Appoint brave men with entrepreneurial spirit as to captain our universities–Former UM VC Ghauth Jasmon

New York

June 21, 2016

COMMENT: When it comes to university administration, no one in Malaysia today is better qualified than Tan Sri Ghauth Jasmon, former Vice Chancellor of my alma mater, The University of Malaya (now Universiti Malaya). I welcome his appointment when it announced some years ago as great hope for the university, only to be disappointed that his insecure political masters decided to remove him.

Why? Tan Sri Jasmon had an independent and entrepreneurial streak and the guts to institute drastic changes in the way our oldest university would operate. He sought to improve academic standards, improve ranking of Universiti Malaya, and adopt a “publish or perish”culture among the academic staff. He also changed the business culture of the university Universiti Malaya to make less dependent on the government for funding. These objectives are noble ones but threatening to vested interests with a different agenda.

Bringing about change is a risky business. You need guts and vision with a strong heart. Italian  Niccolo Machiavelli was among the first political philosophers to have made this observation. In our country, men like Tan Sri Jasmon are not welcome because they upset the status quo. “Business as usual is good for those seek  to benefit, usually of personal nature, from it.

Yes, we need strong and committed  individuals, men (and women) who pursue excellence by example, to lead our universities if we are to change the standard of our institutions  of higher education. I wonder who will heed his call for moral courage, and entrepreneurship.–Din Merican

Appoint brave men with entrepreneurial spirit as to captain our universities–Former UM VC Ghauth Jasmon

by Minderjeet Kaur

This, says former Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Ghauth Jasmon, is the formula to improve education standards in public universities.

Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya was conferred the award of Honorary Degree of the Doctor of Science (DSc) by the University of Wales, Cardiff at a convocation ceremony at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on Friday, 4th May 2012. Tan Sri Jasmon is now Vice Chancellor, Sunway University

The way to improve standards at Malaysian universities is to employ vice-chancellors who are brave enough to make changes and think like entrepreneurs.

This is the view of former Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Prof Ghauth Jasmon.

He said today that Malaysian public universities had failed to produce world class universities because they had become heavily reliant on the Government. This, he said, had made vice-chancellors complacent.

“In Malaysia, the Government gives students to varsities. Money is given. There are no challenges. The VC does not have any idea how to raise funds. They are too afraid to make any change because their neck is always on the chopping block from pressure groups and the Government,” he said.

He was speaking to about 100 people, mostly from the education sector, at a forum on expanding private higher education organised by the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia.

Ghauth, who is well respected in education circles, said the Malaysian Government gave 80 per cent of the operating cost to each public university whereas the governments of Thailand and Indonesia only gave 20 per cent of the operating cost.

“The VCs in these two countries have no choice but to operate like private colleges. They offer courses relevant to the market needs. Their syllabuses are current, unlike ours. Some of our syllabuses have not changed for the past 20 years.”

He said the Thai and Indonesian university heads were entrepreneurs and go-getters. “Public universities in Thailand and Indonesia run their own businesses. Chulalongkorn University has 7 huge supermarkets, 1,400 commercial buildings. Indonesian public universities are successful too. Both countries started venturing out 30 years ago.”

The vice-chancellors in these two nations had to be on their toes to attract students without sacrificing the quality of education, as a drop in their standards or grades would not attract other students to register with them, said Ghauth.

In contrast, he said, most of the vice-chancellors in Malaysia were at a loss, especially since the Government announced budget cuts in operational costs for every public university.

The Government, in Budget 2016, had slashed university budgets by RM2.4 billion, from RM15.78 billion in 2015 to RM13.37 billion for the year 2016. Universiti Malaya had the most severe cut of 27.30 per cent, he said.

“The immediate reaction of public universities, especially the board members in UM, is to cut costs rather than expand business.”

Ghauth said some of the universities would, in such a situation, unsubscribe to online journals, charge for usage of sporting facilities and remind their staff to switch off lights, and repair leaking pipes.

Some administrators have suggested commercialising International Property rights and research papers.

“The truth is, there is not much money to be made from commercialising IP rights or selling research papers unless you are a Stanford or Harvard,” Ghauth said.

