Friday, December 30, 2011

The disposable academic - Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time - The Economist

ON THE evening before All Saints’ Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research—a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn’t graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What’s discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Rich pickings

For most of history even a first degree at a university was the privilege of a rich few, and many academic staff did not hold doctorates. But as higher education expanded after the second world war, so did the expectation that lecturers would hold advanced degrees. American universities geared up first: by 1970 America was producing just under a third of the world’s university students and half of its science and technology PhDs (at that time it had only 6% of the global population). Since then America’s annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000.

Other countries are catching up. Between 1998 and 2006 the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40%, compared with 22% for America. PhD production sped up most dramatically in Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Even Japan, where the number of young people is shrinking, churned out about 46% more PhDs. Part of that growth reflects the expansion of university education outside America. Richard Freeman, a labour economist at Harvard University, says that by 2006 America was enrolling just 12% of the world’s students.

But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009—higher than the average for judges and magistrates.

Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.

A short course in supply and demand

In research the story is similar. PhD students and contract staff known as “postdocs”, described by one student as “the ugly underbelly of academia”, do much of the research these days. There is a glut of postdocs too. Dr Freeman concluded from pre-2000 data that if American faculty jobs in the life sciences were increasing at 5% a year, just 20% of students would land one. In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax—the average salary of a construction worker. The rise of the postdoc has created another obstacle on the way to an academic post. In some areas five years as a postdoc is now a prerequisite for landing a secure full-time job.

These armies of low-paid PhD researchers and postdocs boost universities’, and therefore countries’, research capacity. Yet that is not always a good thing. Brilliant, well-trained minds can go to waste when fashions change. The post-Sputnik era drove the rapid growth in PhD physicists that came to an abrupt halt as the Vietnam war drained the science budget. Brian Schwartz, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, says that in the 1970s as many as 5,000 physicists had to find jobs in other areas.

In America the rise of PhD teachers’ unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later. Student teachers in public universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed unions as early as the 1960s, but the pace of unionisation has increased recently. Unions are now spreading to private universities; though Yale and Cornell, where university administrators and some faculty argue that PhD students who teach are not workers but apprentices, have resisted union drives. In 2002 New York University was the first private university to recognise a PhD teachers’ union, but stopped negotiating with it three years later.

In some countries, such as Britain and America, poor pay and job prospects are reflected in the number of foreign-born PhD students. Dr Freeman estimates that in 1966 only 23% of science and engineering PhDs in America were awarded to students born outside the country. By 2006 that proportion had increased to 48%. Foreign students tend to tolerate poorer working conditions, and the supply of cheap, brilliant, foreign labour also keeps wages down.

Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.

Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia. One OECD study shows that five years after receiving their degrees, more than 60% of PhDs in Slovakia and more than 45% in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain were still on temporary contracts. Many were postdocs. About one-third of Austria’s PhD graduates take jobs unrelated to their degrees. In Germany 13% of all PhD graduates end up in lowly occupations. In the Netherlands the proportion is 21%.

A very slim premium

PhD graduates do at least earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British men with a bachelor’s degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master’s degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree.

Dr Schwartz, the New York physicist, says the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses. Thirty years ago, he says, Wall Street firms realised that some physicists could work out differential equations and recruited them to become “quants”, analysts and traders. Today several short courses offer the advanced maths useful for finance. “A PhD physicist with one course on differential equations is not competitive,” says Dr Schwartz.

Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual.

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors’ publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn’t in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband.

Monica Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, is a rare exception. She believes that too many PhDs are being produced, and has stopped admitting them. But such unilateral academic birth control is rare. One Ivy-League president, asked recently about PhD oversupply, said that if the top universities cut back others will step in to offer them instead.

Noble pursuits

Many of the drawbacks of doing a PhD are well known. Your correspondent was aware of them over a decade ago while she slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology. As Europeans try to harmonise higher education, some institutions are pushing the more structured learning that comes with an American PhD.

The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. In Britain a four-year NewRoutePhD claims to develop just such skills in graduates.

Measurements and incentives might be changed, too. Some university departments and academics regard numbers of PhD graduates as an indicator of success and compete to produce more. For the students, a measure of how quickly those students get a permanent job, and what they earn, would be more useful. Where penalties are levied on academics who allow PhDs to overrun, the number of students who complete rises abruptly, suggesting that students were previously allowed to fester.

Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Majlis Konvokesyen ke 11 OUM pada 10 & 11 Disember 2011

Cokmar OUM diletakkan dengan berhati-hati sebelum Majlis Konvokesyen di mulakan

Ucapan aluan Presiden dan Naib Canselor OUM, YBhg Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr. Anuwar Ali

Seramai 3,468 orang graduan menerima ijazah masing-masing pada Majlis Konvokesyen OUM yang ke 11 yang telah dijalankan dari 10 hingga 11 Disember 2011. Mereka menerima ijazah daripada YAB Tun Jeanne Abdullah, Canselor OUM pada hari pertama dan YBhg Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Pro-Canselor OUM pada hari kedua.

YBhg Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr. Anuwar Ali sedang membacakan latar belakang YBhg Tan Sri Arshad Ayub yang dikurniakan dengan Ijazah Doktor Kehormat Pengurusan

YBhg Tan Sri Arshad Ayub sedang menerima Ijazah Doktor Kehormat dari YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah, Canselor OUM

YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah, Canselor OUM sedang mengishtiharkan pembukaan Majlis Kovokesyen OUM ke11

Majlis ini telah dijalankan di Dewan Merdeka PWTC seperti konvokesyen yang lepas. Para graduan hadir bersama keluarga masing-masing membanjiri PWTC pada tingkat 4 di mana majlis ini dilangsungkan.

Dr. Siti Mazidah, graduan PhD (Pendidikan) sedang menyampaikan ucap terima kasih bagi pihak graduan

Salah seorang graduan sedang menerima ijazahnya dari YABhg Tun Canselor pada hari konvo pertama

Majlis dimulakan dengan perarakan akademik dan perarakan besar. Selepas itu lagu NegaraKu diikuti lagu OUM dimainkan.

Presiden dan Naib Canselor OUM memulakan majlis dengan ucapan aluan serta memohon izin Canselor untuk menganugerahkan ijazah-ijazah kepada para graduan.

Para graduan berdiri semasa perarakan akademik

Pada majlis kali ini, 3 orang graduan PhD dalam pendidikan berjaya menerima ijazah mereka. Antaranya ialah Dr. Siti Maziha yang telah diberi penghormatan untuk menyampaikan ucapan bagi pihak para graduan sekalian.

Kelihatan graduan sedang senyum lebar menandakan saat kegembiraan mereka

Terdahulu dari itu, YBhg Tan Sri Dato Arshad Ayub telah dianugerahkan Ijazah Kedoktoran Kehormat dalam bidang pengurusan bagi mengenang jasanya dalam bidang pendidikan jarak jauh.

Salah seorang graduan sedang menerima ijazahnya dari YBhg Tan Sri Azman Hashim Pro-Canselor OUM pada hari konvo kedua

Barisan ahli akademik sedang menanti saat untuk perarakan masuk akademik

Dr. Rosmah bersama Dr. Richard semasa majlis konvo

Majlis konvokesyen ini telah dijalankan dalam empat sidang dengan dua sidang setiap hari.

