Archive for the ‘Colleges / Universities - Issues’ Category

Dealing with academic integrity

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
The research supervisor should inculcate a culture of academic honesty in students, which is paramount to success and credibility as a postgraduate student.

AT a recent education forum in Kuala Lumpur, former international trade and industry minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz was quoted as saying that it would be better for university academics to miss key performance indicators than to ride on their postgraduate students’ work.

This has given rise to heated discussions about academic integrity in local universities, particularly on unethical practices like exploitation, plagiarism and stealing of students’ work by academics.

If left unchecked, many opined that the integrity and reputation of the country’s universities and education institutions might end up at stake.

Public universities had come forward by reiterating their commitment to uphold academic integrity by ensuring that their research publications were free of plagiarism and not exploited by free-loaders.

Malaysia Public Universities Vice-Chancellor/Rector Committee chairman Professor Datuk Dr Nor Aieni Mokhtar said all public universities took unethical practices seriously, in which all academicians were responsible for upholding the highest standard of honesty at all times.

“Any reports made to the management of the universities shall be thoroughly investigated according to the rules and procedures of the universities,” she said, adding that public universities would not compromise on misconduct.

If academics were proven to be involved, stern action would be taken based on the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act 2000 (Act 605).

“These rules and regulations serve as guiding principles for academicians on the ethics of research and publication, including those concerning supervisor-student publications,” said Nor Aeni, who is Universiti Malaysia Terengganu vice-chancellor.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) viewed such unethical practices seriously and it would not hesitate to take firm action against its staff and students involved.

Its vice-chancellor, Professor Datuk Dr Aini Ideris said UPM had a complaints channel ― the U-Response System that could be accessed by everybody.

“The system is monitored on a daily basis, and every complaint is reviewed carefully and attended to promptly,” she said.

Complaints could be mailed or emailed directly to the vice-chancellor or the appropriate university officer. Aini said cases received through these channels would be investigated, and action would be taken.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Wahid Omar said UTM had a reliable and proven system to ensure that its academic integrity was protected.

“Any complaints regarding integrity, including academic integrity, will be handled by a special committee called Jawatankuasa Integriti dan Tadbir Urus (JITU), which is now known as the Jawatankuasa Anti-Rasuah (JAR).

“JAR is given the power by the university to investigate independently and fairly based on international standards in integrity cases, including plagiarism and copyright infringement in magazines, journals or thesis,” he said.

Through its Research Management Centre, UTM has provided a platform for academic staff and researchers to record their publication information, whether they are the main writer, co-writer or others, and this information may be referenced by staff and students.

Since 2012, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) has established a plagiarism policy under the purview of its Academic Affairs Division, which it defines as the forgery of individual contributions among members who collaborated in a group project.

It also made it compulsory for academics and students to use the Turnitin app to measure the plagiarism level in their writings to ensure that no reinterpretation activity/writing of students by other parties was done without consent.

“At the same time, students can come forward and report any academic offence committed at the faculty, university or top management,” said UiTM vice-chancellor Professor Emeritus Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim.

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) has its own process of regulating every research and publication activity on campus.

“From grant application to the final stage of research, the process is regulated. It includes respecting research subjects, using research funds prudently and recognising all parties involved,” said its vice-chancellor Professor Dr Wahid Razzaly.

“In order to qualify in the author’s list, researchers are required to give credit and recognition to individuals who contributed significantly in the project,” he added.

Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) would be setting up a Special Committee on Academic Integrity to identify and investigate academic cases, whether they were related to plagiarism or document counterfeiting.

UniMAP vice-chancellor Professor Dr R. Badlishah Ahmad said the universities would not compromise on academicians who committed academic offences.

He said scholars and intellectuals must have a high level of integrity and, therefore, should not violate ethics and the trust placed upon them.

“I will not hesitate to take decisive action if such an event occurs in the UniMAP environment as they (academicians) are community leaders, and should set a good example for students,” he said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Integrity Unit had been fully empowered to take action if there were reports of misconduct.

UKM vice-chancellor Professor Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor said every report submitted would be forwarded directly to the university senate to avoid unfairness or staff intervention.

“UKM has recently approved the Whistleblower Policy to protect those who provide information. It has a formal complaints channel (UKM Feedback and Complaint System ― eFACT) for students and staff to report wrongdoings,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi said the publication of papers in indexed or high-impact journals by postgraduates was fundamental as they represented a special population within the research and intellectual community.

