Academics cry foul over MQA CEO’s appointment as Universiti Malaysia Pahang’s board member

Academics have cried foul over the appointment of Datuk Dr Mohammad Shatar Sabran to the board of Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP).

Reason? He is the chief executive officer of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) – the body that monitors and oversees standards of higher learning institutions in Malaysia.

Citing a potential conflict of interest, Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) chairman Prof Zaharom Nain, said the appointment was “just not right”.

“When you have the MQA CEO sitting on the board of a university, we seem to be lost, as to what is right and what is wrong, that’s going on in this country,” said Zaharom.

“The MQA is an agency established under the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Act. Whoever heads the MQA has a responsibility to ensure that the quality and standards at higher learning institutions are met. And the staff, more so the higher echelons of MQA, need to be credible.”

Mohammad Shatar was named MQA’s CEO on Feb 8 this year. His term ends on Feb 7, 2024.

His three-year tenure in UMP came into effect on Aug 16.

Zaharom added Mohammad Shatar’s appointment reflected the poor and inconsistent decision-making processes within the Higher Education Ministry.

“It also raises questions about cronyism. This decision is not good for the MQA and the Higher Education Ministry. The credibility of these agencies is at stake,” he said.

In a statement earlier this week, Gerak said that appointments to university boards in recent times had reeked of political patronage.

“The ministry must also explain what standard operating procedures are in place, if at all, and how these ‘questionable’ decisions and procedures conform to these higher education policies,” the statement read.

Rosli H. Mahat, a retired associate professor of physics, questioned the rationale of Mohammad Shatar’s appointment.

“There are hundreds of retired professors. Don’t tell me there isn’t a single person from this pool qualified for the position.”

He added one cannot be setting the standards and be part of a higher learning institution.

“It then becomes pointless to have a representative from the MQA, which dictates the university, to be on the board of directors,” he added.

Former Universiti Sains Malaysia chemistry professor Datuk Dr Omar Shawkataly said he was surprised upon learning about the matter.

“How does he (Mohammad Shatar) remain impartial if an issue concerning UMP crops up at the MQA level? Whose side will he take?

“It is a basic issue. What is there not to understand? Why is the ministry acting as if it cannot comprehend this?” he asked.