Para graduan sedang membetulkan jubah masing-masing sebelum majlis konvo

Para graduan sedang sibuk membeli ole-ole OUM di kaunter Alumni OUM

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More than 60% of private colleges in Malaysia ranked as satisfactory - The Star


PUTRAJAYA: More than 60% of private colleges in Malaysia have been ranked as satisfactory, according to the first Malaysia Quality Evaluation System (MyQUEST), with a score of four stars and above.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said of a total of 403 colleges, 232 were qualified to be audited based on the criterias set by the ministry but only 210 agreed to be audited.

"The purpose of MyQUEST is to categorise the colleges which are excellent, good, or weak, and prepare the suitable approaches to help the weaker ones with their issues and challenges,” said Khaled at a press conference after the ministry's Integrity Day 2011 celebration here Thursday.

Of all the colleges, only three institutions - Penang Medical College, Segi College Subang Jaya and Taylor's College Subang Jaya were awarded the maximum of six stars.

Mohamed Khaled urged private colleges to continuously improve their quality and performance to remain competitive in the market and encouraged those that were eligible to participate in the evaluation system.

"If the colleges are genuine and confident, I do not see any reason why they would not want to participate."

He said the system would also help the public with deciding where they wanted to pursue their tertiary education.

"If a college is continuously ranked below three stars, the market would decide their fate," he said, adding that the ranking would act as a reference point for PTPTN loan approvals and requests to be upgraded to a University College status, among others.

Apart from the top three colleges, 20 colleges (9.5%) attained five stars, and 60 colleges (28.6%) attained four stars, with the remaining 72 (34.3%) receiving three stars and below

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Using A Light Barrier To Repel Mosquitoes - Forbes

Columbia physicist Szabolcs Marka

What if it turned out that you could ditch the bug spray to keep mosquitoes away –and use a beam of light instead? That’s what Szabolcs Márka, an experimental physicist, is in the early stages of researching.

Márka, 42, an associate professor at Columbia University, is an academic who lets his curiosity lead him. He had been studying optics as part of his astrophysics research (on what happens when two black holes merge) several years ago when the idea popped into his head that mosquitoes find their targets using complex sensory systems, so what about damaging or confusing those sensors? Working with colleagues including his wife associate research scientist Zsuzsa Márka (a physicist and a chemist) and Imre Bartos (an astrophysicist), he first tried knocking out and damaging the sensors of Anopheles gambiae, a malaria mosquito. Then the researchers came up with the idea of a light barrier. “We stumbled on this: If you have an invisible wall of light, how will mosquitoes and fruit flies react? They do walk or fly into it. Then they turn back. They don’t want to cross it,” says Márka. (Watch this video here to see how the mosquitoes stop at the invisible wall of light.)

He applied to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and got a $100,000 grant in 2008 to pursue the research. His results were so interesting that the Gates Foundation gave him a second grant, of $1 million, to keep going. His is just one of five research groups to receive a second grant as a follow up to the foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations grants.

The Gates Foundations’ primary interest in this research is its possible use for preventing malaria. Despite successful efforts to reduce the incidence of the disease in some countries, malaria still kills nearly 1 million people a year –mostly in sub Saharan Africa and mostly children under age 5. But the applications could be much wider. Imagine beams of light in your backyard patio keeping the bugs away — or a beam across your bedroom window, keeping the mosquitoes from entering your room.

Márka says it will be years before real practical tools emerge. Right now, his team is using the Gates Foundation grant to study the parameters of the effect they discovered. Does this apply to old mosquitoes as well as young ones? Does it work on mosquitoes that are well fed as well as those who are not? Is the best beam of light one by a window, or encircling a bed? They are also developing a mathematical model that will predict the broader effects of this tool. If you protect 50% of the people from mosquitoes, will it make the situation worse for the other 50%?

Just why the mosquitoes are repelled by the light barrier is a mystery Márka and his colleagues are still trying to unravel. “For practical purposes, it doesn’t really matter why. When I put on my scientist hat, this is the most interesting question,” says Márka. If scientists can understand how a mosquito identifies odors and gases and finds the right place to bite, Márka envisions one day creating robots with these qualities. “Imagine someone is down in a mine –we don’t want to go there. Or there’s a wounded soldier. Or there’s a person trapped close to a nuclear reactor,” he says, describing the opportunities for robots that can find humans the way mosquitoes and other arthropods do.

His insect research on the surface looks like quite a leap from previous projects in fundamental science. Márka, who is from Hungary but got his PhD at Vanderbilt University, was a nuclear physicist and spent time characterizing materials that could make nuclear reactors safer. Then he switched to particle physics and worked on building and using particle detectors destined to figure out aspects of how quarks behave. As the leader of the experimental gravity group at Columbia, he is looking into what happens when two black holes or neutron stars merge in the distant universe, is collaborating with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, a facility funded by the National Science Foundation and located in Louisiana and Hanford, Wash. that aims to detect cosmic gravitational waves Márka describes it as an instrument that “takes a light beam, splits it into two parts, brings them back together and measures whether one traveled longer than the other.” The purpose? “It’s opening a new window on the universe. You could see wonderful processes through gravitational waves—figuratively speaking, ‘the ripples of space-time itself’ –that you do not see otherwise.”

Prof. Márka’s work has earned him a spot as a finalist for the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists, given out under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences and backed by Russian-American billionaire industrialist Len Blavatnik. The winner of the Blavatnik Award will be announced on Nov. 14.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OUM PhD Students Monthly Gathering - Oct 23, 2011

Posted by Bee Ching:

Dear All,

We live in a multi-racial, multi cultural and multi-religious society. Last month,our Muslim friends celebrated Hari Raya Aidilfitri , this month we will have our Indian friends celebrate their Deepavali festival on the 26th of October. Hence the normal scheduled last Sunday meeting has been put forward a week early to 23rd as to allow members to enjoy the festival of light without interruption.

October meeting, we are glad to invite our ex-Doctoral Seminar facilitator and now Director of Student Management Center, Assoc Prof Dr Santhi Raghavan to give a Talk on Developing and Administrating of Survey Questionnaires.

We are looking forward to listen to Dr Santhi's timely expert guidance on how ,where, what and which survey questionnaires are to be selected, adapted and adopted for our research proposal.

Besides the Talk, we have invited our first batch of pioneer PhD(BA) graduates Richard Ng, Lum Heap Sum,Wong Siaw Ming and Patrick Wong to come and join us and share their(lonely) research journeys with us.

At the point of writing this message, Dr Richard Ng, has replied he would be working on the day . Dr Lum and Dr Wong Siaw Ming have just replied that they would be happy to join us. As suggested by Zulkifli, during our dialogue session, we hope to listen to some mentoring tips from Dr Lum and Dr Wong. They said they would be happy to answer questions raised from the floor. Please have your questions ready.

By the way, I have forwarded three files on PhD September briefings prepared by Dr Rosmah to members in the loop. I realized the file size is very large and many mails sent to members' company addresses have been returned and have to be resent again twice to limit the files size. Please download the 50 ppf slides, and keep the information for future reference. The one on Estimated to complete PhD time table is most useful .

