A balanced view

Sunday May 25, 2008

A balanced view

The Star

The rating system announced recently provides the first objective snapshot of where Malaysian universities stand in relation to each other.

WE now know where Malaysian universities stand, following the release of the Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (Setara) 2007.

Mohamed Khaled (fourth from left) holding up a copy of the Setara 2007 report .Looking on are his deputies Datuk Idris Haron (left), Dr Hou Kok Ching (right) and other Setara committee members.

Setara provided a contrast to last year’s Academic Reputation Survey (Ares). Universiti Malaya (UM) got the highest marks under Setara, whlle Universiti Sains Malaysia scored the most marks under Ares.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who released the Setara results on May 16, said that a rating system provided a more complete and impartial picture, compared to ranking.

For Setara, a total of 17 public universities were rated in three categories – research, broadbased and specialised. No university earned the highest rating – six stars. UM was the only institution to score five stars in any of the three categories.

Mohamed Khaled said that Setara would enable universities to measure their strengths and weaknesses with a view to improving their standing in international rankings. Funding might also be linked to the universities’ Setara score.

There were six domains of measurement with different weightage for each category of university: academic staff reputation, student selectivity, research, academic programmes, resources and management. (See chart)

The ranking was based on 2006 data and was compiled by a team headed by Prof Dr Che Husna Azahari from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). It was coordinated by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

The other panel members were Assoc Prof Ir Dr Othman A Karim, Assoc Prof Dr Siti Rahayah Ariffin, Dr Wan Rosmanira Ismail, Wan Mohd Zulkhir Wan Hassan (all from UKM), consultant Dr Zulkifli Senteri (who was formerly from MQA) and Laily Kamariah Mohd Jamil from MQA.

Three universities – Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, Universiti Darul Iman Malaysia and Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia were not included under Setara because they were new, and did not have sufficient data.

As a benchmark, the compilers also visited the National University of Singapore, University of Melbourne, Indian Institute of Technology, Mahidol University and University of Technology Sydney to test Setara against those institutions.

UM’s Prof Kurunathan Ratnavelu said that the introduction of Setara was a welcome move by the ministry.

“With the ever increasing focus in recent years on the quality of Malaysian universities in rankings like The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), we should view Setara as part of the process to benchmark ourselves.”

He added that in this age of globalisation, the introduction of a competitive element among local universities was a good thing.

“I think there should be no envy between the universities as our focus is to build world-class institutions.

“This will not happen overnight but within a 15- to 20-year time-frame. The introduction of Ares and Setara are positive steps in this direction.”

However, Prof Kurunathan said that Setara should include ratings for the different disciplines, like Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Information Technology to provide better insight into the quality of research and teaching in these courses.

He said that potential undergraduate and postgraduate students would then be able to use Setara as a guide for applying to the best universities in these disciplines.

“These measures would have a strong spillover effect on creating a truly world-class Malaysian university by 2025.”

Prof Kurunathan added that the process of compiling Setara must be beyond reproach and teams that conduct such exercises must be seen to be transparent and impartial.

USM Academic and Administrative Staff Association president Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda also brought up the question of neutrality and impartiality.

“We shouldn’t have a majority of people from the same university on the committee. People might question – however unfairly – the validity of Setara’s results because of this.”

Wan Adnan also said that some of the domains evaluated under Setara, such as resources, might unfairly disadvantage smaller and newer universities.

“Things like academic reputation are important to students and parents and it is valid to measure them.

“Ultimately, Setara should play a role in attracting good students and good academics to a university,” he said.

Another academic, however, did not see much point in releasing Setara unless the report came with major changes.

“Now that UM is declared five-star, can it also charge five-star prices?

“Will academics in the highly-ranked universities be paid more, and will students, too, have to pay higher tuition fees to reflect this?” asked the academic, who did not want to be named.

Felda grads look ahead

The Star

SHOUTS of elation, high five exchanges and the almost impossible struggle to hold back the tears were just some of the scenes at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology recently.

While the neutral onlooker might frown at the loud display of emotion, the 409 Felda graduates of the Generasi Baru programme could not care less.

From left: Mohammad Jazlan, Ruziana Kliwon, Rahimah Masjan, Norzazrina Zainuddin and Muhammad Agus, winners of the Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak Award for Creativity and Innovation, posing with their plaques.

“This is our moment,” said a few in unison, armed with freshly-minted diplomas. And who could disagree?

“Felda students were only guaranteed secondary education 30 years ago and without strong education attainment, their only way forward in life was to be a teacher or a Felda administrative staff,” said Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Idris Haron, who attended the graduation ceremony.

“In fact, my parents were rubber tappers after their retirement and this issue is very close to my heart.I can see that it is special for you too,” he continued. “It was so quiet when I graduated – it felt like a funeral. All of you shout so much but it’s okay. Shout away.”

With their parents and relatives in tow, the throng of people exceeded the capacity of the university hall and only parents were allowed in.

“I feel very happy for my son as we are poor and simple folk,” said a father who had come from Pahang. “I know it was hard for him to adjust to the pace of modern life in the beginning.

