18 May 2017

Reclaiming university autonomy

The SUN Daily, 17 May 2017

"Universities must strive to be above politics and business interests and serve their societies and communities by providing a voice and space in which to cultivate rational, mutual and moderate dialogues that will shape intellectual, cultural and economic development on a shared basis."


17 May 2017

National Higher Education Conference 2017, Sime Darby Convention Centre, 23 May 2017


The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) embarked on a pioneering project on researching autonomy in higher education in Malaysia. Professor Tan Sri Dr. Dzulkifli Abdul Razak was appointed as IDEAS’ Chair in Higher Education to lead this project. The purpose of this project is to study how higher education institutions in Malaysia can be improved by giving them more autonomy, yet ensuring they are accountable at the same time. This study builds upon the National Higher Education Blueprint as well as the Wan Zahid Report of 2005, which was tabled in Parliament the same year.
In the past year, IDEAS has conducted four roundtables on this topic, where we gathered stakeholders from the government, public and private universities, other think tanks, as well as representatives from university student associations. This national level conference brings together the final recommendations of this project, to be discussed and presented to a wider audience. The inputs from various stakeholders are compiled in a report that will be presented to the Minister of Higher Education at the end of this half-day conference.

26 April 2017

March for Science 22 April 2017

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.

The Malaysian Academics Movement (MOVE) joins in  celebrating the ‘March for Science’.  We regret not being able to join our comrades in the World Wide March for Science on 22 April 2017.

However, we do fully support the mission, principles and goals of the March for Science. There must be a greater appreciation of the role that science plays in our lives. Research producing insight into our world should be encouraged. Policies which restrict research must be dropped. We do not want a future where the need for scientific evidence is not required and is ignored. Evidence of these unfortunate tendencies can be seen in the current era of post-truth, alternative truth and safe space.

Good luck brothers and sisters in the march today. Be safe.

Rosli H Mahat

14 April 2017

10th International Further & Higher Education & Research Conference

14-16 November, 2016, Fiesta Royale Hotel, Accra, Ghana 

FHERC: Challenges still to be faced in tertiary education and research

Academic freedom, international solidarity, gender, casualisation and privatisation came under the spotlight at Education International’s 10th International Further and Higher Education and Research Conference, attended by leaders of tertiary education and research.

Easy access to high quality education and protection of the weak and vulnerable must be guaranteed. That’s according to Christian Addai-Poku, President of Ghana’s National Association of Graduate Teachers, who addressed the opening ceremony of the Education International (EI) 10th International Further and Higher Education and Research Conference (IFHERC). The conference was held in Ghana, Accra, from 14-16 November.
In addition, quality assurance and the empowerment of women is especially important in terms of higher education academic freedom, he said. Furthermore, the increasing privatisation across the world must be stopped, he said.
EI: Importance of mobilisation and promotion
The EI Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa, Assibi Napoe, underlined how improvement of working conditions for higher education personnel is essential for quality education. She added that it is regrettable that the 1997 International Labour Organisation/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnelis not widely known, and she called for the document to be widely promoted. She also invited higher education unions to become active members of the African Higher Education network.
Referring to the recent elections in the USA, EI Deputy General Secretary David Edwards highlighted how quickly politics in a country can change. It is crucial “that we stand united and find real ideas and responses”, he said, reiterating EI’s important role in mobilising for these responses.
In relation to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, he said that EI managed to fight the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) initiative. Edwards also welcomed the fact that EI’s pressure on international institutions led to the inclusion of  tertiary education in the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Education Minister: Union role in SDGs
The conference was also addressed by Ghana’s Education Minister, Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang. “Education is key to development and has a transformative power,” she said, adding that the conference provided “such a rich context for sharing ideas, with so many countries represented”. The SDGs must be taken seriously, she said, with strategies needed to achieve the goals and make them relevant at national level. Highlighting the important role unions play in shaping the implementation of SDGs, she acknowledged the existence of pressing concerns, such as ethics, professionalism, standards and collective responsibility.
She insisted on the need to look at education systems horizontally and vertically, as “we are all in the same boat, and need to support each other, from early childhood education to higher education”. Privatisation, she said, is “an increasing phenomenon that needs to be halted”. 
Privatisation and casualisation: solidarity needed
Privatisation was the focus of a plenary session, where participants addressed the importance of having a solidarity platform to fight privatisation and identify its main actors. Talking about effects of education casualisation, Professor Nelly P. Stromquist, University of Maryland, USA, said that “it is worrisome to observe the persistent development of non-tenure, part-time academic positions,” and that “there is a clear gender dimension to precarious working conditions”. In the US, she explained, whilst there are three key sources for support in making data available - the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, the Delphi Project, and the New Faculty Majority-  the dissemination of information has not resulted in change.
Stromquist also stressed that it appears to be difficult to unionise contingent faculty members given their part-time presence at universities and weak institutional affiliation. Unions need to work closer together for collective action, she said, adding that, in some institutions, an individualistic ethos that accepts competition as an indispensable institutional element prevails. Solidarity from tenure staff is needed, she concluded.
Gender: overcoming barriers in unions, societies and higher education
Participants recognised that academic structures, gender stereotypes, a segregated choice of education, and weak welfare states are major challenges to gender equality in academic careers. They agreed on recommendations for EI, such as the need for all policies to be analysed through a gender lens (within the union, the government, higher education institutions), a special session on higher education and research to be held at the 2017 EI women’s conference; and changes needed to the workings of academic careers,  for them to be gender-sensitive to benefit both women and men.
TVET: Not a “mere transmission of work skills”
The conference also saw the launch of an important report when Professor Leesa Wheelahan, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, launched Global Trends in technical and vocational education and training (TVET): A Framework for Social Justice. Her analysis explored the blame apportioned to TVET teachers for everything from the lack of available jobs to the state of the labour market.
The health of higher education institutions must be considered so that they can build on the productive capabilities of students rather than reducing them to market commodities. “Reducing students to the thinnest possible connection with education and to a mere transmission of work skills is not working for the student or the institution,” she said.
Conference context
This conference brought together the further and higher education and research sectors, and built on the prior experiences and outcomes of previous EI International Higher Education and Research Conferences, as well as the successful first Further and Higher Education Caucus at the 7th World Congress in Ottawa, Canada.

