Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Workshops and Gathering for OUM Postgraduate Students 2011

The following are the series of workshops and gatherings which have been planned by the Centre of Graduate Studies of OUM for the benefits of all its postgraduate students.

Please click on the image to enlarge it

The next meeting has been scheduled on 27 February 2011 as follows:


Mock QE Presentation by Meenashi (She has recently submitted her research proposal)




Tea break refreshment will be served


“Philosophy of Research” by Associate Professor Dr. Azahari Ismail





2.30 - 4.00

Postgraduate Lab (pre-arranged or impromptu session for academic & administrative issues)

Please take note that the cost per participant is RM20.00.

For those who are interested to attend, please email or SMS Bee Ching at 017-3403968 latest by Friday 25 Feb 2011.

AP Dr. Azhari Ismail of UPM

Details of workshop speaker:

Name of Speaker: Azahari bin Ismail
Position: Assoc. Professor
Qualifications: Dip. Agric. (KPM), B.S. Plant & Protection (Louisiana), M.S. Agric. Ext. (Florida), Ph.D. Policy Studies (Florida State)
Department: Professional Development and Continuing Education
Area of Specialization: Policy Development
Phone: (603) 89468228

A brief introduction about the speaker as provided by Dr Rosmah :

* Associate Professor Dr Azahari Ismail graduated with Diploma in Agriculture from Kolej Pertanian Malaya; B.Sc. in Plant and Protection from Louisiana University; M.Sc. in Agriculture Extension from Florida University; and Ph.D in Policy Studies from Florida State University.

* He has served UPM more than 30 years.

* He has published over 100 papers in journals and proceedings.

* He has facilitated various postgraduate programmes including: Graduate Research Seminar, INTAN PhD Preparatory Course, and Universiti Perlis PhD Preparatory Course.

* He was the Executive Director of Multimedia Technology Enhancement Operations Sdn Bhd (METEOR) which is a consortium of 11 public universities in the country.

The Postgraduate Lab (PG Lab) session is scheduled at 2.30pm to 4.00pm. The session is a pre-arranged session and aims to discuss any issues related to student's research work individually. Dr Abdul Rahman Abdullah and Dr. Rosmah will facilitate the session.

Please confirm your attendance with Dr. Rosmah via email: latest by Saturday 26/2/11 if you are keen to join this PG Lab session.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prof Rujhan is new D-G - Star


THE HIGHER Education Ministry’s deputy director-general Prof Rujhan Mustafa as been appointed the new director-general effective Jan 1 this year.

He takes over from Prof Datuk Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi who has been appointed Universiti Putra Malaysia vice-chancellor.

Prof Rujhan, who has been acting director-general since Jan 1, had previously served as the ministry’s academic affairs director and as an international economics professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

Prof Rujhan is also on the board of directors for several universities, namely Open University Malaysia, Universiti Tenaga Nasional and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (formerly known as Universiti Darul Iman Malaysia).

He previously served on the board of directors of Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.

Prof Rujhan was recently appointed by the Malaysian Government as its country representative for the 2010-2013 term, under the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation Regional Open Learning Centre based in Jakarta.

He obtained his master’s and PhD degrees in international economics from Ritsumeikan University, Japan, as well as a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Universiti Malaya.

Aside from having his academic and research work recognised in international bodies such as the Association of International Education, Japan, Prof Rujhan has also been involved in many government-to-government meetings held by organisations such as the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, the Asian University Network and the World Bank.

He is currently the country’s focal person on higher education for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Ranking Universities initiative and an executive committee member for the Islamic World Science Citation Centre.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The scramble for skills - Star

Who doesn't have a relative or friend who has packed up and left Malaysia for “greener” pastures? And who doesn't know of someone who has plans or aspirations to do exactly that? Chances are, most of us do.

It would seem that over the years, the compulsion to leave the country in search of opportunities has grown beyond pure economics. Dissatisfaction over the quality of education, personal safety and for some, the political future of the country where sabre-rattling seems to have become common place have served as push factors for many Malaysians to pack their bags and leave the country.

While it could have been relatively easier to shrug off the consequences of that in the past, it is a “luxury” the country can ill-afford today, in this era of heightened competition where economies are scrambling to woo the best to stay ahead of the game and for many, to survive and prosper.