Below please find the 23rd October Program Agenda

9.00-9.30 - Registration
9,30-10.30 - Developing and administrating survey questionnaire( Part 1)
10.30-11.00 - Morning tea break
11.00-12.00 - Developing and administrating survey questionnaire( Part 2)
12.00-1.00 - Sharing by Dr Lum and Dr Wong .
1.00-2.30 - Lunch

Venue : GA01 Beside Theatrette & Library, OUM

Cost : nil

For those intending to come, please confirm by email to or
sms to 0173402968 so that Dr Santhi will know the number of notes to be prepared as well as the lunch to be ordered

Thank you and see you all there to listen, to learn, to meet and to network.

Happy studying and writing

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Post-grad student boost - The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Students will have a chance to continue their studies at international institutions through the newly-launched Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

The Prime Minister said the grant, open to Malaysian post-graduate students between 22 and 35 years old, would be introduced next year in disciplines like education, arts, sports, community and social work, environment, health, and science and technology.

“The youths are our future and it is important that we guide and provide them the opportunities and facilities to pursue their interest,” he said at the Merdeka Award ceremony at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas here last night.

The grant will allow students to engage in short-term collaborative projects at selected, internationally-recognised host institutions to develop their expertise.

“One grant will be offered in 2012 and two each in subsequent years,” he added.

At the function, Najib presented awards to Datuk Dr Kenneth Yeang, Prof Datuk Dr Goh Khean Lee and Prof Dr Mak Joon Wah for outstanding work in their respective fields.

Yeang received an award in the environment category for his contributions to developing ecology-related designs for buildings and in environmental conservation planning while Dr Goh and Dr Mak were joint recipients in the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category.

Dr Goh was awarded for his contributions to developing research and practices in gastroenterology and hepatology in Malaysia to the global level.

Dr Mak is recognised as a global expert on filariasis and malaria by the World Health Organisation after being appointed consultant in at least 17 different cases.

Dr Goh said: “It is an honour to be chosen and I am extremely happy to share this prestigious award with a well-known scholar like Dr Mak.”

Each category offers a RM500,000 prize money, a trophy and a certificate.

The joint recipients of the Outstanding Scholastic Achievement category will share the award equally.

Also present at the ceremony were previous Merdeka Award recipients, the Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and Merdeka Award Board of Trustees chairman Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas

The Merdeka Award was established by Petronas, ExxonMobil and Shell on August 27, 2007 to recognise and reward individuals who had made outstanding and lasting contributions to the nation in their respective fields.

Khaled: Local unis missing THE 400 research criteria - The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — Local universities did not feature in the recent Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings as they lacked the research expertise needed for a placing, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Khaled Nordin explained today.
“We know that if we participated, we will not even make it into the Times top 400 university rankings because we are new, we need to wait until our research really matured,” Khaled was quoted by Bernama Online today.

“It’s not that we have been assessed and disqualified... [but] our elements of research are just too young and immature [to make the list].”

Times’ World University Rankings is a grades the world’s top 400 universities.

The California Institute of Technology — or Caltech — secured top spot in this year’s rankings, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Princeton.

The World University Rankings first appeared as a supplement in The Times of London, are now published by the Times Higher Education magazine.

The weekly is regarded as the UK’s leading higher education publication.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ICDE 2011 Conference - 2 - 5, Oct 2011 in Bali

The ICDE 2011 conference in Bali has just concluded yesterday with a free trip to several locations.

According to conference organizing chairman, Tian Belawati, the bi-anuual conference has attracted 602 participants from 49 countries with 230 presenters. The conference was officially open by HE President Bambang of Indonesia.

Several prominent speakers were invited to speak at the 24th ICDE Conference.

The following are some short video clips of some of the papers presented:

Video Clip of Richard Ng - Part 1:

Video Clip of Richard Ng - Part 2:

... more to come

24th ICDE World Conference media release: The power of education to transform lives - access, investment and development

The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) held its 24th biennial world conference in collaboration with The Open University (Universitas Terbuka), Indonesia from 2-5 October 2011. The conference, which looked at new approaches to learning, took place on the island of Bali and was attended by over 600 delegates representing 49 countries.


The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) is a network of educational institutions and associations worldwide. The organization enjoys formal consultative relations with UNESCO and works to promote open and distance learning, and provide opportunities for exchange of educational best practice between countries and regions.

The importance of creative solutions for education

In opening the conference, the Minister of National Education of the Republic of Indonesia Muhammad Nuh praised Universitas Terbuka for its work in overcoming challenges in the provision of access to education: “We have to be creative – open and distance learning has to be used as widely as possible to narrow social gaps”.

A personal story about educational opportunity

Hal Plotkin, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of Education, United States Department of Education drew on his own life story to highlight the opportunity that distance education can bring to underprivileged sections of society. On the verge of losing the family home, 17-year-old Plotkin left high school to work as a waiter until a newspaper article about school dropouts provoked him to write a reply, the beginning of a career as a writer and journalist. His formal education came through the US community college system which has no requirements for previous formal education: “Only 5% have real opportunities to enter higher education and among the other 95% could be geniuses capable of finding the cure for diabetes and solutions to the world’s economic challenges – open education is the only tool to unlock talent and capacity and to extend economic growth”.

Investments in access to education

Plotkin reported on massive investments in open education being made by the Obama administration in the United States through the federal Online Skills Laboratory, an initiative to build open resources for learning. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) will invest $2 billion over the next four years in initiatives including free to access materials.

Keynote speaker Duk Hoon Kwak of the Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS), a public television network dedicated to lifelong public education noted similar investments planned in Korea for 2012-2015. All Korean students will be provided with digital textbooks by the end of this period.

Access challenges in developing countries

Onno W Purbo an IT evangelist from Indonesia spoke of how 6 million children enter school annually, but only 600,000 graduate from higher education. While learning materials are ever more freely available, the predominance of English language creates barriers, though Google translate is widely used. Students and teachers use USB memory drives to overcome the problems of slow internet connection, while kitchen utensils are used to extend the range of Wi-Fi hotspots.

From a Brazilian perspective, Stavros Xanthopoylos spoke of the challenges to creating and distributing free educational content when quality education is only available through private universities and colleges: “the value chain is based on profit and this goes against what they are about”.

Academic perspectives

Lawrence Lessig, lawyer, activist and founder of Creative Commons, an initiative to provide certificates for the licensing of scientific and educational materials spoke passionately about the injustices of commercial scientific publishing which restricts access to knowledge to the most privileged: “copyright is 18th century rules in a 21st century world”.

Respected academics working with open educational resources including Gráinne Conole from the University of Leicester, UK, and Rory McGreal from Athabasca University, Canada spoke on the role of technology in learning. McGreal advised colleagues to create educational materials for mobile devices first: “a third of the world’s population can only access the Internet from mobile devices”.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

3 out of 10 doctoral students drop out - NST

PUTRAJAYA: Up to three out of 10 Malaysians who signed up to pursue
their doctorates on a part-time basis end up dropping out because of work and family commitments.

This has discouraged many others at a time the Higher Education Ministry is targeting 60,000 PhD holders by 2023, up from the present 14,000.