“In universities, postgraduate students are required to publish papers with their supervisors as co-authors. Determining authorship credit can be difficult and it can complicate the supervisor-student relationship. Therefore, this issue deserves to be explored and students, indeed, should not be forced to co-author their papers with supervisors.

“The postgraduate study supervision process involves a thorough and systematic process, which signifies the contributions of the supervisor in the student’s work. Thus, it is quite a misleading statement to claim that supervisors should not be considered in the authorship of the postgraduate students’ research if all requirements have been substantially fulfilled.

By Rozana Sani

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Improve writing, scholars told

Monday, July 8th, 2019

MORE needs to be done to improve the quality of Malaysia’s scholastic journals and articles.

Malaysian Scholarly Publication Council (Mapim) executive committee chairman Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Wahab Mohammad said some of the entries they received for this year’s National Book Awards did not even meet the minimum requirements.

“There are still some weaknesses that resulted in several nominations being rejected, especially in the Best Editing Work category,” he said during the Mapim-KPM 2018 Award Ceremony held recently.

However, he said there was an overall improvement in the quality of the publications that won this year and that most of the six categories had main prize winners.

Each category was divided into two fields, which are humanities’ social science and medical technology science.

There are three prizes for each category – main award, appreciation award and the appreciation prize.

Award winners at the 12th award ceremony received a cash prize, a trophy and a certificate each.

At the event, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the number of scientific papers being published in Malaysia was still low.

She added that the government aims to have 31,700 titles being published annually by 2020, compared to the 19,713 published in 2017.

“I would like to call on scholars to continue to work and publish scientific books covering various humanities’ social science and medical technology science topics,” she said.

She added that scholars should also explore writing about new fields such as Industrial Revolutions 4.0 and 5.0.

By Rebecca Rajaendram
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Education Ministry to investigate plagiarism claim

Monday, July 1st, 2019
The Education Ministry’s Academic Integrity Committee is looking into allegations that a graduate’s research papers were lifted and published under the name of his supervisors. — Bernama photo

PUTRAJAYA: The Education Ministry’s Academic Integrity Committee is looking into allegations that a graduate’s research papers were lifted and published under the name of his supervisors.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said in light of the allegations, the ministry will conduct a thorough probe on the matter.

“We wish to reaffirm that the Education Ministry will not tolerate any breach of trust among any academic and teaching staff which could bring the Malaysian education system into disrepute,” Maszlee said in a statement today.

Postgraduate students and other students who feel they had been ‘robbed’ and wronged are urged to lodge an official complaint with the ministry, he said.

“The ministry is aware that there had been other recent allegations about despicable, unprofessional and, certainly, unethical practices.

“Universities are urged to take such matters seriously and put an end to any malpractice,” Mazlee said.

Dr Maszlee said academic supervisors were supposed to serve as advisors and mentors, and not abuse their power.

“The ministry would like to stress that chasing points to fulfil Key Performance Indexes (KPIs) cannot be a justification or excuse for this kind of conduct,” he added.

It was reported that a foreign graduate student had alleged that his research paper was published last year at a university’s official website under the names of his research paper supervisors.

The graduate student was quoted as saying that he had contacted the supervisor in question for an explanation but did not receive a satisfactory response.

By Hashini Kavishtri Kannan.

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Grades reviewed after lecturer gives A to all.

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

A PROFESSOR’S attempt to give all of his students an A grade has received an F.

The Singapore Management University (SMU) had to review the grades for a module taken by 169 business students, most in their final year, after it found out that the lecturer, Prof Stefano Harney, had given all of them an A grade with the same numerical score.

SMU, which described the grades as “bogus”, said that this is the first time this has happened.

“The university has in place strict protocols with regard to grading and takes a serious view when protocols are not adhered to,” the spokesman added.

Given that he was due to leave the school on June 30, this gave him “the opportunity to teach the course and grade it in the way I thought would be best pedagogically, without fearing the consequences from the school”.

The 57-year-old, who graduated from Harvard University and has a doctorate from Cambridge University, has been at SMU since 2012, and is the professor of strategic management at its Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

He taught and graded a module called “The Capstone: Studying Business Through the Classics”, which involved two essays that made up 40 percent of the grade and a video project which made up the rest.