Malaysia has to retain and attract top talent to climb the global per capita income ladder.

»It is no longer a question of salary but the whole environment «TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM

“We have the right ideas. Unless we implement those fast, we will create a credibility gap,'' says ASLI Centre of Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, adding that “it is no longer a question of salary but the whole environment from social to the way of life that must be looked at holistically.”

The unique Malaysian worker

There is a commonly held belief that the Malaysian employee is able to assimilate and adapt well to any environment. In this context, environment would mean country. Indeed, that's a valuable trait to possess. That may partly stem from the multi-cultural nature of the Malaysian society which has carved a solid bed for the mingling among different races, religions and cultures.

Another oft-described trait of Malaysians, as highlighted by foreign employers, is that they are smart and hard working and this goes beyond the fact that the country has a large pool of straight-A scorers in public examinations. It has a great deal more to do with the employability of Malaysians.

Hence, every time a Malaysian goes abroad to study, the country faces the threat of them not returning to their country.

“The existing pool of 700,000 Malaysians working overseas is an indication of the capabilities of Malaysians overseas,” says Kelly Services (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd managing director Melissa Norman.

But what makes the Malaysian worker unique is also their linguistic capability.

“Malaysian talent is on par with regional and even global talent, especially those who have a good command of English as well as an additional language such as Mandarin or Bahasa Malaysia. Going forward, there is a need to improve the standard of the English Language and the technical competencies of the Malaysian labour force in order to remain competitive,'' says Randstad regional director of Singapore & Malaysia Karin Clarke.

But the country that has benefited the most from migrating Malaysians is Singapore. As Singapore is a high income economy Malaysia aspires to become, the island republic has attracted 300,000 Malaysians, a large number of whom comprise skilled talent.

»700,000 Malaysians are working overseas« MELISSA NORMAN

A mammoth task

An agency has now been set up to closely scrutinise this dilemma and fill the gap. Indeed, the newly-set up Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd appears to have a Herculean task ahead.

The agency is headed by Johan Mahmood Merican and his mandate is to overcome the talent shortage situation in Malaysia. Naturally, sceptics abound as this is not the first time the administration has talked about the need to woo Malaysians from abroad and reverse the brain drain. Instead, over that period, the drain could have become more pronounced.

“We definitely see a wider pool of candidates being more open to looking at what is on offer, particularly in the educated professional fields and the sectors that are most highly in demand (abroad),'' says Clarke.

Sadly for Talent Corp, there is no single magic bullet to stem the tide and grow the talent pool in the country. The weak links are aplenty but fortunately, there is the appeal of promise - that the Government, this time around, has the political will to make the necessary changes, armed with a massive handbook called the Economic Transformation Programme.

According to Johan, Talent Corp has a three-pronged approach - analyse the Malaysian diaspora and see how best they can contribute to nation building, either by coming home or from where they are.

The other is to woo foreign talent and sort out the hurdles of them settling here while the third is to put a lid on the outflow of human capital.

In the process, Talent Corp will need to engage companies and businesses to ascertain what is needed to widen the talent pool and how government policies and procedures can be streamlined towards this end.

“We aspire to be a bridge between industry's requirement and the Government,'' says Johan.

Talent Corp started with a launch grant of RM30mil from the Government and Johan feels that its maximum staff strength should be no more than 50. Of course, he has been given a set of key performance indicators to match up to.

“I need to address the talent need and address the gap,” says Johan, who started on this journey on the first day of the new year.

“The bulk of my time has been spent engaging with stakeholders...there are a lot of people in the country who are passionate and knowledgeable. Having a practical knowledge of what's happening in the country and a sense of what needs to be done is important,'' he says.

Up the value chain

At heart of what Talent Corp wants to achieve is fulfilling the labour requirements of the ETP. The ETP is envisaged to create 3.3 million new jobs but many of those jobs are higher skills in nature.

»Malaysian talent is on par with regional and even global talent«KARIN CLARKE

The announcement in January where 35,000 new jobs would be generated from new investments totalling RM67bil shows that labour intensive jobs are on the wane and higher skills are in vogue.