Saying the way to improve standards was to change the vice-chancellors, he pointed out that during interviews for the post of Vice-Chancellor, no one asked how the person would make money for the institution. “We need to change this,” he said.

During his time at UM, from 2008 to 2013, he had approached the University of Wales to have a joint venture with UM to open a private university – University of Malaya Wales. It started three years ago and operates out of UM. The money generated from the private university goes to UM.

“This is one way to be independent. The less we depend on money from the Government, the more UM can start standing on its feet. It can start making its own decisions to make UM world class.”

Ghauth said brave vice-chancellors were needed to make changes to Malaysian higher education. “Otherwise, it is just going to be worse from now on as the Government will continue to cut budgets due to the drop in oil prices.”

UM went up five spots to sit in 146th place in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings for 2015/ 2016. There are 20 over public universities in Malaysia.

Number of unemployed public university graduates to soar

 by Minderjeet Kuar

The number of unemployed people who graduate from local public universities is set to rise further, an academician warned today.

Not only would the unemployed figure from this group rise higher than the present 400,000, about 80 per cent of the jobless would be Bumiputera, according to Prof Ghauth Jasmon.

He estimated the figure at 600,000 in the next few years, if nothing was done to improve university education.

The former Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor said the reality was that the private sector preferred hiring graduates from private universities and colleges.

“The private sector needs graduates who speak and write English. Many public university graduates are hired by the Government and join the civil service. But the Government cannot hire everyone,” he said.

Every year about 200,000 graduate from institutions of higher learning in the country.

He said despite the Government spending billions of ringgit on public universities, the demand for graduates from these universities remained low.

“It is a sad thing that this is happening. One way of overcoming the problem is for vice-chancellors to implement measures that will benefit the nation.Vice-chancellors need to be bold. They need to do what is good for the students and for the country so no funds are wasted.”

Ghauth, who was UM vice-chancellor from 2008 to 2013, said he had faced a lot of resistance from lecturers and students when he wanted to improve students’ soft skills, such as having extra English classes.

“The backlash to that was bad. There were demonstrations, encouraged by lecturers. They accused me of making Malay language as the second language. For the next one year, I had to continuously write to newspapers on the reasons for my move.”

Another move he made was to ask lecturers to submit their research and paperwork to International Scientific Indexing (ISI) journals. “The professors petitioned against me. They wanted to remove me. ISI journals have to be in English. They felt I was not in support of the Malay language.”

He then decided to reduce the salaries of UM professors studying PhD in Australia, United Kingdom and Canada who took three to four years longer than the deadline.

“I told them if you do not finish your courses by a certain time, the UM will cut your salary by RM200 to RM600 a month depending on the length of delay.”

Even though, there were objections, he said, the policy remained till today. He noted that almost 90 per cent of professors were now finishing their PhD on time.

He said vice-chancellors should not give in to pressure as they knew their measures were for the betterment of the country. It was not about being in the good books of everyone, he said.

9 thoughts on “Appoint brave men with entrepreneurial spirit as to captain our universities–Former UM VC Ghauth Jasmon

  1. Entrepreneurship or corpraneurship should be an ingredient of the leadership in whatever industry one is in. A leader with such capacity and mindset will not stay long in some organisation unless the whole organisation is aspiring to the ideals of entrepreneurship.

  2. Some Malay/Muslim ‘ leaders’/politicians’ insecurity and obsession with narrow, divisive and damaging politics of race and religion to stay in power at all cost, had resulted in their ‘ hunger ‘ for more power to abuse……this is the core problem for diversity, inclusiveness and competency as reflected in the corruption infested and gross mismanagement of the Malay/Muslim dominated administration.

    These grossly insecure, irresponsible and incompetent ‘ leaders’/ politicians want total control over everything.

  3. The call for appointing individuals who are qualified to get the job done is not new. For DECADES, not only academia but everyone else has been demanding that the right people be appointed on merit to raise the standard of education but alas its a been something written on water. Appointments like ambassadorships were political decisions.

    That is why in Malaysia, a great travesty has occurred: the older population speak better English that the younger ones. How could this have happened?