Generally offered in the fourth year, the module helps students see connections between humanities, for instance works by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, and business.

But when students across his four classes got their grades earlier this month, the grade for Prof Harney’s module was missing.

A few days later, SMU notified them it was recalculating their grades. A senior professor who “taught the same version of capstone right from the very start” was called in to help with the re-grading.

SMU associate dean for undergraduate programmes Michelle Lee explained in an e-mail to students: “There is no variation to the scores he (Harney) assigned, even though the variation in quality of work submitted is plain to see.”

Each student could choose whether to keep the adjusted grade or have “pass” reflected on the transcript. The latter option would not impact their grade point average. SMU would not reveal how many students received a grade lower than the initial A.

The SMU spokesman said that while the university does not use a bell curve, there are guidelines for faculty members to refer to when grading. This is to ensure “fairness and consistency”.

Prof Harney said the guidelines “are really rules – that no matter how many students do well, the number of As is strictly limited to a third of the class”. And “artificially restricting their grades on a bell curve” was not his style of teaching, he added.

“These are fake ways to make your course seem serious. The real way is through deep engagement with the materials, ideas and ourselves,” he said.

SMU students said he was well-liked and was known to be “chill”, or laid-back.

A 23-year-old student who declined to be named, said: “In the first class we attended, Prof Harney said he believes that all students should be able to get an A if they put in hard work, and he feels that it shouldn’t be a competition.”

The undergraduate was given a B+ after the adjustment, and chose to retain the grade.

The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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SAM another popular Pre-u

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

You may have heard of SAM and AUSMAT. This week let us look at these Pre-u qualifications. The South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or SACE International is a pre-university course that’s based on the Australian education system. You can pursue this programme right after SPM.

It is equivalent to Malaysian Matriculation, STPM, A Levels and the Canadian Pre-U.

You may also have heard of AUSMAT sometimes known as WACE (short for Western Australian Certification of Education).

This is also a pre-university course that’s based on the Australian education system.

Similar to South Australian Matriculation, you can pursue this after completing SPM.

SAM and AUSMAT are the same level of qualification as A-Level and STPM.

Both courses have a combination of coursework and final exams, and lead to an Australian Year 12 qualification.

The main differences between the two are the assessment structure and the governing body:

(i) South Australian Matriculation (SAM), or SACE International

Administered by the South Australian government, and

You’ll be graded on 70 per cent coursework and 30 per cent examination.

(ii)    Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT), or WACE

Administered by the Western Australian government, and

You’ll be graded on 50 per cent coursework and 50 per cent examination.

Both programmes are 10 – 12 months long and require you to take 5 subjects. Students who take up this programme generally start their studies in January or March, and take their exams in November.

What Can You Expect For School-Based Assessments & Coursework?

Australian Matriculation’s coursework includes things like summative assignments, lab reports, tests, monthly quizzes etc. It will differ based on different subjects and fields.

How Will You Be Graded?

Your final results will be a single score, called the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

It is derived from your best four subjects, plus 50 per cent of your weakest subject.

ATAR shows your ranking relative to your peers, e.g. 99.0 ATAR score means that you performed better than 99 per cent of your peers.

Why Should You Take SAM / AUSMAT?

If you are planning to head to Australia for your university degree, SAM / AUSMAT is the obvious choice. But if you’re not sure of your plans yet, here are some reasons why you should still consider studying SAM / AUSMAT.

(1) Both SAM & AUSMAT are recognised by many countries overseas.

Many local private universities and institutions also accept SAM / AUSMAT.

(2) SAM / AUSMAT keeps your options open.

While Foundation programmes may limit you to certain degrees at certain universities, SAM & AUSMAT allows you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion.

This is especially great if you’re not sure what degree to study yet!

(3) Prefer continuous assessment instead of one major exam to determine your fate?

A-Level is famed for having only two exams to determine the fate of your entire college education.

If the 100 per cent exam system brings back nightmares from your SPM days, then Australian Matriculation is a good choice for you.

(4) SAM / AUSMAT gives you good foundation in your chosen subjects.

With 5 subjects, SAM / AUSMAT will help to build and equip you with good foundations in your chosen subjects.

This is great for those who want to cover as many different subjects as possible without going too in-depth.

In fact, you will also have the flexibility of choosing subjects from different streams, including both science and business.

What Subjects Should You Choose For SAM / AUSMAT?