As a country moves up the value chain towards a high income nation, which is what the ETP is meant to do, the type of skills required will be different but the freedom of labour movement, and the lack of soft skills, is causing a lot of problems for employers of high skilled labour.

“Malaysia has a high graduate population. However, many lack the soft skills deemed necessary for many high skilled job placements.

“We hope that the initiation of the Talent Corporation will assist in addressing some of these issues. Human capital is an asset to our economic growth and an importance has to be placed on proactively developing our workforce,” says Norman.

According to Kelly Services, the top five skills in demand are communication skills, problem solving, ability to participate in decision making, people management and strategic thinking.

“Overcoming these skills shortage will include investing in existing talent to ensure that they are well-versed in not only the theoretical knowledge but also the soft skills,'' says Norman.

She says meeting labour demands will depend on the collaboration of different factions.

“High salaries and attractive benefits are not the only factors that will assist in attracting the right talent. As Malaysia has a significant ageing workforce and a growing young population, a multi-generational strategy is crucial,” she adds.

To ensure Malaysian human capital is capable of meeting the standards and demands of the workforce, Norman says educational institutions need to be equipped with the tools and capabilities to teach students relevant in-demand skills while fresh graduates need to be nurtured to ensure they meet the demand of future employers through work placements and internships.

The Talent crunch

Malaysia is a country that's just a nudge away from full employment.

But possessing a university degree is no longer a guarantee for employment as the scrolls are not always relevant to the skills needed.

Kelly Services notes that every year, 250,000 Malaysians complete their studies at higher education institutions locally and overseas.

“There are now about 25 private universities and 20 university colleges in Malaysia, and student enrolment in private higher education institutions has increased by over 54% within a short span of time from 2005 to 2008,'' says Norman.

“As globalisation of work and workers continues, so will the need for higher education institutions to re-examine required skills in the new knowledge-based economy and how they can produce more thinking' students, who are competitive, have the relevant technical and behavioral competencies.”

With competition for skilled IT talent in Malaysia at an all time high, especially in IT outsourcing and shared ervices, there is a shortage in that sector; Malaysia's shared services and outsourcing SSO sector created 32,500 jobs in 2007 and is growing at about 30% per annum and has the potential to hit RM6.4bil by 2012.

The rollout of high speed broadband has provided strong demand for talent in both the cellular and broadband segments in the telecommunications industry. In engineering, new development projects and industrial parks such as the Tanjung Agas Industrial Park, the Northern and Southern corridors have created job opportunities across the country.

“Within the commercial and business sectors, candidates with strength in market research, product and brand knowledge are also in demand,'' says Norman. “These are sectors that face a constant demand for talent with specialised skill-sets and experience.”

Even though more than quarter of a million people graduate from institutions of higher learning annually, Clarke says there is still a huge number of jobs that are not filled.

»At such levels, Singapore is 21% cheaper than Malaysia« SHAMSUDDIN BARDAN

“Latest statistics reveal that there are 100,000 jobs available but no graduate takers,'' she says.

The skill crunch is particularly acute in major hubs.

Three most notable markets where skill shortage persists, according to Randstad 2010's World of Work report, are KL, for white collar professionals, Penang for specialists in the semiconductor and manufacturing sectors and Johor Baru, particularly for infrastructure roles, such as healthcare and education.

The low down

Wages are often a strong cause for labour migration. Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan however, disagrees that wages in Malaysia are too low citing that even a foreign worker, based on MEF estimates, should be earning a take home pay of RM1,500 a month based on the amount of remittances from Malaysia.

Another factor is productivity. Shamsuddin points out that a worker in Singapore is paid 2.5 to three times that of an equivalent skill in Malaysia but their productivity is 3.8 times higher than a Malaysian worker.

“At such levels, Singapore is 21% cheaper than Malaysia,'' he notes.

But the relative static pace of wage inflation has been a source of frustration for many, and is high up in the reasons for departure.

Malaysia has yet to experience a significant change in wages and there are numbers to prove it. The country's average annual salary increase has been relatively small at 2% to 6% over the past decade.

The Kelly Employment Outlook and Salary Guide 2010/11 indicated a 4% to 5% increase in salaries across all sectors.

“There are calls to implement a minimum wage system as the Human Resource Ministry revealed that 34% of our workforce earns below the national poverty line of RM720,” she adds.

