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Stop Political Interference In Our Universities

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It is alarming to note that Malaysian students prefer to study abroad with a view of obtaining permanent resident status upon graduation, according to survey findings released by Anderson Market Analytics last week. The government needs to urgently arrest the declining standards in our ivory towers or risk more talent flowing out of the country.

To catch up, the government needs to uphold academic freedom, and do away with any form of political interference in campuses. The prosecution of Dr Azmi Sharom and investigation of Dr Khoo Ying Hui under the Sedition Act plus the controversial removal of Prof Datuk Dr Mohammad Redzuan Othman from UMcedel all lend credence to the perception that political interference is rife in our universities.

It is also imperative that promotions of academicians be based on merit. Right now, the process appears to be opaque at best. This has resulted in many good lecturers leaving in search of greener pastures. Universities deprived of quality academic staff will naturally drive students away.

As it is, our local universities are already faring poorly in global surveys. In the Times Higher Education World University Ranking for 2015-2016, our best performing university is Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, which is in the 401-500 band. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Mara are in the 601-800 band.

It is not surprising that universities of such rankings do not appeal very much to our students. The government needs to quickly stem this tide. Granting more autonomy to universities would help restore the faith of more Malaysians in local institutions of higher learning.

Text: Woon King Chai/Free Malaysia Today

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