Most colleges in Malaysia offer a wide range of subjects that will enable you to get into various fields, including Business, Finance, Law, Accounting, Engineering and Science.

It will be up to you to choose which combination of subjects you plan to study in order to move forward with your degree.

This is a VERY important stepping stone to ensure that you qualify and meet the entry requirements of the programme you plan to pursue as part of your tertiary education.

Where Can You Study SAM / AUSMAT?

If you want to study an Australian Matriculation programme, these courses are mainly offered at private colleges in Malaysia.

by K. Krishnn.

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IB: Another Pre-U programme in Malaysia

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

We are used to hearing STPM, Govt Matriculation, UEC, A Levels, Foundation Programme, etc.  There are also other Pre-u courses offered in Malaysia, such as the IB. Since it is offered locally let us find out more about IB.

What is IB?
International Baccalaureate (or its full name, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, sometimes known as IBDP or just IB) is a Pre-University programme from Geneva, Switzerland.

It prepares SPM or O-Level leavers for entry into a Degree at university.

The course is approximately 24 months long, and is known to be an academically challenging and demanding course, requiring you to take a wide range of subjects across various disciplines.

How Is IB Structured?

IB is one of the more academically-challenging programmes that is often compared to A-Level, but is viewed as more balanced and well-rounded.

You will take a total of six subjects, one each from the following six broad groups:

Group 1:  Language and Literature

(e.g. English)

Group 2: Language Acquisition

(e.g. Spanish, German, French)

Group 3:  Individuals and Societies

(e.g. Economics,  Geography, History)

Group 4:  Sciences

(e.g. Biology, Chemistry, Physics)

Group 5:  Mathematics

(e.g. Mathematics, Mathematics Studies)

Group 6:  The Arts

(e.g. Music, Theatre Arts, Visual Arts)

Within each of the subject groups above, you have a choice of choosing either Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL).

Higher Level (HL) subjects normally require more studying time (total 240 hours of classes) compared to Standard Level (SL) subjects (total 150 hours of classes).

In total, you need to take three subjects at Higher Level (HL), and three at Standard Level (SL).

In addition, you must also complete the following courses, often known as the three core components of the IB programme:

(1) Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

This is an interdisciplinary course, linking all six subject groups. It is intended to promote critical and creative thinking on knowledge gained, both inside and outside of the classroom. You will be assessed based on a 1,200 – 1,600 word essay and presentation.

2) Extended Essay

This component encourages independent research skills.

You will be required to produce a 4,000-word research paper in a topic of your own choice based on any of the IB subjects studied.

3) Creativity, Action, Service (CAS)

This component teaches you to engage and collaborate with others and the local community through:

Creativity:  Arts, music, writing and other experiences that involve creative thinking

Action:  Physical activities, such as training or learning a new sport

Service:  Unpaid and voluntary work for the community

You are expected to clock in at least 150 hours for projects under this component.

How Will You Be Graded?

You will be graded on a combination of internal assessment, final exams plus the IB core components.

Why Should You Take IBDP?

Here are some of the reasons and benefits of taking the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

1) Promotes critical and independent thinking

IB isn’t just about passing exams. With its unique Theory of Knowledge component and continuous internal assessment, the IB curriculum will help you grow to be a critical and independent thinker, encouraging you to ask challenging questions and perform research.

2) Balanced and well-rounded programme

IB requires you to cover a full range of subjects, including foreign language, sciences and art, in addition to creative and physical activities, as well as community service.

This will give you a more well-rounded perspective, ensuring that you are active intellectually, physically and emotionally.

3) Recognised by many universities worldwide

The IB is accepted by over 100 countries worldwide, so you will not have to worry about having an unrecognised qualification once you’ve completed this course.

While universities used to have higher entry requirements for IB, many universities worldwide are now more familiar with this programme, and are making realistic offers to students who choose to take IB.

Who Is IBDP For?

You should consider taking IBDP if:

You are an all-rounder and enjoy learning subjects across a broad spectrum covering language, arts, science and humanities

You are able to multitask and manage your time well, juggling academic studies and other activities, such as creative pursuits and community service

You are prepared to take up a challenging and demanding course

What Subjects Should YouChoose For IBDP?

