By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
In this article, I will propose four KPIs that can be implemented without having to be debated in parliament for the Minister in charge of Higher Education.
All the four suggested KPI are for the 20 public universities belonging to the people of Malaysia.
The first KPI concerns the involvement of the rakyat in the administration of the public university.
At the present time, this kind of involvement is limited only to the Board of Governors and the Minister himself as all of them represent somewhat ‘the public’. However, because of too much politicking in this country, most of those appointed have suspicious reputation and records and are distrusted by the public at large.
The Prime Minister must make an effort to ‘give the university back to the rakyat’.
At the moment, the public university, paid fully by the people of this country, seems no more than the extended arm of the civil service on the one hand, and also some resemble the political arm of a ruling party at the extreme end.
My main concern is that knowledge generated by the academics must show its relevance and impact directly to the development of the society.
This is the sacred purpose of knowledge as stipulated in the Qur’an and in the Hadith of the Prophet. Knowledge should never be simply for self aggrandizement or selfish use but as a ‘wakaf’ or ‘endowment’ to the people in perpetuity.
Many public university Vice Chancellors fail miserably to understand that simple message even though they all claim to be of the same religion as the Prophet Muhammad.
Thus, for the first KPI, I propose that the Ministry of Higher Education work with civil society to appoint members of the public to the Board of Advisers to each faculty in the public universities.
In the real sense, each faculty is the essence of the university. The Vice Chancellors is simply a ‘glorified clerk’ as its office do not confer degrees or PhDs. The faculty is the heart of the university. And towering above the VC and others are the professors who are the walking knowledge institutions of any university.
I would also like to propose that in each committee for the promotion of professorship, that at least two members from civil society should be present.
Professors should not just show their depth of knowledge in the particular discipline but actually show new directions of cross discipline and a philosophy construct of society and nation.
I have seen too many self glorified evaluation of professors in their particular fields to the point that although there are 3.000 professors in Malaysia, we are behind in every facet of social, economic, educational, political and scientific development.
None of the Board of Advisers and promotion should be personalities from any political party.
For my second proposed KPI, the Ministry should encourage students to be involved with campus politics.
However, there are three important restrictions to the student body in setting up their political parties.
Firstly, there should be no party that is based on race, religion or any of the national political parties.
Secondly, political parties can network with NGOs and national political parties of their choice.
Thirdly, any party that fails to prove that their membership has not attained 20% of mixed race and faith, will be closed down.
We do not want race or religion based politics to govern the future of this country. The student representatives should be treated like Members of Parliament in the campus and thus, a special building dedicated to student parliament and politics must be designated or constructed.
This building will be run purely by students with a basic budget for servicing and student activities allocated by the university. Five student representatives from all public universities must be given special clearance and financial allowances to attend the debates at the real Parliament Building for two weeks to inspire them to be better leaders of tomorrow.
For my third KPI, all public universities must be equipped with an Ecumenical Center to house the activities and offices of students from faiths other than Islam.
A building constructed with a modest budget of RM5 million for each university should be adequate so as not to rival the massive budget for the building of the university mosque.
The public universities of Malaysia, I must remind the Minister, belong to all faiths, all races and all citizens of whatever lifestyle as long as they pay the taxes to run this country.
For my fourth KPI, I would like to take up the issue of the laboratory equipment and the library. Since public universities are run by the money from taxes, and not from student fees like the private universities, I claim that all the expensive lab equipment, machines as well as the books in the library to be owned by the people of Malaysia.
Since the private universities of this country are set up by citizens of this country, these universities must also have rights of use to the machines, equipment and books. The Ministry must expedite the use of these equipment and facilities for all Malaysians to use. There is to be no fee charged except for some token for maintenance of these equipment and machines.
We are One Malaysia. No public university can claim territoriality over these equipment, machines and books financed by the taxpayers. Even if these machines were ‘donated’ by corporate or private entities, they still belong to the people of Malaysia.
Private universities in Malaysia pay hundreds of millions in corporate taxes as opposed to zero tax contribution by public universities. It is only fair that they can get easy and meaningful access to the equipment, machines and books paid by their tax ringgit.
Thus, these are the four KPIs that the Minister of Higher Education can consider to implement. All of them require only a set of directives without any tabling to parliament.
If we wish to see public universities performing for the nation, these four KPIs will ensure that these institutions serve the people and not selfishly themselves or the interest of a ruling party.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)