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Mustapha should initiate a “let hundred flowers bloom” campaign among academicians and students by inviting them to publicly give their views on how Malaysia can achieve world-class university status


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Sunday): Dr. Azmi Sharom, Associate professor of Law Faculty, University of Malaya has written an Open Letter to the new Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamed, asking him to set the universities free as a prerequisite for Malaysian universities to achieve world-class status. (Star)

Azmi pointedly told Mustapha:

“If you love your universities, you must set them free. 

“Academics and students must be free to think and to express themselves.  

“Yes, I understand that this is Malaysia and freedom is seen as a dirty word by some, but without it, there is little hope of achieving ‘world-class’ universities. 

“Intellectualism cannot grow in a repressive atmosphere.”

Malaysian universities have been repressed and stultified for too long since the insidious enactment of the Universities and University Colleges Act 25 years ago, which together with other repressive measures like the Statutory Bodies and Surcharge Act and “Aku Janji” requirements  must bear the brunt of the blame  for mediocrity replacing excellence in the Malaysian universities, resulting in the shameful international ranking of Malaysian universities, in particular the 80-point drop from 89th to 169th ranking of University of Malaya in The Times Higher Education Supplement Ranking of  200 World Best Universities 2005  and Universiti Sains Malaysia disappearing from the list altogether.

Mustapha should publicly applaud Azmi for his Open Letter to him giving important pointers for the creation of world-class universities.  In fact, I  would go one step further and call on Mustapha to  initiate a “let hundred flowers bloom” campaign among academicians and students by inviting them to publicly give their views on how Malaysia can achieve world-class university status.

Azmi has delineated five meanings of a world-class university, viz:

  • Graduates who are employable, not only here but also abroad; 
  • Academic staff who are respected worldwide; 
  • Research and publications that are recognised by reputable international journals/publishers; 
  • An academic programme that is recognised worldwide; 
  • An academic atmosphere that can attract quality national and foreign students and staff. 

Is Mustapha prepared to publicly endorse  these five criteria for “world-class universities” adopting them as among the benchmarks  he want all Malaysian universities  to achieve?

In  his Open Letter, Azmi made two important points which Mustapha should also endorse publicly:

·        That universities should first and foremost be the birthplace of ideas and original thought, discussion and debate; and

·        The urgent need for good leadership in Malaysian universities, in particular Vice Chancellors with  “the qualities of an outstanding intellectual, manager and diplomat, who can ensure that academic principles are paramount, not political expediency”.

Monday is the official opening of the new session of Parliament by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, with the government policy for the next 12 months set out   in the Royal Address.  It will be a feather in the cap for Mustapha as the new Higher Education Minister if the Royal Address on Monday outlining the government policy direction for the new year can focus on the challenge of achieving world-class status for Malaysian universities – including the “let the hundred flowers bloom” campaign among university academicians and students.

All Members of Parliament, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, should  discuss  Azmi’s Open Letter  in the policy debate on the Royal Address starting on  Tuesday, as the restoration of  Malaysia as a centre of world-class university education must be regarded as a top national agenda.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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