The most common subjects that are available at IB programmes in Malaysia are:

Group                                                  Subjects

Language and  Literature                    English, Malay

Language Acquisition                          Malay, Mandarin, French, Spanish

Individuals and Societies                     Geography, History, Economics, Business and Management, Psychology

Sciences                                              Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Systems & Societies

Mathematics                                         Mathematics, Mathematical   Studies

The Arts                                                Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, Music and Film

Remember that you will be required to take 6 subjects, one from each group. However, for The Arts group, you may opt to study an additional subject under Sciences, Individuals and Societies, or Languages groups, instead of a subject in The Arts.

3 subjects need to be at Higher Level (HL) and another 3 subjects will need to be at Standard Level (SL).

HL subjects have more extended syllabi than SL subjects.

As a guide, here are some tips on how to choose your IB subjects:

For Higher Level subjects, choose subjects that you are good at or have a strong interest in.

For Higher Level subjects, choose subjects that are most related to your university degree.

For example, if you want to study Engineering, you should choose Physics HL and Math HL, since certain universities may demand this as an entry requirement

If you are not interested in The Arts group, you can choose to take an additional Science, Language or Individual & Societies subject that supports your interests and degree choice

For your Standard Level subjects, you can choose any subject of your choice

Where Can You Study IBDP?

IB programmes are offered at private colleges, international schools and selected MARA colleges in Malaysia

by K. Krishnan,

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What is A Levels

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

A-LEVEL is a pre-university programme offered in Malaysia that’s based on the UK education system. Otherwise known as GCE Advanced Level, you can take this course after completing your SPM and before pursuing a degree at university.

How long does it take?

The programme is 15 to 24 months long, depending on when you start your studies. It is 100pc exam-based. Unlike  SPM where students usually take 9 subjects, you only need to take a minimum of 3 subjects.

Students whose English is average or below average will find the A levels tough. It requires you to analyse and apply logical thinking when answering exam questions.

You will also find that the learning material is more in-depth compared to other courses, such as Australian Matriculation (SAM/AUSMAT). In fact, many A-Level graduates say they have an easier time completing their first year in university compared to their peers!

A-Level consists of two parts:

(i) Advanced Subsidiary (or better known as AS Level), and

(ii) A2 Level

AS Level is the first half of the programme and forms the foundation of A-Level. A2 Level is the second part of the syllabus, covering more complex topics in the subjects that you have chosen.

You will typically take exams at the end of each level, with each level contributing 50pc towards your final grade. That is to say, 50pc from AS exams and 50% from A2 exams.

Your final results will be a grade of A* to E for each subject taken. The maximum score is A*A*A* for 3 subjects, and A*A*A*A* for 4 subjects.

Why take the A Levels?

(a) A-Level is recognised by many universities worldwide

A-Level is a widely accepted entry qualification into universities in UK, Australia , New Zealand, Singapore, etc

(b) It keeps your options open

While Foundation programmes may limit you to certain degrees at certain universities, A-Level allows you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion.

(c) It gives you deep knowledge in your chosen subjects

(d) Instead of having to juggle with five or six subjects, A-Level allows you to focus on only a few subjects and gain in-depth knowledge in your chosen subjects.

(e)  There is a wide range of A-Level resources available

Materials such as past year papers, marking schemes and revision questions are readily available everywhere for A-Level. Your college will supplement you with sufficient resources for your exam, but if you don’t think it’s enough, the internet is filled with resources for you to go through!

Who should take the A Levels.

  • If you are academically-inclined with an analytical and inquisitive mind
  • If you prefer 100pc exam-based assessment
  • If you are looking to gain in-depth knowledge in a few subjects, as opposed to studying a wide variety of subjects
  • If you are looking to pursue competitive degrees (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry) or aiming to gain entry into top tier universities, especially in the UK

Who should NOT take A-Level.

  • If you dislike being assessed based only on exams
  • If you prefer classroom interaction, coursework and assignments

If you plan to pursue degrees such as Hospitality & Tourism, Architecture and Design that are more practical-oriented

Remember that A-Level is considered one of the more academically challenging courses, due to its focus on analysis and application of knowledge.

As such, although most colleges require you to have at least 5 credits (1 credit is a C or above) at SPM or equivalent However, it recommended that you have at least 5Bs, with good grades in Math and English.

What Subjects Should You Choose For A-Level?

Practical Tips to Choosing Your A-Level Subjects

Choosing your subjects can be difficult, as many colleges in Malaysia offer a variety of subjects and combinations. Some subjects open doors to more degrees and professions than others, so it is important that you choose the right ones.