Professor Dr Zakaria Kasa, head of the National Council of Professors’ education and human capital development cluster, said many of those pursuing their PhDs locally often found that they did not have enough time to focus on their research because of work and family commitments.

“Others then become sceptical about taking up PhDs when they see people they know dropping out halfway,” he said.

This is the reason more people preferred to pursue their PhDs overseas, where they feel they will able to focus better on their research.

Another reason is a high dependency on scholarships or sponsorships.

“This isn’t a problem in public universities because there are allocations for staff and with the government’s MyBrains15 Scholarship programme, non-lecturers are also given an opportunity to pursue PhDs.

“Unfortunately, many want to go overseas and there are very few scholarships for this. Even atmy university, we have a quota for overseas scholar ships,” he said. Zakaria is deputy vice chancellor of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.

He said the National Council of Professors was looking at means of motivating more people to pursue PhDs.

“If possible, the council will like to see every academic become a PhD holder,” he said, adding that there was a shortage of professors, which now stood at 1,700 nationwide.

“In developing countries, academics adhere to a pyramid structure where professors are at the top, followed by associate professors and then lecturers. In developed countries, it is a reverse pyramid.” In developed countries, the number of professors reflects a university’s excellence.

“It’s not easy to be promoted to professor level.

“There are criteria that need to be fulfilled like the number of published papers.” Local universities also do not have the kind of funding compared with established universities overseas, such as Harvard, which receives generous funds from its alumni.

Zakaria said it would be an investment for the country if it could provide funding to allow those pursuing their PhDs to go to some of the top 100 universities in the world.

Yesterday, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the government had, to date, received 2,802 applications for the MyMaster, 672 for the MyPhD and 51 for the PhD Industry components of the MyBrain15 Scholarship programme.

He said this after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of agreement for an engineering doctorate programme between Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) and several private engineering companies at the Marriott Putrajaya. Khaled had announced previously that the government was targeting to reach 650 successful applications for MyPhD, 8,000 for MyMaster and 100 for PhD Industry this year.

Under the programme, successful candidates for MyPhD, MyMaster and PhD Industry will receive RM22,000, RM10,000 and RM50,000 each respectively as long as they further their study in Malaysia.

The MyBrain15 programme aims to produce, among others, 5,000 PhD holders under the MyPhD project, 40,000 master’s degree holders under MyMaster programme and 500 PhD Industry holders, by 2015.

Read more: 3 out of 10 doctoral students drop out

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

UM senior lecturer wins judicial review over PhD - The Star


KUALA LUMPUR: A senior Universiti Malaya (UM) lecturer, who was orally told he had passed his Phd but later informed he had failed, won his judicial review application at the High Court here Tuesday.

High Court judge Justice Rohana Yusuf, in allowing G. Sivapalan's application with costs, ordered UM to pay him RM7,000.

In his application, Sivapalan had asked the court to confirm that the oral decision by UM's examination committee announced to him on Sept 28, 2006 was valid and enforceable.

He also sought for all benefits, including salary increment from year 2006.

In his court paper, Sivapalan said he had registered to pursue his PhD on Oct 16, 1996 and had duly submitted his thesis on March 20, 2006.

He said he had duly attended a viva voce (oral examination) on Sept 28, 2006 and was informed that he had passed his PhD thesis examination.

His lawyer M. Eswary said his client later received letters from UM saying he had failed his PhD and would not be allowed to sit for a second viva voce.

She said her client asked why the university made such a decision three years after he was informed orally that he had passed his PhD.

On Tuesday, Justice Rohana held in chambers that the letter issued by UM that Sivapalan had failed his PhD and would not be allowed to continue his PhD programme again was invalid.

The judge held that the affidavit given by the UM's internal examiner Prof M. Rajantheran on what had transpired during Sivapalan's viva-voce on Sept 28, 2006 "stood unrebutted".

(In the affidavit, Prof Rajantheran stated that the viva-voce committee unanimously decided that Sivapalan had passed the PhD examination thesis without any need to do correction and could be conferred with PhD.)

Therefore, Justice Rohana ruled that Sivapalan had a legitimate expectation that he has passed his doctorate degree.

She said UM failed to explain the three-year delay to notify the lecturer over his status.

Work visa mulled for international post-grad students - The Star


PUTRAJAYA: Qualified international post-graduate students may be allowed to work in Malaysia.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said such students would help contribute to the country's aims of increasing its skilled workforce.

"Universities can recommend good students who can work here, and we in turn can suggest that the Immigration department issue them work visas," he said.

He was speaking to reporters after attending the Malaysia International Scholarship (MIS) presentation ceremony at his ministry here.

Nine students received scholarships at the event, and a total of 110 MIS awards have been handed out to international students from 27 countries this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Government aims to attract 200,000 international students by 2020 - The Malaysian Insider

By Melissa Chi September 13, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced today that the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) aims to attract at least 200,000 international students to education institutions in Malaysia by 2020.

He said that the increased number of foreign students would be worth an estimated RM600 billion to the economy.

“Through co-operation with established and renowned institutions abroad, the government intends to make the education sector an economic endeavour by attracting more foreign students,” he said during his speech at the Education Nation Conference 2011 here at the Royale Chulan Hotel.

Malaysia has achieved a world ranking of 11th in terms of total international student population from around the world.

This was due to the burgeoning international student population in Malaysia, which has risen above 90,000, or the equivalent of around two per cent of the total international student population in the world as of June this year.

Based on the statistical breakdown provided by the MOHE website, the top five countries from which the majority of students were derived in 2009 were Iran, Indonesia, China, Nigeria and Yemen.

“Malaysia’s strategic regional position forms a melting pot of confluence that allows cross-fertilisation of ideas, cultures and civilisation dialogism,” Muhyiddin said.

The rise in the overseas student population in Malaysia is also attributed to the higher education liberalisation policy which aims to provide 100 per cent foreign equity by 2015.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Perdana University launched; Dr M named chancellor - The Star


Perdana University was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was named the university's first chancellor.

The university, a collaboration with world-renowned Johns Hopkins and the Royal College of Surgeons, saw the first intake of 30 medical students.

In his speech, Najib said the presence of the university would help put Malaysia on the world map for excellence in education and research in medicine.

Monday, September 5, 2011

UM among top 200 varsities


PETALING JAYA: Universiti Malaya (UM) is the only Malaysian institution that has made it to the top 200 of the QS World University Rankings 2011/12.

It moved up 40 places to 167 this year compared to 207 in 2010.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) have all slid down the rankings (see table).

UKM is ranked 279 this year compared to 263 in 2010; USM at 335 (309), UPM 358 (319) and UTM at between 401 and 450 (365).

For the first time, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) were included in the rankings at 451-500 and 601+ respectively.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin congratulated UM on its improvement, saying it was a reflection of the hard work put in by the university staff.

“I am also happy that two more of our institutions, IIUM and UiTM, have made it to the QS World University Rankings,” he said.

However, he said rankings were not the ministry's main objective as it was important to ensure universities contribute to the development process of the country.

QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) Ltd Intelligence Unit head Ben Sowter said QS conducts and compiles the annual World University Rankings, which is an annual league table of the top universities in the world.

The rankings are based on data gathered and measured in academic peer review, employer reputation review, international faculty ratio, international student ratio, student faculty ratio, and citations per faculty.