“Having overcome the challenges, I hope he won’t forget his roots and will come back to his settlement now and then to inspire others.”

Launched in 2005 by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the Generasi Baru programme is designed to provide the next generation of Felda settlers with tertiary education at Limkokwing.

Students received their diplomas in disciplines such as animation, broadcasting, digital photography, interior design, hair design, fashion and apparel design, graphic design, advertising, information technology, business management and tourism management.

Among them was Faculty of Communication, Media and Broadcasting graduate Norzazrina Zainuddin who hails from Najib’s hometown of Pekan. The connection was further amplified as she was awarded the Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak Award for Creativity and Innovation.

“I enjoyed my mass communication studies here as I always loved using the camera,” Norzazrina said. “I learned a lot here and made full use of the opportunity to be part of the Princeworks filming crew for three months.”

Not stopping there, the brand ambassador for Felda even dabbled with script writing and hopes to work with embassies eventually.

‘“I plan to pursue a degree now,” she added. “I’ve always been a confident person and have built on that in my time here. I’m happy to represent the university.”

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Norzazrina.

“My parents came here today and they were crying when I received my scroll as it has been a hard journey for all of us. They found it hard to understand and accept that my work for the media was not a nine-to-five job. Sometimes, I returned home really late. I took a lot of time to explain things to them and appreciate that they love me regardless.”

As the ceremony ended and the crowd slowly eased their way out, the Generasi Baru graduates congregated at the stage for one last group photo.

However, some were slow to move. At first, it seemed like they were lost. But watching them more closely, it looked like they were committing the occasion to memory.


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 (Bernama) — The weather, food and technological facilities have not deterred foreign students from choosing Malaysia for further studies, the Dewan Negara was told today.

On the contrary, these factors have attracted them as the number of foreign students coming to Malaysia has increased over the years, said Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Idris Haron.

Indonesia has sent the biggest number of foreign students to Malaysia followed by China, Iran, Nigeria and Yaman, he said when responding to a question from Senator Datuk Soon Tian Szu at the Dewan Negara today.

“My Yamanese counterpart, Mohamed Mutaher, who is impressed with Malaysia, said Yaman will send 500 more students here,” said Idris.


Pilihan raya: Mahasiswa diberi amaran

Pilihan raya: Mahasiswa diberi amaran

BANGI 12 Dis. – Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi memberi amaran kepada semua mahasiswa institusi pengajian tinggi (IPT) supaya tidak terlibat dalam kempen pilihan raya kecil Parlimen Kuala Terengganu bulan depan.

Timbalan Menterinya, Datuk Idris Haron berkata, beliau sendiri akan memantau perkara itu bagi memastikan tidak ada mahasiswa melibatkan diri dalam kegiatan itu yang merupakan kesalahan mengikut Akta Universiti dan Kolej Universiti 1971 (AUKU).

Beliau berkata, golongan mahasiswa sepatutnya memberi tumpuan kepada tugas utama mereka iaitu untuk mencari ilmu.

“Saya merayu supaya pelajar tidak melibatkan diri dengan kempen politik kerana parti yang bertanding telah mempunyai jentera yang lengkap.

“Kami semua adalah pekerja parti, pelajar berilah tumpuan kepada pelajaran mereka,” katanya pada sidang akhbar selepas merasmikan Majlis Penutupan Seminar Sukan Universiti ASEAN di sini hari ini.

Seminar anjuran Akademi Sukan Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) itu disertai 110 peserta tempatan dan 40 peserta dari negara-negara ASEAN.

Tarikh penamaan calon bagi pilihan raya kecil Parlimen Kuala Terengganu yang diadakan berikutan kematian penyandangnya, Datuk Razali Ismail ditetapkan pada 6 Januari depan manakala hari pengundian pula pada 17 Januari.

Mengenai seminar sukan itu, Idris berkata, pihaknya mahu melihat universiti dijadikan medan untuk mengasah bakat sukan di kalangan mahasiswa bukan menjadi tempat menguburkannya.

Beliau berkata, para pentadbir universiti dan pensyarah tidak wajar beranggapan penumpuan terhadap bidang sukan akan menyebabkan penarafan universiti mereka merudum.

Beliau berkata, perkara itu telah dibuktikan oleh universiti-universiti ternama dunia yang turut cemerlang dalam bidang sukan.

“Kalau maju sukan, penarafan universiti akan naik. Universiti Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard dan Yale umpamanya mempunyai pasukan pendayung terhebat dunia.

“Kalau masyarakat kita kata sukan akan menyebabkan kemerosotan prestasi akademik di universiti, itu saya bantah,” katanya.

Botswana will still send students to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Botswana will continue to send its students to Malaysia for higher education despite having two of its students allegedly committing suicide several months after settling down here.

Botswana’s Education Minister Jacob Nkate said the two specific cases could not be the reason for the country to stop sending government-sponsored students here.

“We send the students here because the medium of instruction is English, and Malaysia is a free, liberal country,” Nkate said, adding that the country sends about 7,000 students overseas each year.