As a guide, here are some tips on how to choose your A-Level subjects:

(i) Choose subjects that you will likely enjoy – When a particular topic interests you, it becomes less of a chore to study. Also, it is always easier to excel at something when you enjoy doing it.

(ii) Choose subjects that suit your strength – Every subject is unique and involves a different skill set. Some subjects require creativity or essay writing, while others may challenge your analytical and critical thinking skills. To do well in this programme, play to your strengths!

(iii) Choose subjects that you need to enter a particular degree / career path.

If you already have an idea of the university degree you would like to pursue after A-Level, here is a list of degrees with the recommended subjects.

Choice of subjects

Degree Recommended subject
Accounting, Business,Economics, Finance Accounting, Law, Business, Mathematics,Economics
Actuarial Science Mathematics,Economics,Physics, Law
Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Nutrition Chemistry, Biology,Mathematics,  Physics
Computer Science Physics, Mathematics
Engineering Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics
Law Mathematics, Economics, Law,

English Literature, Accounting


Dentistry & Pharmacy

Physics, Chemistry,Biology

What If You Have Completely No Idea What You Want to Study?

If you studied Science subjects in SPM and scored good grades, choose Mathematics and Chemistry, and either Biology or Physics. This will keep your options open and allow you to pursue a wide range of degrees upon successful completion of your A-Level.

Should You Take 3 Subjects or 4 Subjects?

It is usually recommended you take 3 subjects instead of 4 subjects, since it is always better to focus and concentrate on fewer subjects. In fact, most universities only require you to take 3 subjects.

However, if you are planning to study abroad and aiming to get into top tier universities (especially in the UK), there are times where it may be advantageous to take 4 subjects.

Where Can You Study A-Levels in Malaysia?

A-Level is generally offered at private colleges and selected MARA colleges in Malaysia. There are many colleges offering A levels in West Malaysia. However, if you intend to study in Sabah, check-out the colleges that offer A Levels

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Seek holistic solution to higher education financing

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
The analysis from PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan and his team is first class; they should be given credit for seeking public views on these proposals. FILE PIC

WAN Saiful Wan Jan, chairman of National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), is fast becoming Malaysia’s very own Theresa May — a very good person with a seemingly impossible job!

Rightly admired for his honesty and insightful thought-leadership, Wan Saiful and his team at PTPTN have done an excellent job in laying out the current PTPTN loan crisis — which is bigger than 1Malaysia Development Bhd — and the suggestions so far from stakeholders on how to solve it.

The main problem is that the task given to Wan Saiful and his team forces them to focus on only one option — to make students repay the debt. This aim is bound to fail and the honest and forensic analysis by Wan Saiful’s team makes this crystal clear.

We must be fair and acknowledge that the proposals presented in the PTPTN website come from stakeholders and not from PTPTN or Wan Saiful himself.

They lay out clearly what stakeholders have suggested along with PTPTN’s assessment of the implications for everyone concerned. They are truly terrifying and make Barisan Nasional (BN) look like the defaulters’ friendly grandmother — a terrifying prospect for Pakatan Harapan (PH) politicians and supporters alike.

For those who have not seen what some stakeholders suggest a brief summary may be informative.

The first proposal is to defer payment for defaulters earning RM2,000 per month or less. This would help 26 per cent of defaulters but would not by itself solve the non-payment problems for those earning more than RM2,000 per month without additional enforcement measures.

The second proposal is to defer payments for defaulters earning less than RM4,000 per month, which fulfils PH’s election pledge. This would leave PTPTN waiting between six to 15 years for repayments and cause its debts to rise to an eye-watering RM100 billion by 2040.

The third idea stakeholders have proposed has already been rejected. This is to link repayments to salary, which last time suggested that those earning RM8,000 per month or more should pay 15 per cent of their monthly income by repaying their loans. This idea is so bad for Pakatan that we can only guess that it was suggested by those dreaming of a BN victory in the 15th General Election!

Stakeholders’ suggestions then move on to more punitive ideas which punish not just defaulters but also their parents, siblings and the universities where they studied.

The fourth idea is to raid defaulters’ salaries, a proposal which some have already rejected, arguing that it is not only immoral but also potentially illegal.