On UM's improvement, Sowter said it was the only Malaysian institution to have improved in its academic, employer scores and international aspects this year.

He said UKM lost ground in the employer reputation review and citations per faculty but improved in academic reputation.

“IIUM entered directly into the top 500, which is an excellent result for a new entry, while UiTM is lower down but deserves inclusion,” he said.

He said 2,919 institutions were considered for the rankings this year.

UM vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon said the policy to have academics and postgraduate students improved their quality of research and to have their output published in the Thomson Institute for Scientific Information indexed journals was paying off.

“This is a key policy that will continue under my administration so the promise of getting UM into the Top 100 in the QS World University Rankings will be achieved by 2015,” he said.

Cambridge University topped the QS World University Rankings this year followed by Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Oxford University and Imperial College London.

The highest ranked Asian universities are University of Hong Kong at 22, University of Tokyo (25) and the National University of Singapore (28).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Push for rankings stirs trouble


Success often comes with a price. No one knows it better than Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon, who has ruffled feathers in his pursuit to place the varsity among the top 100 worldwide.

ONE OF the first things that newly-appointed Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Ghauth Jasmon did was to check on the productivity of its academia in 2009.

The results served a rude awakening as it showed that only 250 people — about 10% of UM’s academic staff – published at least one research paper a year.

Prof Ghauth wants to bring UM back to its former glory.It was embarassing to have the oldest and premier university in the country lagging behind a few of its peers in this aspect. Based on the Malaysian Research Asessment Instrument (MyRA) scores, UM ranked behind Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia.

As MyRA focused on the fundamentals of a university — research and development (R&D), R&D commercialisiation and the number of PhD staff, among others — it was clear to Prof Ghauth that a shake up was imperative. Hence, the move to reward academics who actively published papers in high impact journals like the Thomson ISI (Institute for Scientific Information), which includes citation databases covering thousands of academic journals, such as the Science Citation Index, the Social Sciences Citation Index and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index.

With the new policy in place, the number of publications began to rise and so did UM’s stability in the rankings — constantly hovering around the 200 mark in the QS World University Rankings.

Prof Ghauth’s principal target is to break into the top 100 of the QS rankings by 2015 (currently at 207) and the top 50 by 2020.

Another sweetener for UM was breaking into the top 500 in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for the first time.

The university has also been given the green light to proceed with its Health Metropolis – an Entry Point Project for Healthcare under the Economic Transformation Programme.

Joining the ranks

But these achievements come with a price. UM made headlines in a local daily recently, quoting UM’s academic staff association president Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom that it was facing a staff crisis – reflected by an exodus of 146 academic staff since 2009 – as academics were dissatisfied with the vice-chancellor.

The unhappiness was attributed to Prof Ghauth’s policies which tightened promotion procedures and placed an emphasis on ISI publications.

Although Dr Azmi went public to stress that he said no such thing – his name had been misused by his fellow association members – the damage was done and Prof Ghauth called a hastily convened press conference where he outlined the true situation and the need for a transformation plan. He added that UM’s actual turnover of an average of 30 each year was normal for any varsity.

Refuting allegations that he was obsessed with rankings, Prof Ghauth said UM had a responsibility to be competitive and develop to a point where it could be compared with renowned varsities like Harvard, Princeton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tsinghua, among others.

“The National University of Singapore (NUS) is always in the top 100 and Thailand has two varsities – Mahidol and Chulalongkorn – in the 100-200 band under QS,” he said at the press conference.

“There is no reason for us to be behind these varsities as UM and NUS started on equal footing at the same time. As vice-chancellor, I am saddened that we are lagging behind and it is my responsibility to bring UM up.”

Prof Ghauth has been credited with gumption as he is seen to be the only vice-chancellor who aspires to play the rankings game.

“He was brave enough to put his head on the chopping block and it’s an admirable trait as the risks are great,” shares a policy maker.

Prof Ghauth’s offer was timely as the Opposition are constantly nipping at the heels of the Government over the poor representation of Malaysian varsities in various university rankings.

“Although not everyone in the ministry reads too much into rankings, the Government is under pressure. Are we really that bad that we can’t have a university in the top 200?” says a source.

One size doesn’t fit all

Although QS and the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings parted ways in 2009, both continue to place heavy weightage on research and the peer review components. The ARWU also places a similar emphasis on these.

The number of publications in high impact journals like the ISI has a great bearing on a varsity’s rank.

This correlation is captured in UM’s new promotion mechanism – in effect from 2010 to June 2013 – where academic staff must produce a certain number of publications before they can move up the ladder (See Table 1).

And although this is a sore point for some, UM deputy vice-chancellor (Development) Prof Dr Kurunathan Ratnavelu (who carried out the analysis of UM’s staff productivity) says the new policies embrace meritocracy and it is the first time such a benchmarking style has been implemented.

Having served at UM for 22 years, Prof Kurunathan opines that the core issue is really about increasing productivity. However, rankings ultimately depend on research productivity so there is a correlation.

“The new policies eradicate notions of permanency but stress that performance determines one’s rise – or stagnation – in the hierarchy.”

However, a number of academics disagree with this rationale and most of those express concern over UM’s obsession with rankings.

“The union supports the promotion of meritocracy as we have ‘deadwood’ in UM,” says Dr Azmi.

Prof Kurunathan says the new policies embrace meritocracy. “However, we are concerned that UM seems particularly enamoured with rankings to the point where staff are pressured to produce ISI publications.”

He adds that high impact journal publication is a criterion used by rankers for the sole reason that it could be measured conveniently.

His deputy, Assoc Prof Dr Rosli Mahat, says many have no clear idea of a university’s essence apart from the prototype propagated through the rankings.

“Look at the QS and THE rankings and ask yourself who works out the criteria. Businessmen and newspapers!” he shares.

“In this light, we should base our criteria on the Unesco recommendations for higher education teaching staff which advocates institutional autonomy, accountability, collegiality and the security of employment, among others.”

The dissenters, including academics from UM’s medical faculty, hit out at the rigid one-size-fits-all policy, while at the same time concede that abuse did indeed occur in the absence of objective criteria.

A medical lecturer points out that academia is more than just publishing in journals.

“One’s ability in stimulating intellectual discussion and mentoring students should be taken into account, just as one’s expertise in the field as well as the quality of coaching,” he says..

Another medical lecturer shares the problems that arise when there is a blanket requirement for a professorship regardless of one’s field of study.

“A doctor’s main concern is patient care, so we focus on clinical research that will benefit professionals in the treatment of patients.

“The gestation period for such research can easily be six years; how is it then possible to produce multiple high impact papers every year?” she says.

She adds that locally relevant research will fall by the wayside if the focus is “to pursue the goal of ISI journal publication alone”.

“For example, something that doctors really need now is measuring cancer prevalence in Malaysia and it takes a lot of time to do so.

“But at the end of it, this is not going to be published in an ISI journal because the information is only relevant for Malaysia,” she says.

A former professor adds no one in their right mind goes into academia to make money.

“Most academics enter the university environment because they are excited about knowledge, are interested in peer collegiality and interaction with students, and want that pinnacle achievement of attaining a professorship,” he says.

