Pulling brakes on UiTM VC’s appointment sets wrong precedent, say academics

The legitimacy of the appointment and removal of vice-chancellors in public universities continue to become a talking point by those in the higher education sector.

The latest institution to hog the spotlight is Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM)’s vice-chancellor Prof Dr Roziah Mohd Janor.

On Aug 2, Roziah was appointed UiTM’s vice-chancellor by former higher education minister Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad.

However, five days later, Roziah was informed through a letter that her appointment as vice-chancellor, which was to have come into effect on Aug 9, had been postponed until a new decision is made by the government.

The Aug 7 letter, sighted by Twentytwo13, was signed by Higher Education Ministry director-general, Prof Datuk Dr Husaini Omar. It was sent just a day after Noraini resigned.

Noraini, an Umno MP, quit after her party withdrew its support for then prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his Perikatan Nasional government.

Those familiar with the matter wondered if the appointment of a vice-chancellor by a minister could be postponed.

“The appointment by the minister is valid as it was done in line with the Universities and University Colleges Act, 1971, which states that the higher education minister has the power to make appointments of top university office bearers,” said a UiTM senior academic who requested anonymity.

“So, why is the director-general of the ministry now putting Roziah’s appointment on hold? What is the basis of delaying the appointment when Roziah has all the necessary credentials?”

The academic added Roziah, who is the university’s deputy vice-chancellor (academics and international), was in fact, appointed acting vice-chancellor in March.

“The academic and supporting staff associations felt her appointment was timely,” she added.

The episode also raised questions if there was another candidate for the position.

Twentytwo13 learnt a retired UiTM professor was poised to return and serve as vice-chancellor. The appointment did not materialise following the collapse of Muhyiddin’s government last week.

“It makes sense to get someone within the organisation to be vice-chancellor instead of someone who has retired,” said another senior staff of the university.

“The government needs to be prudent right now. It does not make financial sense to pay pension and a vice-chancellor’s salary to the same person.”

“Public higher learning institutions are being ‘politicised’ and this does not augur well with education. While the minister has the power to appoint a vice-chancellor, it must not be about putting their own people in positions of power.

“There must be the will to allow for qualified professionals into office. The days of political appointments and patronage must end. It has been going on for far too long, even at the board of directors level, so much so that it has become the norm,” the academic added.