Next comes idea number five which is to bankrupt defaulters if they fall behind on repayments. This idea was possibly suggested by lawyers who see piles of income in litigation fees.

Idea number six denies the lawyers their cash-cow but reintroduces the much-hated travel bans albeit in a different form.

Restrictions on the renewal of passports, driving licences, business licences and even road tax were proposed. This will put an end to graduate entrepreneurs and a massive increase in illegal road-users. It doesn’t end there, however.

Within the same proposal were calls for public shaming of students and visiting the sins of defaulters on their siblings by denying family members PTPTN loans in default.

The seventh idea continues this theme by forcing debt repayments on unsuspecting “guarantors — read “parents”. So much for family harmony.

Idea number eight punishes success by denying first-class graduates their loan waiver and the next idea punishes universities by denying them PTPTN loans if they underperform on the national ratings system and neither really addresses the problem on non-payment.

Finally, idea number 10 comes as a form of light relief following the other suggestions by increasing the interest rate paid by students from the one per cent they currently pay to perhaps the five per cent that PTPTN borrows the money at in the first place.

This would save the government around RM1.7 billion per year but raises the question — why would defaulters be more likely to repay loans at five per cent when they are currently not repaying them at one per cent?

We must not misunderstand this process. The analysis from Wan Saiful and his team is first-class and although they may not get a loan exemption, they should be given credit for telling the truth. They should also be given credit for seeking public views on these proposals — an exercise in active democracy that should be emulated in other policy debates.

The real problem is that as long as the debate on PTPTN reform focuses on the single aim of making defaulters pay, this problem will rumble on. PTPTN will become more unstable, students and parents will be more and more worried and universities will continue to struggle with uncertainty about future finances.

We must set aside the “make students pay” mantra and open up the debate to look for a sustainable and holistic solution to higher education financing.

This solution must examine diversifying finance for higher education within a portfolio of alternative income sources which balance government support and loans with income from research, development and commercialisation, endowments and system reform.

By Geoffrey Williams.

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What is a Foundation programme?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Students who were not offered a Government Matriculation Program want to obtain a Pre-U qualification so that they can enter a Private university.

Usually students don’t want to take the STPM because they were told that it is a very tough examination to pass. Even if you re-sit, you cannot pass the STPM.

At least that is what students  hear from their friends.

They don’t want to take the A levels because for the past 11 years they were learning all the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia.

They know that A Levels is in English. They will have a tough time passing A Levels – according to their peers.

So, what options do you have? Well, just take the Foundation Program and join the degree program the following year.

That is the current trend among students.

You have all kinds of Foundation Programs available, such as:-

Foundation in Business

Foundation in Arts

Foundation in Law

Foundation in Engineering

Foundation in Natural and Built Environments (FNBE)

Foundation in Science (for entry into Bioscience/Culinary Science/Medicine/Pharmacy/etc.)

Foundation in Computing

Foundation in Information Technology

Foundation in Communication

Foundation in Design

You name it and there will be a Foundation Program tailor-made for you. Even if you completed your SPM in the Arts stream, you can still switch to do a Foundation in Science.

Once you complete it, you can do Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Computer Science, etc.

What are the Advantages of pursuing a foundation programme ?

1.    You will study the subjects that are specific to the course you plan to take at degree level. If you are going to study Medicine, your Foundation Programme will be in Science.

If you intend to do a Degree in Information Technology, your Foundation Programme will be in Computer Science.

2.    A Foundation Programme is an instant Pre-U. You don’t have to study for 2 years like STPM and A Levels. It is quicker than other pre-university programmes.

3.    A Foundation programme will cost you approximately RM 10,000 to complete. It is the cheapest route to a degree. Some Colleges and Universities even offer FREE Foundation Programs provided you do a degree with them.

4.    The Foundation Programme is not an external examination.

The assessment style is usually a combination of coursework, continual assessment and a final exam, but the weighting of each assessment depends on the college

What are the disadvantages ?

1.    Once you have started on a Foundation Programme you cannot switch programmes. If you are taking courses such as  Foundation in IT, Music, Business, Architecture, etc. you will not find it easy to switch majors.

2.    The Government Universities do not recognize the Foundation Programme offered by Private Colleges and Universities. So the chances of you going back to Government Universities is practically NIL.

3.    Other colleges and universities,  both locally and abroad, may  not automatically recognise the foundation programme you have completed.