Courtesy call: Nkate (left) visiting Idris at Parliament Thursday.

Up till June 30, there were 1,635 Botswana students in institutions of higher learning in Malaysia.

Nkate is in town to meet with Botswana students here to find out more about the students who died.

His delegation also met Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Idris Haron yesterday to discuss the issue.

Idris suggested that Botswana set up an office here to look into the welfare of its students.

According to a report in an African news portal, four Botswana students died in Malaysia this year in car accidents and two fell from the balconies of their apartment after drinking alcohol.

Yesterday, The Star reported that some Botswana students felt they were being unfairly treated in Malaysia, and some of them had claimed they had to put up with insults daily.

Meanwhile, heads of higher education institutions gave an assurance that the safety and well-being of African students in Malaysia were a priority.

“Personnel from the counselling unit and the student affairs department are always available to students from Botswana and other African countries,” said UCSI University president Peter Ng.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing said there were around 700 Botswana students in the institution, and given the chance, many would like to return here as they enjoyed Malaysian food and customs.

“I assure you that for every student with trouble adapting, 10 will tell you they enjoy themselves,” he said.

In a related development, a Botswana student said suicide was not prevalent among them.

“We cannot generalise just because a few people took their lives,” said the engineering student who declined to be named.

Another student said she did not find Malaysians hostile and had no problems adapting to the local culture.


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 (Bernama) — Students have been urged not to turn the institutions of higher learning into a graveyard of sports.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk Idris Haron said participation in sports would not impede academic achievements of the students and universities.

He said public and private institutions of higher learning were equipped with sport facilities to encourage students to take up sports.

“The universities can produce national athletes who could bring glory to the country.

“Do not turn public and private universities into a graveyard of sports as academic studies and sports excellence can go hand-in-hand,” he said after opening a sports seminar in conjunction with the Asean University Games in Bangi near here today.

He said 150 participants attended the seminar which was aimed at enhancing students and universities’ involvement in sports.


Pelajar jangan abai kokurikulum

Pelajar jangan abai kokurikulum

KOTA BHARU 1 Dis. – Ibu bapa dinasihatkan supaya tidak bimbang dengan penglibatan anak-anak dalam aktiviti kokurikulum kerana kajian mendapati pelajar yang terjebak dalam gejala sosial secara umumnya terdiri daripada mereka yang mengabaikan kegiatan di sekolah.

Timbalan Menteri Pengajian Tinggi, Datuk Idris Haron berkata, pelajar yang terlibat mengalihkan perhatian kepada kegiatan yang merugikan dan bertentangan dengan undang-undang.

”Mereka ada banyak masa dan tenaga yang disalurkan kepada kegiatan seperti merempit, berdemonstrasi atau menyertai pertubuhan yang dilarang sehingga akhirnya menjejaskan masa depan mereka,” ujarnya.

Sehubungan itu, katanya, kementerian berharap ibu bapa memberi dorongan kepada anak-anak agar memberi tumpuan dan tidak perlu bimbang jika anak-anak mereka aktif dalam kokurikulum.

”Jangan risau apabila anak-anak terlibat dalam kokurikulum seperti sukan dan yakinlah mereka adalah kalangan insan yang berguna dan tidak mudah terpesong,” katanya ketika berucap merasmikan Kejohanan Taekwando Antarabangsa Terbuka Kelantan-Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) di sini semalam.

Kejohanan kali pertama anjuran Persatuan Taekwando Negeri Kelantan (PTNK), Kelab Taekwando USM dan pengurusan USM, Kubang Kerian di sini disertai oleh 16 pasukan yang mewakili kelab dan negeri termasuk enam pasukan dari Thailand.

Akademi Taekwando Cemerlang muncul sebagai juara keseluruhan dengan menggondol 14 emas, 9 perak, 12 gangsa diikuti Persatuan Taekwando Negeri Kelantan (9 emas, 7 perak, 15 gangsa) dan ketiga Pasukan Taekwando Pattani (9 emas, 4 perak dan 1 gangsa).

Katanya, seni mempertahankan diri merupakan salah satu kegiatan yang dapat mendisiplinkan pelajar di samping mencergaskan fizikal dan pemikiran mereka serta menanam keyakinan diri yang kukuh.

”Malah ia menyemai semangat kesukanan dan mendorong mereka untuk mengejar kecemerlangan dalam apa bidang yang ceburi melalui penguasaan ilmu dan kemahiran,” ujarnya.

Katanya, di institusi pengajian tinggi, penglibatan pelajar dalam kokurikulum sememangnya diwajibkan kerana ia sebahagian daripada persiapan untuk melahirkan graduan yang bersedia dan mampu menghadapi cabaran.

”Dalam usaha mengangkat pengajian tinggi negara ini ke taraf antarabangsa, kerajaan mahu pelajar mencapai kecemerlangan yang seimbang dalam bidang akademik dan juga bukan akademik.

”Selaras dengan matlamat itu, kita mahukan pelajar yang dapat membina keyakinan diri, berfikiran kritis dan kreatif dengan terlibat dalam kegiatan kokurikulum,” ujarnya.