Clarke points out that wages in Malaysia are reasonably consistent based on individual currencies with other countries in the region but the challenge for Malaysia is that there are countries in the region that have stronger currencies.

“For example, a Malaysia-based Priority banker earns the same in ringgit as a Singapore priority banker earns in Singapore dollars. However the currency conversion would see the Singapore banker earn over double that which they would in Malaysia,'' she says.

That is yet, another factor that could keep Malaysian talents rooted abroad.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Private varsity 'loses' RM100mil gov't grant - Malaysiakini

After having received a RM100 million grant from the government, a 'premier' private university has not met its enrolment targets and is left with barely enough money to last another year.

In fact, said its chief executive Leong Choon Heng, the university is now down to “less than RM10 million” and is forced to take aggressive cost-cutting measures to keep afloat.

He was responding to queries after Malaysiakini received a tip-off on the situation.

Founded in 2001 by senator and former cabinet minister Effendi Norwawi, the Malaysian University of Science and Technology (MUST) was supposed to be a premier postgraduate university in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The university had received the money in instalments between January 2001 and 2006, via the MUST Ehsan Foundation. Effendi has been a trustee of the Foundation since 2001.

But 10 years on, the university is far from even meeting its 2007 target of 500 students, with only 207 enrolled.

Furthermore, most of these students are undergraduates who were enrolled to boost the numbers after an all-time low of 10 students in 2007.

During the tenure of former chief executive Omar Abdul Rahman, who resigned in March and was once advisor of science and technology to then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the university did not acquire much physical assets.

The university has always been located in office lots in Kelana Square, as initial plans to build a campus through MUST Ehsan Development was shelved.

MUST Ehsan Development - a subsidiary of the public-listed Encorp Group founded by Effendi - was supposed to develop the land surrounding the designated site of the campus in Shah Alam.

The revenue from this was to be used to fund the construction of the campus and other university activities.

MUST Ehsan Development has a portfolio of projects worth RM800 million, including the mixed-development project dubbed the Strand in Kota Damansara. However, it has nothing to do with the Foundation or MUST.

Malaysiakini contacted Effendi about two weeks ago as a key representative of the previous management, but he has yet to respond to the issues raised.

Where the money went

Leong, who took over management about three months ago, said most of the grant was spent to finance the students and to recruit faculty members from leading universities abroad.

“From 2002-2006, a sizeable amount of the grant was spent on scholarships and stipend for the pioneer batch of students. The majority needed more than three semesters to graduate, as the MIT curriculum was very demanding,” he said.

To date 107 students have graduated under the MUST-MIT programme, which expired in 2004.

This number, said Leong who is also a faculty member, is “a normal figure for post-graduate programmes, as with public universities of similar size over a similar time period”.

The university has lab equipment, books and office equipment and three Proton Perdana cars - all of which once cost millions of ringgit but have now depreciated severely in value.

Malaysiakini understands that MUST has been paying rental for about 30 rooms which it had never used since opening its doors. It is understood that millions of ringgit have been spent on renovations to the premises.

To cut costs and revive the university, the new management team is letting go of several of the four floors it has been renting.

“We've let go of floors and rooms which we have never used and are in the midst of gradually moving to the Strand, which we feel will give us a better profile as there are other colleges located there,” said Leong.

Letting go of these rooms is expected to return some RM60,000 to the university's bank account.

The management will channel this to “aggressive marketing”, in the hope of attracting more students.

Leong added that the rental for the new premises, owned by MUST Ehsan Development, is expected to be “the same or better” than the sum currently being paid.

For now at least, the Higher Education Ministry is giving MUST another chance to turn things around, even though the university does not meet the minimum of RM20 million paid-up capital that is required of private universities.

“MUST is undergoing a rebranding exercise under new management (and) is now also offering undergraduate degree and diploma courses,” explained Mohd Najib Masrom, the ministry's senior assistant director of the private higher education management sector, by email.

The licence for MUST to run its foundation programme is pending renewal.

The university licence will expire in 2012. It is understood that such permits are worth several million ringgit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year Gong Xi Fa Cai

Wishing all readers and students a very "Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year". Gong Xi Fa Cai.