Adopting a neutral stance, Dr Azmi thinks it might have been easier if the vice-chancellor had adopted a more inclusive approach from the start. Less insistence on various policies would have given Prof Ghauth an effective buy-in and much of the drama could have been avoided.

“In all fairness, the vice-chancellor has softened his stance on ISI publications, and academics — particularly those in non-scientific fields — can factor in books and other publications,” he says.

Despite the internal resistance, there is an air of resignation that the ironclad resolve for high impact publications will not bend.

And if that is indeed the case, Dr Azmi says appropriate remuneration adjustments should be in place.

“If UM academics work harder than their counterparts at other public varsities to meet publication targets, this must be reflected in their basic salary.

“Without such a distinction, what’s going to stop academics from moving to other varsities where they can retain their titles and ‘work less’ for the same pay?”

It must be noted, however, that the cash nexus is firmly entrenched in UM’s transformation plan and Prof Ghauth has highlighted the need for UM to secure diverse revenue streams.

This is to achieve financial autonomy – cutting dependence on Government funding – and obtaining the financial muscle to meet the needs – and wants – of its staff.

Parameters of success have been set and if all goes according to plan, UM will be able to sustain 50% of its operating expenses (Opex) by 2015 and 70% by 2020 – providing the varsity with the capacity to double staff salaries in about nine years.

The staff association shares Prof Ghauth’s concern on income generation.

“We understand the varsity doesn’t have much of a choice as we can’t afford to depend on the Government forever,” says Dr Azmi.

However, academics on both sides of the fence are split on Prof Ghauth’s leadership style.

UM IT department director Dr David Asirvatham says things had to be improved among academics.

“We have seen a boost in publications, research activity and teaching quality after Prof Ghauth took over. I believe the silent majority are behind him,” he adds.

Concurring, Prof Kurunathan says UM’s increasing research productivity is testament of Prof Ghauth’s qualities.

“Statistics show that 1,300 papers were published in 2009, followed by 1,800 last year.

“We’re hoping to pass the 2,000 mark – a psychological barrier – this year; but we should not be too proud of ourselves as NUS publishes around 5,000 papers each year,” he adds.

The road ahead

Interestingly, sources in UM opine that the erroneous front page report was part of a coordinated attempt to oust its vice-chancellor.

In an uncanny coincidence, the report’s publication coincided with the Umno Supreme Council meeting – guaranteeing maximum impact and publicity.

It is learnt that the pressure group is also knocking on the ministry’s door but while the die may be cast, it must be noted that some of the dissenters are actually concerned by the lack of leadership stability at UM.

Although critics point out that a three-year term is normal for any vice-chancellor, the fact remains that UM has had four different vice-chancellors since 2000 and this does not bode well in terms of continuity.

Interestingly, this is best summed up by a dissenter who empathises with Prof Ghauth. The lecturer who is near retirement acknowledges that “he has good intentions of improving UM’s standing”.

There have been too many vice-chancellors in a short period of time and with each new appointment, there is a shift of goalposts for the university, he adds.

And while the drama and debate may rage on, the vice-chancellor is taking it all on the chin, determined to accomplish as much as he can while navigating the minefield of dissent.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ranking: Three Malaysian universities enter Top 500

PETALING JAYA: Three Malaysian universities have made it to the top 500 out of 12,000 universities ranked in the Webometrics Ranking Web of World Universities released Saturday.

They are Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (419), Universiti Sains Malaysia (428) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (462).

This is the first time that Malaysian varsities have entered into the top 500 since the ranking's inception in 2004.

Meanwhile, American universities dominate the Webometrics ranking, with the top five universities being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, and the University of California, Berkeley respectively.

The ranking is an initiative by the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group part of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientficas (CSIC) in Spain.

According to the Webometrics website, the aim of the rankings is to encourage universities to have a better web presence and researchers to publish more scientific content on the internet.

Among the main indicators used to analyse university web presence are the size or number of web pages recovered from search engines; visibility; number of rich files available; and the number of citations found in Google Scholar.

The rankings are published every six months, and survey around 20,000 higher education institutions worldwide.

Details at:

Monday, July 18, 2011

1,022 geran penyelidikan bernilai RM178.4 juta diluluskan - Berita Harian

18 Julai 2011

PUTRAJAYA: Sejumlah RM178.4 juta dana penyelidikan untuk 1,022 geran penyelidikan membabitkan penyelidik daripada Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam (IPTA), Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Swasta (IPTS), Institusi Penyelidikan dan Jabatan Pengajian Politeknik, sudah diluluskan bagi fasa pertama dalam Rancangan Malaysia Kesepuluh (RMKe-10).

Menteri Pengajian Tinggi, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, berkata jumlah itu adalah sebahagian daripada RM741 juta dana penyelidikan yang diperuntukkan kepada kementerian.

"Ia adalah peningkatan 260 peratus atau hampir tiga kali ganda daripada jumlah yang diterima kementerian dalam RMKe-9 bagi program pembangunan dan penyelidikan (R&D) untuk tempoh dua tahun pertama pelaksanaannya mulai tahun ini," katanya kepada pemberita selepas melancarkan Dana Penyelidikan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi dengan tema "Bekerja untuk Malaysia" di sini hari ini.

Mohamed Khaled berkata, kementerian sudah menstruktur semula dana penyelidikan dengan mewujudkan empat lagi program geran penyelidikan baru iaitu Skim Geran Penyelidikan Eksploratori, Skim Geran Penyelidikan Jangka Panjang (LRGS), Skim Geran Penyelidikan Pembangunan Prototaip (PRGS) serta Dana Insentif Penyelidikan sebagai tambahan kepada Skim Geran Penyelidikan Fundamental (FRGS) yang sedia ada.

"Ini adalah satu ruang kepada IPTS untuk bersama-sama dalam soal ini, bagi universiti kita untuk turut sama terlibat dalam R&D. Mungkin sebelum ini, IPTS tidak ada peluang untuk mendapat dana, sekarang ini, kita dah buka, jadi ini bermakna potensi untuk mereka membangunkannya.

"Jika mereka benar-benar mahu terbabit dalam soal ini, untuk mendapatkan peluang diperuntukkan geran, sudah tentu mereka akan mengambil pensyarah terdiri daripada kalangan yang mempunyai PHd yang turut memberi kebaikan kepada IPTS tersebut," katanya. - BERNAMA

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ministry comes down hard on errant private colleges - The Star

By Richard Lim

PETALING JAYA: The Higher Education Ministry is coming down hard on private colleges which offer unrecognised courses.

The ministry has issued 47 summonses to several colleges and university colleges to appear in court for offering unregistered or unapproved programmes, and has warned that students enrolled in unaccredited and unrecognised courses run the risk of missing out on job opportunities or avenues for further studies.

The colleges were also hauled up for various other offences, such as relocation to new premises without approval; and for employing lecturers without teaching permits.

The ministry's enforcement and inspectorate division director Dr Naimah Md Khalil said the most recent cases involved two private providers which contravened the guidelines under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 (Act 555) and this was a serious offence.

“Only the registrar-general can approve courses which have been given the stamp of quality from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency,” she said.

In the first case, a college in Petaling Jaya which specialised in fashion and jewellery design (which has since changed its branding) was fined RM120,000 for offering five unapproved courses.