10 March 2017

Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress

Scholars at Risk
Defending the human rights of scholars and
protecting academic freedom worldwide

Save the Date!

Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress
23 - 26 April, Berlin, Germany

We are thrilled to announce that the Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress will be held in Berlin, Germany, 23-26 April, 2018, in partnership with the Alexander von Humboldt FoundationFreie Universit├Ąt Berlin, and Scholars at Risk Germany Section.
The SAR Global Congress provides an opportunity for members and partners to gather, share experiences hosting at-risk scholars, learn about new activities for faculty, staff, and students, and discuss current issues and strategies for promoting academic freedom and related higher education values. The 2016 SAR Global Congress in Montreal drew more than 180 people from 87 universities in 37 countries for four days of workshops, keynotes, plenaries, section meetings, and parallel sessions.
We are delighted to host the 2018 SAR Global Congress in Berlin in conjunction with the Humboldt Foundation's annual workshop on the Philipp Schwartz Initiative. At a time of ongoing refugee crises, armed conflicts, and growing attacks on scholars, students, and universities around the world, the German higher education sector has made great efforts to welcome refugee scholars and students to German campuses. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has helped support many through the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, providing a model for other states. Together with longtime SAR member Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, in 2016 the Humboldt Foundation helped to launch the Scholars at Risk Germany Section, now including more than 30 German institutions. These actions, like those of so many SAR network members around the world, send a strong message about the critical role the higher education community can play in guarding against threats to the values of the global knowledge community.
Now more than ever, we must come together to share and defend those values. Please save the date and plan to join us in Berlin!

Dari Berita Harian, 6 Mac 2017





18 January 2017

UWN: Why most universities should quit the rankings game

University World News:

"We have one simple argument: universities around the world, many more than will ever publicly admit it, are currently obsessed with gaining status in one or more national or global ranking of universities. They should quit now.

However, our advice extends even to those universities that adopt the mantle of ‘flagship’ – those at the top of the hierarchy in their country or state. This is because rankings pervert one of the main purposes of higher education, which is to ensure that students and graduates acquire the knowledge and skills needed for a successful, satisfying and active life throughout one’s increasingly longer life span.

Prestige and reputation have become dominant drivers rather than pursuance of quality and student achievement, intensifying social stratification and reputational differentiation. There is a big assumption that the choice of indicators and associated weightings are meaningful measures, but there is no international research evidence that this is true. 

To these universities, and their governments, we say: concentrate on what matters – helping the majority of students earn credentials for sustainable living and employment, rather than ensuring that your institution matches criteria established by different rankings. Even if much attention and resources are so expended, the results will not be favourable."