    Living overseas and having traveled widely, I am astonished to see students from Communist China (not from countries colonized by the British) are finishing up their PhD in the English languages and mind you there are hundreds of them in the UK and USA. We had “a great legacy” from the British, like a money with a flower we have damaged our future by ‘rolling-back’ the single most important language for development. We had a great civil service and judicial system-all is gone!

    Sad but its the reality in Malaysia. At the end of the day our Malaysian children will be the biggest losers.

  4. Quote:- “The way to improve standards at Malaysian universities is to employ vice-chancellors who are brave enough to make changes and think like entrepreneurs”

    For that to happen, you need the political masters of these universities to be braver and more entrepreneural. Do we have such people around at the moment or even in the foreseeable future?

    The academic standards of national universities are a reflection of that country’s general socio-political health and well being in direct proportion.

    The Malaysian ministry of education thinks that just by giving, I do mean giving, each and every dungu a well-designed impressive looking piece of paper will magically transform him or her into an employable person with value-added potential to private sector companies where, unlike the government or even GLCs, profit is and always will be the bottom line without which even the country itself will become or revert to being an economic backwater.

    So long as we have “GIGO”, nothing, absolutely nothing will change, in fact it can only get worse, even if you appoint the bravest and most entrepreneural vice-chancellors you can find because the ones graduating and looking for employment are not the vice-chancellors.

    I think our public universities are fast becoming officially sanctioned degree mills.

  5. I concur with what the good professor said. Being an employer I get to see this often. Grads from private colleges fare better and are better equipped to face challenges. Local grads pale in comparison. But they come with resumes and cv that are mind-boggling. All you need to do is to get them to speak English and the truth is out in the open. Sadly, none, I repeat none, can string an intelligent sentence in English let alone speak coherently. How unfortunate.

    I wonder why the government keeps insisting on BM proficiency when the stark truth is for everyone to see. Bodoh betul…

  6. Our public universities tend to offer alternate courses to its applicants. This is a disaster for the country. If you are not passionate about your chosen profession or what is chosen for you, you can never excel.

    There is an age old Chinese saying, “Do not get into the wrong Profession”.

    Of course those with rich parents can get multiple degrees. But for those in public universities, they have only one chance to get it right.

  7. Quote:- “I wonder why the government keeps insisting on BM proficiency”

    English proficiency these days means unlimited, uncontrolled, unsupervised acquisition of every possible kinds and amount knowledge, especially liberal-democratic ideas streaming daily from Western countries in books and the Internet.

    An extreme example is North Korea, whose citizens consider their country the best and the most advance and their “Dear Leader” a divine being incarnate or a direct descendant of one.

    Just yesterday I was told by my sister that the boyfriend of her daughter-in-law’s sister, a professional hockey player in South, yes, South Korea who has never left the country that he, (the boyfriend), did not know that there are countries which do not have the four seasons, i.e., Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.

  8. BN knows it’s a lot easier to lead a pack of nincompoops than intelligent people who have been taught to think for themselves. It’s their long term strategy to keep the masses dumb and dumber.

  9. The late Seri Begawan Sultan of Brunei, was known as the father of modern Brunei education not without reason — his birthday 23rd September is celebrated every year as Teachers’ Day — had made it absolutely clear that, upon achieving full independence, his people would continue to gain access to the best tertiary-level education available in English-speaking nations, and he did this by introducing a bi-lingual education policy, i.e. English would be the medium of instruction for all subjects starting from Primary Four right up to university, except for Malay, Islamic Studies, Art and other non-technical subjects which would of course continue to be taught in Malay.

    Thirty-two years after regaining full sovereignty, the bi-lingual policy has proved that the Begawan Sultan was right to retain English as the main medium of instruction. Brunei’s professionals today, including those educated overseas remain fluent in both Malay and English. Nothing better exemplifies the success story of Brunei’s education policy than this: “Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female pilot crew lands plane in Saudi Arabia – where women are not allowed to drive” –

    Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy Syed Hashim, seen on the left, incidentally happens to be the niece of a very close friend. She was the first female Captain of a Southeast Asian airline in 2014, if I am not mistaken.

    Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Arshad Ayub, a Pro- Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) has made the best case for all of us to use English to push national development ahead. Can anyone dare say UiTM graduates are less Malay than the rest of those who insist that Malay should be the sole medium of instruction?

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