Several factors were considered by the Sessions Court judge, such as the number of students enrolled and the course fee for each programme, among others.

As a result, the fine for offering a degree programme in fashion design was RM50,000 while the degree in jewellery design earned the college a RM10,000 penalty.

The second case, involving a university college in Kuala Lumpur, was more intricate as the private provider realised albeit too late that it had made an error.

Attempts to rectify the problem the offering of five unapproved undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to music were made and the judge took everything into account.

However, the college was still slapped with a RM65,000 compound fine.

On the verdicts, Dr Naimah said such action would serve as deterrents for errant education providers.

The court cases complement recently released ministry statistics, which reveal that 47 compound notices were slapped on errant private education providers from January to March this year, compared to 47 last year and nine in 2009.

The cumulative amount of compound notices issued up to March was around RM470,000.

In April, higher education deputy director-general (private higher education institutions) Prof Datin Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir said the ministry would also get tough with colleges that use gimmicks like “free laptops and accommodation” being offered to new students.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy people make better, faster decisions - Straits Times

A study published on Thursday in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that it's better to go shopping when the going's not so tough, and we're in a good mood, because we make faster and more consistent decisions. -- ST PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR

WASHINGTON - THERE used to be a saying written on some shopping bags that said, 'When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping'. But a study published on Thursday in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that it's better to go shopping when the going's not so tough, and we're in a good mood, because we make faster and more consistent decisions.

Researchers Paul Herr and Derrick Davis of Virginia Tech, Christine Page of Skidmore College and Bruce Pfeiffer of the University of New Hampshire conducted a study to determine how mood influences the 'very basic element of decision-making' - deciding whether or not we like or dislike an object.

The authors manipulated study participants' moods by showing them pictures of positive things, like cute puppies, or unpleasant things, like diseased feet, and then showed them pictures of common objects, one at a time. The objects were flashed on a screen and then replaced by a word - like, dislike; good, bad; favourable, unfavourable; appealing, repulsive.

The participants were asked to press a key labelled 'yes' if the word matched their feeling about the object they had just seen, or the key marked 'no' if it did not. The researchers found that people who were in a good mood - probably the ones who had seen the pictures of puppies, not diseased feet - responded more quickly and more consistently to the words.

In other words, if they responded that they liked an object, they were less likely to respond later, when the same object was shown again but with a negative word associated with it, that they disliked it. The study's findings are relevant not only to shoppers, who might want to hit the mall when they're in a good mood because it will mean they'll get home faster and are unlikely to regret their purchases, but also to retailers and manufacturers.

Because retailers want shoppers to spend more in their stores, they 'may want to be aware of factors that can induce negative moods, like abrasive salespeople and negative shopping environments,' the authors of the study say. And the study's findings may help manufacturers to understand why some new products fail where others succeed: it could have something to do with whether consumers like or dislike a new product at first glance, which in turn might be affected by the consumers' moods, something manufacturers could manipulate. -- AFP

Monday, July 4, 2011

Doctoral dreams - Tales 2 Tell - Star

By Roslina Abdul Latiff

Pursuing a PhD is a long and arduous task, one that is best undertaken when you are absolutely ready.

OF ALL the questions my colleagues and friends ask regarding my doctoral studies, most of them are a variation of “How do you do it?” and “How do you cope?”

Pursuing a PhD would be a challenge for any other person, but with kids taking important exams, teaching final year students, handling final year projects and going for my doctoral classes at night, would be a pretty tall order for anyone.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. When I tried to start my doctoral studies sometime last year, it was a bit hard to cope while holding two administrative positions as associate dean of the faculty and head of the Mass Communications Department at a private university in the Klang Valley, on top of teaching three final-year subjects every semester.

But I guess there is always that someone who “nags” you to start your doctoral studies. For me, it was my previous boss who gave me the nudge and support. It made sense — in the education field, a doctorate degree gives you an edge in the organisation you work, as well as leverage in the subjects you teach.

Roslina at the university library.

But most importantly, you need to do it for yourself. You need to be prepared mentally to start and finish as it is a huge commitment.

You also have to set your momentum because you are very much on your own.

For me, it started when I was “ordered” by the human resources group manager to go on leave, as my leave days had accumulated to more than a month. The truth was I really needed to rest, refresh and revitalise before diving into the New Year and the new semester. I felt so drained, deflated and depleted.

I took the leave as a good opportunity to get away from everyone and everything that constitutes work. It also gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate the important things in my life. The first priority was of course my children who were taking their SPM, PMR and UPSR exams in 2010.

So when I officially stepped down in December 2009, I started re-writing my PhD proposal. I researched, read and re-wrote my half-baked proposal with the hope that I would be accepted as a doctoral student.

When I was about to submit my application, I told my mother and she asked me again if I was sure. Mum was very worried if I was capable of taking in more stress and challenges given the difficult year I went through.

Although I wasn’t sure I could handle it, I knew it was something I had to do for myself.

The other unacademic reason for going back to school was also to find a neutral ground I could call “home” again — an unbiased place I could be like any other student, going through the rigors of night classes, searching the lonely aisles of the library to find books that are a prerequisite for any dissertation and treading the unfamiliar doctoral path with my trusted laptop.

So in between ferrying the kids for tuition classes on different nights of the week, preparing them for the upcoming exams and preparing for the classes that I teach, I go for my doctoral class on Thursday nights, find time to do my assignments and do lots and lots of reading for my doctoral, my classes and for pleasure.

How do I cope? The simple answer is “one day at a time”.

I don’t really think of it so thoroughly, neither do I dissect it in detail nor psycho-analyse it — I just do it.

But having said that, there are a few things that would actually help to ease anyone into a doctoral dissertation (or thesis, depending on where you study).

The first and most important is to have a productive supervisor-student relationship. There are great expectations on both sides.

Having gone through a Master’s thesis will give you a rough idea of what it’s like, but this time on a much bigger scale and with much more at stake.

Supervisor-student relationship

There needs to be shared expectations between your supervisor and yourself. The important question for you is: what qualities are you looking for in your supervisor?

For me, a supervisor who is supportive, accessible, professional, experienced in the research field, gives freedom to me to express my ideas, cooperatively listens and compassionate rigor is what I hope for.

I consider myself lucky as my supervisor, Assoc Prof Dr Faridah Ibrahim, or Dr Dah as she is affectionately called, has all these qualities. Since our industry background is journalism, hers being print and mine broadcast, we have hit the ground running as the platform for the discussion is solid.

We bounce ideas back and forth, and discuss what theories or models would work. She’s very frank and direct with her comments on my work. But best of all, she has treated me as an equal although I’m still a struggling doctoral student with a lot more to learn.

Your supervisor also needs to know what your expectations are, so take the time to chat about these fundamental things.

While you’re at it, ask your supervisor what they are expecting from you as a PhD student. When I asked Dr Dah, this was her reply: perseverance, critical questioning (which is required of any PhD candidate), organised, rigorous, willing to learn, a good communicator and open mindedness.

If by any chance your shared expectations are not the same, then you need to re-negotiate and come to a compromise on what is best. Resolving these issues and clarifying any misunderstandings should be done from the very beginning, before you take that giant bungee jump!

