below.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad told the State Assembly this morning that providing vaccines to this group was more important than giving out booster jabs to those who were already fully vaccinated.

As of yesterday, 83.1 per cent of adults in Johor had received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 52.6 per cent were fully vaccinated.

The state will also be receiving 100,640 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Singapore, soon. This was in addition to the 20,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine the Republic donated to Johor two months ago.

HOUSEWIFE FINED FOR SPREADING FAKE NEWS ON COVID-19 VACCINE

Tengku Noor Azlin Wa Kembang Tengku Azizan was slapped with a RM12,000 fine after she was found guilty of spreading fake news regarding the Covid-19 vaccine.

The 46-year-old mother of five was accused of posting a video, ‘Who registered for Vaccine? This man reveals the danger of Covid-19 vaccine’, on her Facebook account on May 25 with the intention of causing anxiety among the public.

Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court judge M.M. Edwin Paramjothy said the video posted by Tengku Noor Azlin could trigger concern among the public about the vaccine.

The housewife was charged under Section 4(1) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No 2) Ordinance 2021, which carries a maximum fine of RM100,000, or three years imprisonment, or both. Tengku Noor Azlin, who was unrepresented, pleaded for the minimum sentence as she expressed remorse for her actions.

RTD COUNTERS NATIONWIDE NOW ACCEPT WALK-INS

The Road Transport Department (RTD) has opened its counters nationwide to customers – without the need to apply for an appointment online.

At the height of the movement control order, walk-ins were prohibited.

Customers, however, could still deal with RTD-related matters online, namely via MySikap JPJ, MyEG, Puspakom and Pos Malaysia.

MAN LOSES RM65,180 IN LOTTERY SCAM

A businessman lost RM65,180 after he was duped into paying the amount for a winning lottery number that would earn him RM1.1 million.

The 45-year-old victim transferred the money through multiple transactions into an account belonging to a man.

The victim claimed he found out about the scheme while on Facebook in March, and called the WhatsApp number that was given to learn more about it.

The victim made 16 transactions since March, with the latest payment, earlier this week.

The victim then became suspicious and lodged a police report at the Bentong district police headquarters yesterday.

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