Career Tips

It looks like the more Pre-U choices you have, the more confusing it would be – both for students and parents.

The best advice would be to know all about the Pre-U program before you enroll.

Once you have enrolled there is no turning back and your money will be burnt. Remember, it is also very difficult to get any loan for Foundation Programmes. You need to find your owns funds.

by K. Krishnan.

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Harmonising public and private higher education

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
Some 1.3 million Malaysians are pursuing tertiary education. The tertiary enrolment growth scenario demonstrates the Education Ministry’s deep commitment in bringing the country on a par with the highest tertiary enrolment levels in Asean today.

THE Malaysian higher education sector has been thriving over the past few decades.

There are currently 20 public universities and 467 private higher learning institutions (HLIs) operating in the multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society with a population of 32.5 million.

The provision of public and private higher education has enabled a greater number of Malaysians to have access to tertiary  education. Over the last 40 years, the system has significantly increased tertiary enrolment rates to approximately 44 per cent of Malaysians between the ages of 17 and 23, compared with only 14 per cent in the 1970s and 1980s.

Figures speak volumes especially when it involves the young. Almost 1.3 million Malaysian youths are pursuing tertiary education; 500,000 are enrolled in the 20 public universities and more than 600,000 are registered in private HLIs. The tertiary enrolment growth scenario demonstrates that the Education Ministry is deeply committed in bringing the country on a par with the highest tertiary enrolment levels in Asean today.

Malaysia’s higher education ecosystem started in the 1970’s when most of the public universities were established. Private HLIs only began to be instituted in the early 1980s. They were originally private colleges offering three-year tertiary diploma courses in a limited range of subjects.

During the economic downturn in the late 1990s, private HLIs were allowed to offer franchise programmes from 2+2 to 4+0. By 2010, many private HLIs were upgraded to university colleges and universities. This signifies the ministry’s aims at unleashing and empowering the private HLIs to strive for institutional excellence in all forms.

The growth of the private tertiary colleges and universities would not have been possible without the financial involvement of private corporations. The enactment of the Private Higher Education Institutions Act (PHEIA) 1996 and the amendments made to the Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU) 1971, the Education Act 1961 and Act 555 on Private Higher Education have also contributed to the increased demands of the private higher education providers.

On the implementation side, private HLIs are no longer an alternative route in providing access to higher education. Their contributions are getting larger by day namely in regards to student enrolment, research, innovative teaching and learning, agile governance and talent planning.

Now is the time to work on the harmonisation of the regulation of the public and private HLIs. At present, there are two separate Acts which govern the higher education ecosystem in the country. Public universities are regulated by Act 30 of the Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU), whereas private HLIs are governed by Act 555 on Private Higher Education. Some of the dichotomous characteristics between the two providers were previously related to quality assurance matters.

The National Accreditation Board (LAN) Act was passed on Sept 26, 1996 to ensure that high academic standards, quality and control were maintained in public and private higher education. Issues were raised when only private colleges and universities needed to undergo the accreditation exercise despite the focus on both providers.

The existing practice demonstrates that public HLIs are subjected to similar quality assurance exercise by the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA), previously known as LAN. Gaps between the two providers have been reduced and harmonisation of the two Acts governing the providers is happening.

In the past, only public university researchers were allowed to apply and were awarded grants offered by the ministry. Now, researchers from private HLIs have equal opportunities as long as the institutions have attained a satisfactory achievement in the Malaysian Research Assessment Instrument (MyRA) rating. For the record, a number of researchers from private HLIs have managed to bid for national grants. Malaysian universities and college universities are also subjected to a national rating known as SETARA.

Nonetheless, there remains a considerable gap between public and private higher education providers in regards to regulations and governance. Private HLIs are considered to be under less direct government control. They report to the Private Sectorial of the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education which is responsible for the establishment, registration, management, enforcement, and quality of private education.

Despite the application of Act 555 to enforce compliance, private HLIs largely manage their own governance, comparative to the public ones. The entry requirements of the undergraduate, postgraduate students and academics, international student recruitment and many others highlight the dichotomy between the two providers.

Ideally, public and private HLIs should be governed by only one system and regulator as there is only one Malaysian higher education. With or without the abolishment of AUKU, both the public and private HLIs must be harmonised from the current highly-centralised governance system to a model based on earned autonomy within the regulatory framework.


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