You also need to be proactive. Know your rights and responsibilities. Work out together, who is responsible for calling meetings.

For us, it’s simple — communication via email on simple and quick questions, text messaging for delivery of proposals or chapters and meeting for discussions after the reading process. This is where we identify problems and weaknesses plus find solutions and elucidate the research.

Set agendas for meetings if there is a need to; if not, just plunge into the discussion head first.

Keeping your supervisor informed about your progress is also an excellent idea as they will worry when you go AWOL on them. But most importantly, be assertive.

The other thing that I did when I embarked on my PhD was to have a peer support group. This group comprises colleagues in the same boat, who meet once a month over lunch or coffee and discuss ideas and progress.

Although all of us are from different fields and doing research in diverse areas, the intellectual discourse is great.

I believe in some universities, these peer support groups also include supervisors with all their supervisees. If everybody had a common time to meet, this kind of group would be good, but if not, something like what I have would be sufficient. Just a bunch of friends mulling over coffee, pouring out discontentment and suffering and sometimes, it’s not even about the PhD!

On some days, when you get back your chapters full of markings and corrections, you can feel disconnected from the rest of the world.

I’m not sure how smooth or rocky my journey will be in the next couple of years but since I started off with a 4.0 average, I’m hoping to continue fruitfully.

I have also pledged to my supervisor I would complete my thesis in the designated time and let her retire in peace without her going on contract because of me. And that is a promise I intend to keep to Dr Dah and to myself.

If I emerge from this experience still unscathed, intact and sane, I would be able to share those experiences with many who are still pondering on the question: “A doctoral study... to do or not to do?”

My answer is “just do”, but only when you are absolutely sure.

Roslina Abdul Latiff is a Broadcast and Journalism senior lecturer, mother of four and PhD scholar

Monday, June 27, 2011

Saifuddin: End dependence on foreign educators - Malaysiakini

Higher education deputy minister Saifuddin Abdullah rapped the country's institutions of higher learning for continuing to "import and copy" ideas and methods from Western universities.

Despite having a national team of competent academics, Saifuddin asked why the country continues to invite consultants from other parts of the world to help run local universities.

"For how long will this dependence continue and what are its implications?" he asked, in his speech addressing an audience of 200 at "Decolonising Our Universities" in Penang today.

The three-day event aimed at academics from various Asian countries was organised by Universiti Sains Malaysia and Citizen International, a Penang-based NGO.

This "abject dependence on Western academics" for ideas, theories and methods fails to recognise the value of the country's academics and local scholars, Saifuddin said.

"Despite this, our scholars and academics will continue to be diffident, to feel inferior, timid about our own work and compare it unfavourably with the work of scholars from the West," he said.

If local academics still feel inferior and express helplessness, he said it would be better to close down these institutions rather than continue to maintain them.

"We are fooling nobody," Saifuddin quipped, adding that he hoped the conference could lead to significant changes in the current state of affairs.
Cultivating critical thinking

During a press conference, Saifuddin said the country has to develop its own knowledge and theories to deal with local issues instead of referring to Western ones, which have come about due to different circumstances.

On the international ranking of universities, he said it was merely a Western idea to preserve the hegemony and status quo of knowledge from the West.

He urged academics here to work in solidarity, to collaborate with one another to try and develop "our own worldview" of looking at things as "we are not short of intellectual competence".

Though the government raised these issues in the past, Saifuddin said "we are making progress", albeit slowly.

As for the Aku Janji pledge - which requires academics and students to sign an agreement to refrain from getting involved in politics or commenting on political issues - Saifuddin said "that is something else" because it hampers critical thinking and development.

"(Critical thinking) is about what the government wants in conducting research in new areas so that we can develop our own indigenous knowledge," he added.

Kongsi Idea Penyelidik Dalam & Luar Negara Di Myren Cloud - MStarOnline

SERDANG: Institusi pengajian tinggi (IPT), institusi penyelidikan serta pihak industri yang terlibat dengan pembangunan dan penyelidikan (R&D) diminta menggunakan jaringan perkhidmatan ICT terbaru, Myren Cloud, untuk berkomunikasi dan menjalin kerjasama di alam maya bersama rakan penyelidik dalam dan luar negara.

Menteri Pengajian Tinggi Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin berkata melalui perkhidmatan itu mereka boleh bertukar-tukar pandangan dan pengetahuan mengenai bidang penyelidikan masing-masing, sekaligus memberi manfaat kepada negara-negara terlibat.

"Ini merupakan satu lagi kepesatan pertumbuhan infrastruktur kita yang kita hasilkan bagi meningkatkan kemampuan penyelidikan. Ini antara usaha-usaha yang sedang kita lakukan untuk memantapkan lagi R&D dalam negara selari dengan hasratuntuk membawa negara ini kepada ekonomi berasaskan inovasi," katanya kepada pemberita selepas melancarkan Myren Cloud di sini Isnin.

Beliau berkata R&D berkualiti yang dihasilkan para penyelidik hasil daripada perkongsian maklumat dari dalam dan luar negara, akan membawa impak besar kepada rakyat dan negara.

Myren adalah Rangkaian Penyelidikan dan Pengajaran Kebangsaan yang menyediakan jalur lebar khusus berkapasiti tinggi untuk universiti, politeknik, kolej komuniti, institut penyelidikan dan makmal saintifik menjalankan penyelidikan dan pendidikan. Rangkaian itu terhubung terus dengan komuniti penyelidik dan pendidik yang berada di Asia Pasifik, Australasia, Eropah dan Amerika Utara melalui Trans Eurasian Information Network 3 (TEIN 3).

Rangkaian MYREN serta projek MYRENCLOUD adalah projek negara dan Kementerian Pengajian Tinggi merupakan peneraju bagi menggerakkan perluasan penggunaan perkhidmatan tersebut di kalangan komuniti pendidik (termasuk fasilitator latihan) dan penyelidik dari pelbagai agensi dari semua kementerian.

Mohamed Khaled berkata kerajaan telah memperuntukkan sebanyak RM20 juta sebagai dana permulaan untuk Myren Cloud.

Sementara itu, Pengarah Bahagian Perancangan Kecemerlangan IPT, Profesor Ir Dr Mohd Jailani Mohd Nor berkata kira-kira 30,000 penyelidik daripada IPT, institusi penyelidikan serta pihak industri di negara ini akan mendapat manfaat daripada penggunaan Myren Cloud.

Sehubungan itu, beliau meminta semua penyelidik mendaftar untuk menggunakan perkhidmatan itu dengan yuran RM25,000 setahun dikenakan untuk setiap institusi.

"Perkomputeran cloud ini adalah pendekatan terkini di mana perkhidmatan ICT diperolehi secara dalam talian atau atas permintaan pada bila-bila masa, di mana juga dan menggunakan apa juga peranti," katanya.

Menurutnya sebagai permulaan, beberapa perkhidmatan menerusi aplikasi telah disediakan iaitu “On Demand Infrastructure for Research and Education Collaborative Technologies" (OnDIRECT) untuk kolaborasi video dan imej, pelayan maya untuk menghoskan pembangunan ICT dan simulasi, storan maya, dan makmal pengkomputeran maya (VCL)", kata beliau. - BERNAMA